By Suraj Narine
Since its establishment in 1957, the Guyana National Bureau of Statistics (GNBS) now has a place to call home.
The entity is housed where the former Customs and Excise Tax Department (Customs House) was located on Main and Hope Streets, Georgetown.
In excess of $160M was spent to ‘fully’ refurbish and modify the building to accommodate the Bureau.
Prior to the commissioning yesterday which saw Government Ministers, members of the Diplomatic Corps and GNBS staff attending, it was disclosed that the agency conducted its operations from three different locations.
Chief Statistician, Lennox Benjamin, who was tasked with relating the Bureau’s journey throughout the years, noted that with the change of ministerial responsibilities and the entity’s movement from one place to another, one fact remained constant and that is the fact that the Bureau “never had a home”.
He told the gathering that the initial stage of the project was riddled with challenges.
He explained that the first contractor had to be changed in the early stages of the project which was eventually carried out by PD Contracting.
Other contractors that carried out works on the building were Cummings Electrical; Antarctic Maintenance; NP Computec and Industry Safety Supplies.
THE IMPORTANCE OF STATISTICS IN CRAFTING POLICIES
President David Granger, during his address, reminded the Bureau that it is duty-bound to provide accurate, comprehensive, reliable, relevant and timely statistics to Public and Private users.
These functions he noted are ordained in the Laws of Guyana.
“That act calls upon the Bureau to collect, compile, analyse, abstract and publish statistical information relation to the social, agricultural, mining and commercial, industrial and general activities of the inhabitants of Guyana…”
The Head of State related that good governance requires good statistics. He reiterated the fact that good governance is associated with accountability and transparency in policy-making which also depends heavily on accurate, reliable, relevant and timely statistics.
“Government agencies, the private sector, and civil society need accurate and timely statistics in order to be able to make informed decisions. The absence of empirical data could put polices in the whisk to being misaligned, misplaced or simply mistaken.”
The President told the gathering that the provision of adequate statistics will help government to better design policies; polices which are demographic or geographic specific; which will also aid the administration in determining the social and economic impact of its policies.
He explained that statistics will enable citizens to judge the successes of government policies, leading the populace to come to informed opinions which they can use to hold Government accountable.
The availability of statistics is important to local and foreign investment since investors need information to evaluate risk and to identify viable business and economical opportunities.
The Bureau’s work is also expected to assist international organisations and to allow these partners to identify challenges and to design responses to those challenges.
“My Government is committed to preserving the culture that emphasises the importance of the collection and compilation and dissemination of reliable and relevant statistics at all levels.”
Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, expressed relief that the Bureau will now have a permanent home after years of “living in borrowed and rented premises”.
Jordan noted that prior to the Bureau being established as a department, the collection, compilation and dissemination of data were conducted by several departments.
“To facilitate more coordination of the data process, it was decided in 1957, to establish a department of statistics as a department of government with the mandate of collecting data and publishing statistics, related to Guyana’s economic and social sectors.
Progress and development over the next three decades, resulted in the Bureau being incorporated in October 1990 as a semi-autonomous body under the laws of Guyana to further bolster the independence of statistical management, the Finance Minister said.
“Since its establishment, the Bureau has played a pivotal role in conducting censuses, collecting, compiling, analyzing and publishing socio-economic and other data as well as collaborating with other agencies in the public agencies of data derived from administrative sources.”
Jordan said that despite the challenges faced by the Bureau, the entity still sought to deliver on its mandate.
FENDING OFF CABINET COLLEAGUES
“The commissioning ceremony is a symbol of Government’s “unwavering commitment” to ensure that data remains at the heart of decision making.” Minister Jordan told the gathering.
Jordan said that he was approached by the Chief Statistician, Benjamin, soon after the A Partnership for National Unity + Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) took office. It was pointed out that the Bureau, spread wide across three locations as it was, did not make for efficient and effective operations; that as a result, the Bureau was hampered in its ability to execute its functions.
Jordan noted that numerous recommendations were made to ‘former administrations’ but these calls had fallen upon ‘deaf ears’.
“I indentified the old customs building and after fending off some of my cabinet colleagues, who had been eyeing the building for one purpose or the other, I won the approval of the cabinet to utilise the building as the headquarters of the Bureau.” Jordan said.
He congratulated the Chief Statistician, Benjamin and his staff and expressed optimism that the building will serve them well.
The Bureau is the main co-ordinator and producer of economic statistics, including national accounts. The main data on population, economic and social conditions of households stem from censuses and surveys.
The Bureau is recognised as the central authority on statistics in this country, and is often requested to advise and assist ministries and private/public sector organisations on statistical matters.
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