December 8, 2021

The Editor Speaks: Statistics

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Boring. Boring. Just the mention of the word ‘statistics’ and we reach for the coffee to wake us up.

I am, therefore, very cognizant of the fact that many of our readers will skip the large number of articles about this subject in today’s iNews Cayman. Even more so when they are opening speeches of a meeting being held in the Cayman Islands on …. statistics.

However, Cayman Islands Minister for Finance, Roy McTaggart, made some interesting points in his keynote speech at the Statistics Meeting. I did not know statistics were introduced to the Cayman Islands “more than 200 years ago by way of the very first census in 1802. That census was conducted by Mr. Edward Corbet, a staff aide to the Governor of Jamaica, Lieutenant General George Nugent. Mr. Corbet’s census recorded 933 residents on Grand Cayman and the only residents he noted in the sister islands of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman were turtlers who visited during the summer season.

You must admit that is very interesting.

And Minister McTaggart is well versed in statistics. He said, “ my former role in public accounting, I was designated a Statistical Audit Specialist, employing statistical principles and techniques as a tool in the audits of financial statements.”

“High quality statistics are one of the critical components of sound Government policy development and it is through these policies that we impact the lives of our people,” he added. Statistics help to tell a story of what is happening on the ground in our respective countries and how we compare to others in our region and internationally. Statistics allow ordinary citizens’ access to information and help them to independently evaluate the policies and actions of the decision makers.”

“The challenge is, how can we as data users, identify and communicate the public information that we need for good governance? And how can we support their production on an impartial basis?”

McTaggart listed the number of projects where “ our statistics function has been a central component”. The One Man One Vote being one of these.

I have always been suspicious of statistics because they can easily be manipulated by whoever produces them, especially if that particular person is paid by the body that has a financial or similar reason to have the statistics favour his project.

I know this as I used to be a Quantity Surveyor. I never once lied or manufactured them. It was what I said to advance the figures favourably, especially if there was a suggestion that the figures were showing the reverse.

We do need statistics, despite what I have just said.

Statistics provide a starting point and a course of action.

Statistics give you more ways to analyze data.

Statistics examine both accuracy and precision.

Statistics examine both trends and anomalies.

Statistics tells you how much information you need.

Statistics provide standardization.

And finally, I can find you statistics to prove all the above.

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