The Central Statistical Office (CSO), boasts of a proud history dating back to 1952 when the organisation was established by legal instruments namely the Statistical Ordinance Ch. 42, No. 11 of 1952. The CSO was given immediate responsibilities to discharge the following functions:
(a) Take any census in the Colony;
(b) Collect, compile, analyse, abstract and publish statistical information relating to the commercial, industrial, agricultural, mining, economic, social and general activities and conditions of the people of the colony;
(c) To collaborate with other Government Departments in the collection, compilation, analysis and publication of statistical records of administration;
(d) Generally to organize a coordinated scheme of economic and social statistics relating to the Colony, in accordance with the provisions of the Ordinance.
Subsequent to the passage of the 1952 ordinance a number of other statistical regulations were enacted in order to provide legal sanction for the department to exercise its statutory functions. These functions included providing statistical data, specifically with regard to:
- Industrial Establishments;
- Employment, wages, salaries and earnings
- Annual Land Returns
- Slaughterhouse Returns
- Distribution, Transport and other Services Establishments
- Housing and Population Census
- Agricultural Census
- Industrial or Business Undertakings
The Ordinance was later replaced by the Statistics Act, Chapter 19:02 of the Revised Laws of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, 1982.
The Development of the Central Statistical Office – The Early Days
The first Government Statistician, H J Steer, an able specialist in National Income Accounting pioneered the development of the CSO and set very high standards in the recruitment of staff and building a respected organization. Probably due to the size of the country and state of development, John Steer opted for a centralized system of national statistics.
In keeping with the policy of localization of the public service, Rupert Jackson (Jack) Harewood who had just returned from completing his under graduate studies in England was groomed to succeed the expatriate Government Statistician, John Steer. The independence of the CSO from political influence and the preference by the first government Statistician for a “centralized” statistical service shaped the future development of the CSO.
The architects of the early CSO make up an impressive list of national icons such as, Jack Harewood returning scholars such as the eminent Sociologist Lloyd Braithwaite and George Roberts who is widely described as the father of Caribbean Demography. On the staff of the CSO, in the early years, were nationals who later distinguished themselves in national service such as: Mervyn De Souza, an Actuary, economists: Frank Rampersad and Victor Bruce, the demographer, Norma Abdulla, and Irving W. Chinnia, CSO Director (1968-1970).
By the mid – 1960s, the CSO had become firmly established as the official agency for the dissemination of all Government Statistics. The range of Statistics published extended in scope beyond Overseas Trade and Population and Vital Statistics to include:
(i) Monthly and Annual Travel Statistics based on Immigration documents;
(ii) Education Statistics;
(iii) National Income and Balance of Payments;
(iv) Financial Statistics;
(v) Continuous Sample Survey of Publication (C.S.S.P)
The CSO has played an important role in introducing computerization to many Government agencies and departments. In 1957 the CSO undertook the listing of punch cards for the Inland Revenue Division in 1986 the capturing of historical and current data of passport records held by the Immigration Department. In 1971 the CSO began a computerized project for the immigration department to assist the Chief Immigration Officer in effecting more efficient controls over arrivals and departures. Other Agencies with which the CSO was involved – National Insurance Board, Central Bank, OTSC, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Finance and Economy, Ministry of Industry of Enterprise and Attorney General’s Office.