Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler. (FP)

Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Christopher Sinckler. (FP)

Barbados should have a new Statistics Act next year.

That is the word from Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler, who said comments had been received on the draft Statistics Bill from the various stakeholders, and after an intense review, the legislation would be finalised very shortly.

“Hopefully, in the new year, we should be able to go to Parliament and have that Statistics Act put in place,” he stated.

Mr. Sinckler made the disclosure on Wednesday, during the opening ceremony for the Modernisation of the Barbados Statistical Service (BSS) Project Exit Workshop at the Baobab Tower.

The Minister also told the gathering that the proposed new structure of the Barbados Statistical Service had been approved by the Ministry of the Civil Service.

However, he noted that because officials of the Personnel Administration Division had advised the BSS that they were not in a position to fill the new posts by July 1, 2016, the Statistical Service requested a slight delay in the implementation from the Ministry of the Civil Service.

“This was granted until March 31, 2017,” he pointed out, adding that in the interim, ongoing discussions would be held with the Personnel Administration Division to complete the transition process.

Mr. Sinckler underscored the importance of the BDS$12.5 million project, in which the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) provided BDS$10 million.

He said its success would be seen in BSS’ effectiveness in pulling the major stakeholders together to build a partnership for delivering quality statistical data.

“This, I think, will be the absolute success of this project, that when we deliver statistics to the public of Barbados or to anybody, that people can shut their eyes and say, we know the information put out by the BSS and the National Statistical System is high quality data, very reliable, evidence-based, and empirical, and therefore can be relied on to do project or policy design and analysis going forward,” he remarked.

The Finance Minister said it was absolutely critical that people showed patience in relation to the collection, collation and analysis of data, which was used to produce reports, and make recommendations that impact on the quality of life of people.

“We can’t afford to cut corners in the production of statistical information, and we certainly cannot afford to under value the integrity and quality of that data…. Statistical data is a living enterprise; it is not static; it’s dynamite; it grows; it changes.

“For example, I met with my senior staff yesterday [on Tuesday] to review our fiscal position over the past two fiscal years. We reported, for example, based on the preliminary data that we had, that our projected deficit for 2015/16 over 2014/15 was seven per cent. It has turned out now that the Accountant General has finished his analysis and his report, [which] will soon be published, [will show] that the deficit was actually 5.8 per cent,” he revealed.

Mr. Sinckler noted that in the United States, statistics were reviewed all the time and changes were made, once further statistical information was received.

“In more mature democracies and societies these are regular norms that are executed. In a society such as ours, when you do that and you have to make changes, having now gotten fuller, more complete information and you are able to audit it, then people say you are fidgeting with the statistics and changing them to suit a particular narrative. We need to move away from that level of understanding and reaction to how statistics work…,” he insisted.

In late 2008, the Government of Barbados entered a loan arrangement with the IDB to finance the BSS Modernisation Project, which had six components.

They were: legal framework, statistics network, institutional reengineering, enhancement of statistical products, development of human resource capacity and technical infrastructure and public outreach. A number of extensions were granted on the project by the IDB and the final disbursements were given this year.

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