Statistics Law changes would make false data illegal

Amendments to the Statistics Law, which governs the collection of such data as population numbers and gross domestic product, would specifically make it unlawful to give false information on a government survey.

The proposed changes, which were put out for public consultation this week, would give the Economic and Statistics Office the ability to send voluntary surveys to exempt corporations. Many companies, classified as exempt because they are offshore corporations with little to no physical presence on the island, are not included in calculations for gross domestic product and other economic indicators.

Maria Zingapan, director of the Economic and Statistics Office, said she has heard from people working for exempt companies in Cayman, for example in the Cayman Economic Zone, who are willing to participate in the surveys. “They want to be counted. They want to be acknowledged for their economic contribution,” Ms. Zingapan said.

There are more than 6,500 exempt companies registered in Cayman that could now be asked to participate in the voluntary surveys, according to the ESO.

Most of the proposed changes would clarify or clean up the law.

Shanna Saunders-Best, an economist with the ESO, said the current law does not explicitly make it illegal to lie on a government survey. In her words, that is one of the gray areas and a “deficiency in the Stats Law.”

She said, “We wanted to clarify that knowingly doing it is an offense.”

It is already an offense to refuse to participate in government surveys, but Ms. Zingapan said no one has ever been charged for refusing to fill out a survey. “We always try to persuade users” to participate, she said. Instead of threatening charges, she explained, the ESO pushed for “more dialogue, more conversation” to get people to participate in the surveys.

Ms. Saunders-Best said earlier revisions to the Statistics Law also tried to fix those gray areas. For example, she said, the 2010 revision clarified that all information collected in government statistics surveys is confidential.

The new revisions would clarify the powers of the Economic and Statistics Office. Ms. Zingapan said there has been some confusion as to whether Cabinet or the ESO is in charge of data collection.

The proposal removes many references to Cabinet and amends the law “to empower the Director to collect statistics without first having to obtain Cabinet approval,” the 2014 bill states.

The Statistics Law, first enacted in 1970, gives the Cayman government the ability to collect data such as the population census and gross domestic product.

The public consultation runs through Feb. 10. Comments should be sent in writing to Michael Nixon, at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, at [email protected]

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