President David Granger: Minister of Finance, Mr. Winston Jordan; members of the Diplomatic Corps; Chief Statistician Mr. Lennox Benjamin; members and staff of the Board; special invitees; members of the media.
I’m happy to be here this morning to participate in this important ceremony. I think the Minister of Finance is aware of my interest in this Bureau and housing the Bureau properly. Not least of all because it gives me the opportunity to occupy the three buildings which the Bureau vacated. [Laughter.]
As you have heard Guyana’s main statistical authority is this Bureau of Statistics. The Bureau is duty bound to provide accurate, comprehensive, reliable, relevant and timely statistics to public and private users. Its functions are ordained in the Laws of Guyana in the Statistics Act and I would just re-emphasise that that Act calls upon the Bureau to collect, compile, analyse, abstract and publish statistical information relating to the social, agricultural, mining, commercial, industrial and general activities of the inhabitants of Guyana among other things.
Good Governance requires good statistics. Good governance is associated with accountability and transparency in policy making and these, in turn, depend on accurate, reliable, relevant and timely statistics. Government agencies, the private sector and civil society need accurate, reliable and timely statistics in order to be able to make informed decisions. Statistics take the guesswork out of decision making.
They allow for analysis to be made on the basis of empirical evidence; they provide information and they validate or invalidate policy measures. They help to determine the choices upon which policy makers would make their decisions.
The absence of empirical data could put policies in the risk of being misaligned, misplaced or simply mistaken. Statistics will help us to better design policies, policies which are demographic or geographic specific, illustrate differences across our regions and allow us to determine the social and economic impact of our policies. They help the government agencies, the private sector and civil society in their policy and programme formulation.
Statistics will help the country to monitor progress in social programmes. The capacity to generate social statistics on poverty, unemployment and income distribution will allow us to determine our progress in implementing measures needed to achieve United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Statistics enable citizens to judge the success of government decisions and policies. It is the basis for making informed opinions on which they can hold the government accountable. Statistics therefore are essential to government in the delivery of services to its citizens.
This Bureau, therefore, is charged with the production of statistics if you remove anecdotal and emotive influences from the decision making process. The availability of statistics is important for local and foreign investment since investors need information to evaluate risk and to identify viable business and economic opportunities. The Bureau’s work will assist international organisations and allow them 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, compilation and dissemination of reliable and relevant statistics at all levels and we will improve governance in three ways.
First, through infrastructure and here you have our commitment everyone knows what happened in May 2015. It is one of the first decisions we made and if the truth be spoken, the decision might have even been made before 15th May, 2015. The occupation of this commodious building is evidence of government’s commitment to strengthen the infrastructure available to the Bureau. The modernisation of infrastructure will improve the volume and value of the statistics produced here. Use of modern data processing tools will enrich information provided to government to the private sector and to citizens.
Second, we aim at institutional strengthening. The Bureau must spread the data collection culture throughout the public service. We need to establish a planning unit in each of our 15 ministries. We are committed to institutional strengthening by providing more training and by recruiting staff to work in the Bureau and to work in the statistical units in the various ministries. We’ll ensure also that the statistical sections are allied to the IT [Information Technology] sections of the ministries. So the data on their work and for use by management and policy makers can be gathered, compiled and stored.
And thirdly, we will improve our information services. This Bureau must become a provider not merely a generator of information. It must be able to provide data for a range of stakeholders- private citizens, the diaspora, government, international organisations, investors and students.
Information Services are integral to professionalizing the public service. Data must be generated which will allow the public service managers to assess the performance of their agencies and the efficacy of services provided. Data collection and services is one way of ensuring that these services are efficient and efficacious.
Ladies and gentleman, the Cooperative Republic of Guyana must preserve the culture which pays attention to the importance of the data collection, generation, storage and retrieval. We must emphasise the vital importance which statistics play in decision making and policy formulation.
I congratulate the Bureau of Statistics on its new home and I noticed the arrival of the CEO of New Thriving in our company which I’m sure will help us to enjoy the proceedings today. [Laughter.]
I take this opportunity; well the New Thriving is next door so I know where the staff will be having lunch. Well, look at that. So when members of staff tell their wives that they’re late at the office; they’ll either be at one side or the other side and not here.
Allow me in joining the Minister of Finance in expressing appreciation to the Chief Statistician Mr. Lennox Benjamin. I would like to thank you, Lennox, for your exemplary service in the field of statistics and I don’t see you riding off into the sunset. But certainly, I think the Republic of Guyana is grateful for the service that you have rendered over the decades. Thank you.
Ladies and gentlemen, I thank you.