In their quest to bring about a single economic market encompassing all Caricom nations, leaders have pushed the matter of how we gauge the true status of our economies onto their highest agenda. A workshop for regional stakeholders on national data gathering and accounting was held at the Hilton Trinidad on Monday under the auspices of the Ministry of Planning and with aid from the European Union.

Participants heard of the move by Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell – himself a statistician – to place the matter at the forefront of the Caricom agenda. Regional heads of government are due to next meet in July.

“We are moving on with statistics because now it is on the agenda of the heads of government,” said Dr Philomena Harrison, Project Director of Caricom’s Regional Statistics unit.

According to Caricom, Mitchell, Caricom’s Minister Responsible for Finance and Energy, has been due to place the Action Plan for the Improvement of Statistics on the agenda of the next Conference of Heads of Government in July 2016 at Guyana. The Action Plan was originally on the agenda of the Thirty-Seventh Meeting of the Community Council of Ministers in January 2016 but was deferred due to the lengthiness of the agenda at that meeting.

On 15 December 2015, a sub-group of the Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians (SCCS) met with Mitchell in Grenada and presented the Action Plan, which was prepared by the Caricom Advisory Group on Statistics (AGS). It was favorably received by the Prime Minister, and on his request, was placed on the Agenda of the Community Council.

Harrison said data can lead to development.

She said systems in place suffer from insufficient staff resources, high staff turnover, and insufficient recruitment. She noted some data tables produced are done residually.

Political will is needed. “We will say no more on that,” said Harrison.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Planning Joanne Deoraj said a shift in the economic paradigm could not be realised without relevant and timely statistics. She noted current economic conditions.

“The importance of quality macroeconomic data cannot be overstated,” Deoraj said.

The planned National Statistical Institute of Trinidad and Tobago (NSITT), she said, will be empowered to coordinate statistics and is to be independent, autonomous and transparent.

“Our target is to establish the NSITT by January 2017,” the PS said.

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