Regional statisticians got together for back-to-back meetings during the past week, November 11-15, 2002 in St. George’s, Grenada to discuss critical issues relating to data collection, compilation and dissemination, in support of national and regional priorities and objectives. The Meetings were convened by the Secretariat of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and hosted by the Government of Grenada.
Proceeded by a series of meetings leading up to the major events, the Twenty-Seventh Meeting of the Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians (SCCS) and the Tenth Meeting of the Regional Census Coordination Committee (RCCC) were jointly opened by the Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Finance of Grenada, Mr. Lennox Andrews.
In his opening address, the Grenada Government official emphasised that the Region was at a critical juncture where statisticians were needed more than ever, noting that current economic crisis in the Region stemmed from the world economic breakdown. He contended however that had timely and accurate information been available, many of these problems could have been avoided through putting in place early corrective or preventive measures. In this connection the Ministry of Finance Deputy Permanent Secretary stressed the importance of building statistical capacity and commended the meetings in contributing to this goal.
Noting that development was not only economic but also social, he emphasised the need for sufficient social indicators, and in particular, working towards the development of the theories and models peculiar to the Caribbean. He also addressed the hope that these Meetings contribute to the conceptualization of a mechanism for the accelerated completion of the census so that it could provide the information critical for development.
Speaking on behalf of CARICOM, Director, Information & Communication, Ms. Jacqueline Wiltshire Forde referred to the Region’s strategy of creating a CARICOM Single Market & Economy (CSME) to offset the negative effects of globalisation and international trade liberalisation with the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Justice to safeguard its integrity. Noting that trade in services for over 60% of economic activity in the Region, she too pointed to the difficult international climate. Pointing to the many social and economic issues had to be addressed including HIV/AIDS, rising unemployment and the transition to knowledge-based societies the CARICOM Director contended that statisticians were the new artists in a changing world whose role was to paint the true picture of the new environments.
Commenting on the agenda of the Meetings, CARICOM Programme Manager, Statistics Dr. Philomen Harrison, noted that focus was placed on new and difficult areas. These included further sensitisation about the need for quality and timeliness in International Merchandise Trade statistics and building on the foundation already laid with respect to International Trade in Services. In addition projects and programmes, which would improve social gender and environment statistics, were endorsed for future action at the level of the national statistical systems. Member States were also made aware of the regional and international policy frameworks for Information & Communication Technologies (ICTs) and the need to measure their performances.
According to Dr. Harrison, the issue of statistical training was also put firmly among the priorities for follow-up and a resolution calling for the governments to invest in statistical capacity building as a priority was adopted. The SCCS was chaired by The Bahamas representative, Director of Statistics Mr. Charles Stewart.
More specific in its focus, the Tenth Meeting of the RCCC, chaired by the CARICOM Census Coordinator, Mr. Osmond Gordon, concentrated on the conduct of the Year 2000 Round of Population & Housing Censuses, in which Member States are currently at different stages of completion. The forum afforded exchange of information & experiences, lending support to those Member States being challenged by the exercise.
Appreciation was expressed to those agencies, which provided technical and financial support for these very successful events at the national and regional levels. These included the World Bank, the United Nations Statistical Division (UNSD), EUROSTAT, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America & the Caribbean (UNECLAC) and the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). Participants were drawn from CARICOM Member States, Associated States and States with Observer status.
The CARICOM efforts to upgrade statistical capacity in the Community will continue with focus on a practical approach to implement the 1993 System of National Accounts (SNA) with a proposed Workshop to be held at the headquarters of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) in St. Kitts & Nevis from November 18-December 6, 2002.