Report tabled in Parliament | Local company

Access to confidential data prevented passage of legislation for the National Institute of Statistics of Trinidad and Tobago (NSITT).

Such legislation requires a special majority and the government has been unable to secure a special majority in Parliament due to the requirement for access to confidential data.

This was identified as “the main obstacle to its implementation”.

And as things stand, the Central Statistical Office (CSO) is crippled by lack of staff and funding.

A survey of the efficiency and effectiveness of the Central Statistical Office (CSO), which was tabled in Parliament last Friday, noted that one of the most notable proposed changes that may come with the transition from CSO to NSITT “is the new organization’s ability to access confidential data, a power that was previously unassigned.”

“This problem was identified as the main obstacle to achieving the transition,” the report said.

“As the NSITT would be empowered to collect confidential data from public and private entities, a special majority in Parliament was needed to pass the legislation.

This has been identified as the main obstacle to achieving the transition from CSO to NSITT. Following the expiration of the Bill at the close of the 11th Parliament, the opinion of the Attorney General was sought on the matter, after which the decision would be reviewed by Cabinet,” he noted.

The report notes that the Ministry of Planning and Development has proposed the removal of the special majority requirement to facilitate passage of the National Institute of Statistics Bill 2018.

He noted that while he is aware of the benefits of transitioning to the NSITT, the removal of the special majority, without due regard to its initial imposition, can be seen as an arbitrary undertaking that the department must keep in mind. spirit.

“The Committee advises that the CSO should prioritize the employment of professional statistical staff on a short-term basis as failing a transition to NSITT would result in a significant improvement in the organization’s productive capacity,” it said. -he declares.

He noted that since official, independent and high-quality statistics are needed to support development, the role of a national statistical system is recognized.

Currently, CSO data is used in budget planning and for business information.

He observed that to effectively fulfill its mandate, the NSITT will need a strong legal basis, institutional coordination and a common framework of standards.

Bad data

He noted that the CSO had poor data regarding the economy and Covid-19.

“The relevance of CSO data to inform future policies in relation to the Vision 2030 report in particular, is circumspect as data on debt to GDP ratio in 2016 and poverty statistics in 2011 were out of date,” said he declared.

“The CSO recognized that the Covid-19 pandemic had revealed a need for proactivity in the production of non-essential datasets, but the collection of Covid-19 specific data was not undertaken due to the fact that ‘No such request has been made by any of CSO’s major stakeholders,’ he said.

The report notes that data collection during the Covid-19 pandemic has been blocked due to the restrictions imposed.

“However, the impact of Covid-19 has also led to several improvisations, including the use of internationally recognized methods for alternative data sources and data imputation, the introduction of remote working modalities, the employment of additional field staff and consideration by the CSO. to be more flexible and responsive in producing non-essential datasets.

“Due to the restrictions and subsequent lockdown measures, the collection of price data was specifically affected, so that the retail price and inflation indices were only up to date until November. 2021. In an effort to manage the lack of data, the internationally recommended techniques for imputing for missing prices have been used as an interim measure.

However, the entity highlighted other efforts to overcome barriers to physical access, these measures included: liaising with retailers to collect archived digital price data; electronic distribution of price collection sheets and use of online price data; and resuming data collection after restrictions are lifted,” he added.

He noted that pandemic-related restrictions were also affecting the ability to collect household data for the Continuous Population Sample Survey (CSSP), of which labor force characteristics were a key component.

“A revised survey was scheduled for July 2022, but preliminary unemployment data was accessible through the results of the rapid response survey undertaken with the UN Resident Coordinator.

In order to bring the release of unemployment-specific data for the first quarter of 2022 back to the end of June 2022, additional staff, including field staff on short-term contracts, have been recruited,” he said.

He observed that despite efforts to put the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MIC-S) back on schedule amid delays caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Planning and Development , in conjunction with the CSO, had no formal policy to guide the investigation. completion of the survey by CSO staff and respondents.

“CSO’s standards for adhering to the principles of objectivity, reliability and accountability have been duly noted, but further explanation is needed regarding the organization’s approach to data analysis and implementation and survey design.

The Committee commends CSO’s efforts to institute peer review agreements with regional and international partners to achieve quality standards in its designs and approach to data analysis,” he said. .

He said it was imperative that the CSO pay more attention to allocating resources to future efforts and finding innovative solutions to overcome these obstacles.

“While the capacity constraints associated with the range of datasets produced by the CSO are noted, this must be balanced against the need to obtain data on issues or trends that impact society. . Due to the lack of ‘longitudinal’ data over the period, a preliminary overview of the effect of Covid-19 on the socio-economic landscape of Trinidad and Tobago could not have been accurately determined. -he declares.

More workers needed

Currently, the CSO is limited by human resources and funding.

“The decision to collect specific categories of data is often the result of political directive based on governance criteria and its scope is often limited due to staffing and resource limitations,” he said.

“The CSO had actively recognized its shortcomings and was making concerted efforts to improve its production capacity through ICT improvements, website upgrades and adherence to international standards to make data transparent, consistent and accessible,” indicates the report.

He said that due to the lack of stronger measures to sanction non-compliance, the CSO relied on a persuasive and conciliatory approach to accessing data from its stakeholders.

He noted that the cost of conducting surveys to obtain primary data was an expensive undertaking, hence the preference for using administrative data.

“However, this authority cannot be granted without the transition to the NSITT; and the NSITT would provide an improved organizational structure, training and capacity building opportunities for staff and enhanced authority to collect data, but is hampered by the special majority required in Parliament to pass the legislation,” he said. declared.

The committee was chaired by Hazel Thompson-Ahye and included Vice-Chair Marvin Gonzales, Keith Scotland, Dinesh Rambally, Terrence Deyalsingh, Jayanti Lutchmedial, Hassel Bacchus and Laurence Hislop.