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Opening remarks by Dr. Philomen Harrison Project Director, Regional Statistics,  Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat At the Opening Ceremony Of the Thirty-Eighth Meeting of the Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians (38th SCCS)  (28-30 Octo

Theme: Statistics in Everyday Life; Let us Education and Appreciate

It is an honour for me to greet you on behalf of the Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, His Excellency Irwin LaRocque, on the occasion of the Thirty-Eighth Meeting of the Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians (38th SCCS) and the Twenty-Third Meeting of the Regional Census Coordinating Committee (23rd   RCCC), which is being held in the Member State of St Kitts and Nevis.

These meetings were preceded by the Thirteenth Meeting of the CARICOM Advisory Group on Statistics and would be followed by the Sixth Regional Statistical Research Seminar on Friday.

This year, 2013, was designated the International Year of Statistics (Statistics2013) in which countries and organsations worldwide recognised the impact of statistics and celebrated the many achievements of statisticians. In the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Statistics2013 is being celebrated under the theme Statistics in Everyday Life – Let us Celebrate and Educate. This theme is therefore the theme for our series of meetings during this week.

This year, our Community is also observing its fortieth anniversary. These two noteworthy events serve to remind us of a key objective which both the Region and statistics are trying to achieve which is to improve the quality of life of the peoples of our Community. Statistics play a vital role in our everyday life and is a key input into enabling policies that facilitate the development of our countries.

The SCCS was established one year after the coming into effect of the Community with the recognition of the vital role of sound, relevant and timely statistics in guiding sustainable social and economic development of the Region.  Given the establishment of the SCCS in 1974, next year will be an auspicious occasion for statisticians across the Region since we would be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the SCCS.
It would therefore be fitting for us to continue the momentum of Statistics2013 in our Region in continuing the promotion of statistics as a science, as a profession and nurturing it among the youth.

Statisticians of the National Statistical Offices of the Region continue to strive to produce and disseminate statistics to inform public policies and for use by the private sector, researchers and other users.

This is in the face of increasing demands for statistics to treat with developmental issues which include:
 the challenges of increased, globalisation including the recent global economic and financial crisis which has forced us to re-consider development strategies, impact,  budgeting- our pattern of savings, expenditure – how and on what? All of  these issues require data to make policy decisions that can lead to successful outcomes;

 the drive towards competitiveness- how do we sustain business development or attract new businesses;

 the Health Status of our populations relative to Non-Communicable diseases and the HIV/AIDS epidemic and its impact demanding the need to understand more about the factors that are driving this epidemic or the lifestyle issues that impact the growth in NCDs;

 keeping apace with the rapid advances of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and its role in all facets of our development including the enabling of knowledge-based economies;

• environmental concerns brought on by our production structure or by the Region’s vulnerability to natural disasters that require effective policy responses; and

• our commitment to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and targets by 2015.
There is therefore an increasing demand for timely/high quality official statistics some of which are derived from statistical data sources but also from administrative sources within the national statistical system.

In this context, many strides have been made and are being made by statisticians of the Region including work put in place or being put in place to develop strategic plans for statistics, known as National Strategies for the Development of Statistics (NSDS) which can lead to an integrated and well-functioning National Statistical Systems of all statistical producing agencies with the NSO at the centre of the process. The development of the National Statistical System, requires this overarching master plan, NSDS, to facilitate the dialogue that is required among key stakeholders including suppliers of information in order to guide the process of coordination of statistics at the national level and hence the availability of timely and high quality statistics, for decision-making.  
This work on the NSDS is being introduced in so many countries that the Sixth Regional Statistical Seminar is devoted to discussing these initiatives.

Linked to the NSDS is the updated Regional Statistical Work Programme which has been produced to enable harmonised statistics that conform to internationally recommended standards. As part of the RSWP, we were reminded by the Chief Statistician of Dominica during our Thirteenth Advisory Group Meetings of the many frameworks that already exist and are being implemented/or about to be implemented in countries and these include Core Indicators in the area of Social/Gender Statistics; in Environment Statistics; Caribbean Specific Millennium Development Goals Indicators; Caribbean Specific ICT Indicators and the Minimum Data Set comprising all of the above.

The implementation of the RSWP in a sense has already begun in so far that these frameworks of core data are being followed but in a more formal sense, relative to our systems. Processes and infrastructure such as the Classification Systems; Data Warehousing Systems; Data Submission Protocols we need to adopt and implement so to equalise, as far as possible, our statistics across Region in terms of the comparability, soundness, timeliness and other measures of quality.

The implementation and advancement of the RSWP will be a topic of much focus on this SCCS Agenda and others to follow.

Work is also in place in the Region to create a formalised Attachment Programme which forms the basis for exchange visits of staff across countries as a means of strengthening capacity across the Region and in enabling the implementation of the RSWP.  The framework for the Attachment Programme is being developed to reflect the Domains of the RSWP.

Appreciable support has been obtained by a number of our International Development Partners, such as the European Union that has supported capacity-building under the Ninth European Development Fund in a number of areas including the updating of the RSWP, establishing of a Help-Desk facility, support to NSDS initiatives, capacity-building in Data Management, International Trade in Services and National Accounts, Classifications and Training in leadership and management. Further assistance has been received under the Tenth EDF.

The Inter-American Development Bank has also supported the development of key frameworks including a complementary project to support the updating of the RSWP, the conduct of a Diagnostic Assessment, and the production of a Draft Model Statistics Bill. The Caribbean Development Bank has supported training in Demographic Analysis and is currently supporting a project in collaboration with UNICEF on Strengthening Capacity to Manage for Results utilising the Devinfo dissemination software. The UN system continues to be a main collaborating partner, particularly the United Nations Statistics Division in the areas of National Accounts, Trade in Services and Environment Statistics.

The Government of the United Kingdom, acting though the Department of International Development, was one of the key partners that supported the 2010 Census, particularly in the areas of Mapping and Data Processing.

The  Twenty-third RCCC Meeting will serve to monitor and evaluate the 2010 Round of Population and Housing Census in countries and to continue to foster the sharing of experiences, the identification of best practices and challenges and to provide  support to countries in need.   The RCCC is another key mechanism through which the mandate of the SCCS is fulfilled, with the preparation and conduct of a Regional strategy to support a common census framework approach.  Most countries have disseminated preliminary results and an appreciable number of final results. This RCCC meeting would be instrumental in enabling countries to produce the statistics for key analysis of the population and housing characteristics.

Statistics are at the very heart of almost everything we do. The crucial role of statistics in development, and specifically in the daily lives of all persons of our Community, must be underscored, particularly as we seek to compete with other countries and regions of the world.  Statisticians have a lot to celebrate and it is obvious, based on the deliberations during this week, that there is recognition that there is still a long road to travel in achieving the desired level of statistical capacity, and in inspiring the public through realising the production and dissemination of high quality and specifically timely statistical products.
However, we are at a juncture where we have heads of statistical offices that are fully committed to the cause.  We therefore urge governments of our Member States to invest in statistics on a continuous basis which will help in the realisation of more competitive economies and for the continued improvement in the quality of life of our people.

I warmly thank the Government and people of St. Kitts and Nevis and the Director of Statistics for hosting this week’s event and for all the courtesies shown to the delegates so far.

Finally, here is hoping for a productive meeting in the spirit of warmth, goodwill, professionalism and collaboration that continues to inspire the SCCS, as we seek to advance the statistical agenda and to integrate and develop our Community.

I thank you

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