STATIN a key measure of development
GOVERNMENTS OF independent Jamaica have long had a focus on the design and implementation of policies to enhance the well-being of Jamaicans. Increasingly, however, there is a national recognition that while actions outside the control of Jamaicans can have significant impacts on national development, the country has to take far greater responsibility for improving its development prospects through appropriate policy design and effective policy implementation.
The crises facing Jamaica, represented in its declining but still unsustainably high debt level, its very slow rate of economic growth, and its lack of adherence to the rule of law, as demonstrated, for example, in a horrific murder rate and blatant disregard for environmental and waste disposal laws, have concentrated the minds of well-thinking Jamaicans on the importance of a national process of taking responsibility for sustainable and inclusive development.
Appropriate policy design and effective policy implementation, however, need to be driven by data and analysis. This is the area in which Jamaica relies on its data-collection agency, the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN). As STATIN celebrates its 70th anniversary, it is seized of the importance of undergirding the policy design process by providing data in as accurate and as timely a manner as possible.
LEVEL OF INCLUSIVENESS
Many of the country’s economic statistics are linked to the value of goods and services produced, known as the gross domestic product (GDP), which is measured by STATIN on a quarterly and annual basis. While Jamaica is focused on increasing GDP levels, it also wants GDP growth to be inclusive, benefiting as many Jamaicans as possible. One measure of the level of inclusiveness of growth is the national employment level, which is measured by STATIN on a quarterly and annual basis through its labour force surveys.
A key measure of development is the level of GDP per person. Not only does STATIN measure the country’s GDP, its decennial counts of the entire population, through the census, determine the number of Jamaicans living in the country so that the GDP per person can be measured. During the inter-censal years, STATIN also provides annual estimates of the population.
An important foundation for macro-economic stability in any country is the level of inflation. Macro-economic stability is particularly important to the development of small economies. Inflation is measured by STATIN in the form of monthly updates of the consumer price index and the producer price index.
The development of small economies is also tied closely to their level of integration within the world economy, which is represented partly through trade levels, measured by STATIN in its estimates of the level of exports and imports of goods and services.
STATIN also provides important data on social indicators of development and disaggregated data that can assist in the formulation of environmental policy.
STATIN is also the agency that is the interface between Jamaica and international efforts at data gathering. The global community, for example, led by the United Nations, has agreed on a set of sustainable development goals (SDGs) designed to improve the well-being of as many residents of the planet as possible. In so doing, there is a recognition that, as in national policy, the monitoring of global performance in achieving SDGs requires appropriate statistical data to assess progress and inform policy.
Accordingly, the United Nations has established an inter-agency group on SDGs (IAED-SDG) to develop the indicators needed to monitor the progress towards achieving these goals. Jamaica, through STATIN, is a member of the IAED-SDG, as one of two representatives from the Caribbean. Indeed, as is the case with other Jamaican institutions, STATIN has performed an institutional leadership role within the English-speaking Caribbean.
Although the data provided by STATIN are critical to the development of policy, it is essential that the Institute continues to be independent in its data collection activities, with its officers and managers having a professional interest only in the quality of the data-collection process, but not in the results of data collection. There are countries whose statistical agencies have become so politicised that they, and the data they generate, have no credibility locally or internationally. One of the strengths of STATIN is that there has not been political interference with its data collection, analysis, and dissemination activities, for which successive Jamaican administrations and the professional officers and managers of the institute must be commended. ALVIN G. WINT Chairman
Although the data provided by STATIN are critical to the development of policy, it is essential that the Institute continues to be independent...