Remarks by Dr the Rt Hon. Keith Mitchell Prime Minister of Grenada at the 2021 PARIS21 Annual Meeting, 29 March 2021
I thank the PARIS21 for this invitation to participate in this important meeting, which comes at a critical juncture where countries are intensifying their efforts in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
I am honoured to address this distinguished audience, as a Champion for Statistics in the Caribbean and on behalf of my dear sisters and brothers within the statistics community. We are indeed interconnected through this common objective of the development of statistics, which takes on greater visibility as we navigate through this unprecedented crisis.
High-quality official statistics is essential to the development of countries, of regions and of the world economy. Official statistics is a public good that must have a statistical infrastructure that fits the needs of citizens, of decision-makers in the public and private sectors, researchers, the media and other users of data.
I speak with a great sense of urgency when I continue to see this critical area not getting the attention it deserves and our policies are still not being informed by credible data. The use of statistics relating to Covid-19 has clearly demonstrated how statistics can be used to strategically manage and mitigate the impact of the global pandemic.
It is heartening to see the theme of this conference – Data as a Public Good: Building resilience for a post-pandemic world – capturing the need for resilience. The concept of resilience has become a guiding principle for Caricom Small Island Developing States (SIDS). It was enshrined in the Strategic Plan for Caricom, 2015-2019 which represented a resilience model that focused on building economic, social, environmental and technological resilience. Similarly, the overarching theme of our Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics (RSDS), is Building Resilience of the Caribbean Community. Therefore, I am happy to see resilience become a common thread as we manoeuvre this global pandemic, which has led to significant public health consequences and massive global economic and social disruption.
Sustainable investment in the production of sound statistics should not be omitted from the post-Covid-19 pandemic equation. The post-pandemic solutions will require high-quality official statistics to adequately address the numerous health, economic, social and other problems emanating from the pandemic, and which collectively slow our progress towards achieving the goals and targets of the 2030 sustainable development agenda. Therefore, building resilience in a post-Covid-19 world will require a comprehensive assessment and examination of the impact of the pandemic and that can only happen through the use of sound statistics.
Building resilience in the wake of the pandemic will be particularly challenging for Small Island Development States. As Prime Minister of one of these SIDS, I can confirm that our fragile economies, while trying to recover from the ravaging effects of hurricanes and other climate change events, along with the usual economic and social challenges that affect SIDS, when compounded with the impact of the Covid-19, are now facing serious threats to the survival of some of our key industries, especially tourism, which is the lifeblood of many Caribbean countries and people.
In the Caribbean, our national statistical systems are severely challenged in their ability to produce the data to adequately monitor our achievements of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), given their small size, the less than adequate human resources that are available to produce basic official statistics and the increasing demands for a wide range of statistics. Here in Grenada, we have designed a National Sustainable Development Plan that is strategically aligned with the SDGs. I assure you therefore that aligning data for national development priorities with the SDGs is now a priority for my Government.
I want to commend PARIS21 for their support thus far with the National Strategy for the Development of Statistics (NSDS) and to affirm our commitment to this initiative as we continue to strengthen and modernise our Central Statistical Office and the National Statistical System. It is still a priority for my Government to establish a semi-autonomous national statistical institute that can more effectively serve the needs of the Government and the public.
Grenada has made significant strides in mobilising data as part of the fight against the coronavirus. In successfully managing the pandemic in Grenada, as policy-makers and legislators, our decisions to safeguard the population have been informed by scientific data. This serves to highlight the efficacy of statistics as a public good during a crisis.
Grenada will be conducting its national Population and Housing Census this year, and it will certainly be a defining moment as the Covid-19 pandemic has provided additional rationale for the census because it can yield the evidence to enable positive development outcomes and to build a more resilient country.
At the wider Caribbean level, the Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics, approved by Heads of Government of Caricom in 2018, is an achievement I was happy to champion. Statisticians within Caricom have made significant strides to enable the realisation of statistics as an effective public good. As part of the RSDS, a virtual Caribbean Institute for Statistical Training and Research is being developed, making use of advances in ICT, an idea that was developed way before the Covid-19 pandemic and the increased reliance on webinars.
With the implementation and financing of the RSDS along with National Strategies for Statistics, we expect our regional and national statistical systems to thrive during periods of crisis and beyond, leading to a more resilient Caribbean Community. Going forward, we have to build on the new data thrust and take advantage of the unique opportunity that the Covid-19 pandemic has presented, by illuminating to a wider audience, the importance of data and statistics in decision-making, through enhanced statistical literacy.
We can no longer see the pandemic as a sudden and short-term shock; it must now be integrated into our lives over the long term. We must therefore reshape our thinking and become more creative in our approaches to the collection, production and dissemination of data as we still have a responsibility to ensure that our governments serve their people well and ensure that no one is left behind as we work towards achieving the SDGs.
In conclusion, I make a special appeal to governments to place greater effort in finding the resources to invest in statistics, and to avoid shrinking your statistical resources. I also make a strong appeal to our development partners, the private sector and developed countries for greater funding and support to complement the limited national statistical resources of SIDS and especially to support our Regional Strategy for the Development of Statistics. A well-coordinated, well-resourced and effective statistical infrastructure, regionally and nationally in Caricom SIDS will be the gateway to building resilient Caricom economies and people in the post-pandemic era.
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