The expectation is, this practice of using objective information, would eventually mainstream official statistics into national and regional development plans, policies and programmes and in our everyday casual debates, conversations and critique of government operations.
The facts are the facts. Evidence should inform everything we do; every recommendation that we make; every programme that we design; every policy we develop; and every strategy that we craft. Because behind each indicator, each percentage, each ratio, each graph - is an indisputable narrative about a family, a community, a business, a nation, a region!
Though statistics underpin the OECS Commission’s work, it is not only a consumer of statistics. The Commission also advocates for and facilitates increased investment in their production, dissemination and use.
So it is enormously gratifying to announce that the OECS Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics (RSDS) is at a stage to be endorsed by the OECS Economic Affairs Council and which perfectly coincides with Caribbean Statistics Day.
The OECS RSDS details, charts and schedules a 14-year master plan to transform our approaches to, processes for and perspectives about official statistics.
Our theme Revolutionising Our Statistics | Developing Our Societies succinctly captures exactly what we intend to achieve; how we intend to do it; why we need to do it and for whom we need to do it.
I wish to place on record my sincere and deepest appreciation for the collaborative work that culminated in this forwarding thinking master plan for official statistics.
I acknowledge all those involved for their very important contributions that can redound to the success of our One Community, Working Together: the key players in the national statistical system in each Member State; development partners; staff at the Commission; and certainly the heads of the national statistical offices who are expected to be at the fore-front of this transformative agenda.
The observance of Caribbean Statistics Day, through the lens of the OECS Economic Union, singles out six essential issues:
First, it gives us an opportunity to acknowledge, give due acclaim to and to celebrate our achievements. In that regard, observance of this Day allows us to thank our partners and contributors for their efforts to produce the data we need for prudent decision-making, policy development and evaluation, and debates and everyday life choices.
This occasion sensitizes stakeholders, non-governmental organisations, research institutions, the media and all data providers – households and businesses – about why official statistics are indispensable to national planning, and the significance of their role in their production and responsible use.
Second, Caribbean Statistics Day offers a platform to emphasise the role of the OECS Commission as the leader of the OECS regional statistical system with the principal responsibility to preserve data comparability across the Member States.
Data comparability is an important characteristic of regional data as it allows us to implement the provisions of the Revised Treaty of Basseterre for a single economic and financial space. In that regard, the Commission supports the Member States to use harmonised methods and standardised systems to ensure that the product of the statistical process looks the same from country to country.
Third, Caribbean Statistics Day forces us to reflect on what we have achieved and what still needs to be done. Among the achievements to deliver comparative data are:
- 2010 OECS Population and Housing Census;
- OECS Labour Force Survey;
- OECS Multi-Poverty Measurement Framework;
- OECS Labour Administration Application;
- OECS Info;
- OECS Education Statistics Digest.
I thank the development partners who have helped in this regard – CDB, UNECLAC, World Bank, EU, UNDP, ILO, UNICEF to name a few.
The OECS Member States have also standardised the use of computer-aided devices for e-collection of data from households and businesses. This change from paper to tablets promises to reduce the time from data collection to data dissemination; and to significantly enhance the quality of the statistical product. This innovation is very promising.
Much more, however, remains to be done. We need to tap into new sources of data – big data; social media data and open data; widen the scope, such as collecting disability, youth and gender disaggregated data; deepen the details so that we get to micro issues; and increase the frequency so that we address current and emerging development issues and other social and environmental phenomena when and where it is occurring; and whom and what it is affecting.
Fourth, it is an occasion to broadcast our plans to address the data gaps, capacity weaknesses; user satisfaction; and to dispel myths about the intention of the statistical business process that frustrate efforts to collect the raw data.
The urgency for bringing about needed change justifies why the Commission is uniquely well-placed to help the Member States overcome perennial statistical development challenges.
Official statistics are organic as their characteristics respond to external triggers and environmental conditions. Political ideologies inscribed in manifestos; regional regimes such as free movement of people; and global initiatives such as 2030 Agenda influence which statistics are produced.
The importance of investing in statistical capacity can no longer be procrastinated by policy-makers.
In that regard, our collective resources and capacity to make available and accessible the relevant quality statistics has to be continuously measured, updated and modernised.
Fifth, observance of Caribbean Statistics Day sends a clear message to all partners in statistics – national, regional and global, about our resolve and commitment to rollout a bold and broad transformative agenda for official statistics - our pledge to produce and disseminate objective evidence that comes from us, about us and for us - to develop our societies in a single economic and financial space.
Finally, and above all else, we must ensure that official statistics are used by policy-makers and politicians, and also by entrepreneurs and investors, by national development workers, and by citizens themselves – constantly, proudly and responsibly. Once they are available and accessible, then there is no excuse for not using them.
New technologies are offering easy and fast ways to disseminate, mine and interrogate these data. We now have tools and techniques that can support fascinating exposition of trends, patterns; and phenomena; geographically locating them at the community, district/parish, national or electoral constituency level – where it is happening, vividly and tangibly.
Geo-visualisation integrates geospatial data and official statistics to make them “alive” and almost immediately actionable using images such as infographics and maps.
By making use of these and other new information and communication technologies in a networked single financial and economic space - where no one dominates and everyone can and should play a part - we can multiply the power of our knowledge; intensify our efforts to deepen integration; and the share the benefits of our success.
In so doing, we can realise an accelerated pace at arriving at the day we can have truly achieve a data-smart society.
Join me now in celebrating Caribbean Statistics Day as we trumpet our achievements despite severe resource constraints, and commit to pushing through to produce the statistics that are indispensable for our economic and social well-being; and for a sustainable environmental.