CARICOM members gather in Cayman to talk statistics

Senior Assistant Financial Secretary Michael Nixon gives opening remarks at the start of the Caribbean Community's annual statistics conference. - PHOTO: KEN SILVA

Representatives from 15 Caribbean Community-affiliated jurisdictions and organizations such as the United Nations and the Caribbean Development Bank are in Cayman this week for CARICOM’s 42nd Meeting of the Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians.

An opening ceremony for the four-day event was held Monday morning at the Marriott Beach Resort, where CARICOM and government officials discussed the goal of the conference, as well as the history and significance statistics play in Cayman and the wider region.

Philomen Harrison, the project director for CARICOM’s regional statistics program, said the conference’s roughly 40 attendees hope to further develop a uniform methodology of tracking and producing statistics among CARICOM’s members and associate members.

“The aim is to improve the quality and comparability of statistics, and to ensure that policymakers have the data required for development,” said Ms. Harrison.

That includes finding a common method of calculating gross domestic product, population demographics and other economic and social statistics, she said.

CARICOM officials hope to implement many of these goals by 2020 so that they can produce a regionwide census, the project director added.

Developing uniform statistics is one aspect of the organization members’ “action plan for statistics,” which also includes upgrading their information technology infrastructure for the production and dissemination of statistics and promoting statistical education in their school systems.

Other topics of discussion at the conference include the efforts various CARICOM members have made in implementing that action plan, the difficulties different member jurisdictions have in gathering data, and what among the hundreds of economic indicators are feasible to track and record in the Caribbean.

Finance and Economic Development Minister Roy McTaggart also spoke at the opening ceremony, providing a broad overview about the statistics that have been recorded throughout the history of Cayman.

The territory’s first census was conducted in 1802 by a government official from Jamaica, who recorded 933 people on Grand Cayman, said Mr. McTaggart.

“The only residents noted on Sister Islands were turtlers visiting during the summer season,” he added.

Today, “Cayman’s statistical system is still underdeveloped when compared to some of our neighbors, said the minister. “However, over the past few years, some significant progress has been made to improve our statistical system.”

Improvements touted by Mr. McTaggart include more advanced training for Economics and Statistics Office staffers and updates to the Statistics Law, including increased fines for non-respondents to statistical surveys.

Methodically keeping Cayman economic and social data has been crucial in recent projects like the remapping of the territory’s electoral districts and setting the minimum wage to $6 last year, he said.

“High-quality statistics are one of the critical components of sound government policy development,” said the minister.

This is Cayman’s first year hosting CARICOM’s Meeting of the Standing Committee of Caribbean Statisticians, which will be held through Friday.

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