Sisters and brothers of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as we live through this difficult and unprecedented time, it is now quite clear how destructive COVID-19 is, leaving many in a state of disbelief, lives in disarray and families in mourning.
The observance of Caribbean Statistics Day provides an opportune moment to underscore the crucial role statistics has played thus far in preventing loss of lives, as well as safeguarding and restoring our livelihoods. If governments did not make the crucial decision to curtail activities and restrict movements, which were informed by timely and reliable statistics, our narrative would be far worse than it is today.
In every phase of this pandemic, we have seen the importance of sound statistics in providing data to inform emergency regulations, to access donor funding, to resolve developmental challenges brought on by this very pandemic and for budgetary planning in prioritising scarce resources.
The COVID-19 statistics in our region is now a glaring reflection of the ravages of the Delta variant which spread rapidly and viciously across small island developing states, claiming lives, overwhelming our health sectors and leaving many of our sisters and brothers helpless.
The theme for Caribbean Statistics Day, Leave no one behind, Everyone counts, was also the theme for the region-wide launch of the Population and Housing Census on August 3, 2021. This theme has been deliberately used to ensure that on Caribbean Statistics Day this year, we give greater prominence to the Census.
Grenada has been forced to postpone the start of its Census from September 15 to November 1, because of the spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. There is still great uncertainty regarding the start dates of other countries that were supposed to conduct their census this year, while the majority of the countries are still scheduled to start their census in 2022, but this too, is dependent on the prevailing COVID-19 situation.
Despite the onslaught of this pandemic, I encourage all National Statistical Offices to forge ahead in undertaking the Population and Housing Census, as this is the most important statistical activity of any country. It is imperative that we learn to operate in this new normal, to ensure optimal balance between saving lives and restoring livelihoods. The current technology allows for countries to conduct contactless census using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing and Computer Assisted Web Interviewing, which I encourage countries to explore.
During the region-wide Census launch, as the Prime Minister with responsibility for Science and Technology in the CARICOM quasi- Cabinet, I welcomed the many innovative uses of ICT in the census. Today, I reiterate that message.
Amidst the negative impacts of COVID-19, an opportunity presents itself for us to build a resilient statistical infrastructure through the infusion of ICT into statistics. A resilient statistical infrastructure will also result in the sustainable availability of statistics and a more resilient economy. We are already doing this here in Grenada.
Our economies will be crippled without critical statistical information, needed to navigate us through and out of the social and economic impacts of this pandemic. The Population and Housing Census is the most important source of this statistical data as the information captured can be presented at the lowest geographical level for both population and households. It is imperative that we collect the data that will allow us to assess the magnitude of the impact of COVID-19 and climate change occurrences, to better plan for our future, to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals and successfully implement our respective National Sustainable Development Plans.
The census will enable us to begin addressing issues relating to gender equity, the elderly, food insecurity and internet access. The population census can provide benchmark data, disaggregated by sex, age, health, disability status, educational attainment, economic activity and other important information about our economy, society and the environment.
In addition to providing critical information, this activity will build the foundation of a strong statistical infrastructure and National Statistical System for the next 10 years as it will be used as a sample frame for most of the surveys between census years.
Though statisticians are not essential workers in the truest sense, in my opinion, they perform an essential role and deliver an essential service which is comparable to the delivery of any public good.
I am confident that being guided by the CARICOM Secretariat in the execution of the regionally-coordinated approach to census taking and with the continued support of our international development partners, we will optimise the benefits of working together on the census and successfully implementing this important activity.
I encourage you to use the common and harmonised methodologies, instruments, procedures and practices under this CARICOM coordinated approach, which would result in regionally comparable census data of high quality, that can inform national and regional census analysis and provide the evidence to support our public and private decision-making, policies and programmes.
The census is also a critical component of the Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics (RSDS) which I championed at the CARICOM Conference of Heads of Government Meeting in July 2018, leading to its endorsement. We must ensure that the RSDS is not another agreed-to decision in principle but that governments, the private sector and international development partners drive its implementation across CARICOM. The national and regional statistical offices must be provided with the human and financial resources to produce statistics for decision- making in the face of the great uncertainty created by the pandemic.
I thank our international development partners who have been supporting the census in the region and continue to urge more of you to come on board in supporting our region. Our region needs you at this time to change our course of development as we look forward to 2030.
To the people of this region, my CARICOM family, I encourage you to be a true patriot of your country and of the Caribbean, by participating in this important nation-building activity. You are all equally important which is why, in this 2020 round of census, everyone must be counted. Let us cooperate and unite in making better lives for ourselves and building a better future for our children.
Ensure that you, your friends and family members are all counted in this census round.
Therefore my signal message for this 13th observance of Caribbean Statistics Day is that our future is in our hands. By participating in the census, we are indeed saving our own lives. Let us as one Caribbean people, work collaboratively in ensuring that we Leave no one behind, because Everyone counts.
I thank you.