August 5, 2020

The impact of COVID-19 on the availability of statistics


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OECS Commission convenes virtual Living Standards Measurement Committee Meeting

Wednesday, May 13, 2020 — A special meeting of the Living Standards Measurement Committee (LSMC) was convened virtually over two half-days on 22 and 23 April 2020 in lieu of the fifteenth meeting of the LSMC.

As the steering body for the Enhanced County Poverty Assessment (CPA) Project, the LSMC meets bi-annually to discuss issues, make decisions and recommend actions to advance work of the OECS Sustainable Household Data Collection Programme (SDP).

This Special Meeting was convened to receive updates from Member States on the impact of COVID-19 on implementation of the SDP and to determine and make programmatic adjustments accordingly. The meeting focused on, inter alia:

  1. The implementation of the Enhanced CPA project activities; 
  2. Updates on the project activities and the new challenges and opportunities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic; and
  3. Challenges, opportunities, and recommendations for managing operations of the national statistical offices (NSOs), in the current and post COVID-19 environment. 

Dr. Gale Archibald, Head of the Statistical Services Unit, OECS Commission, welcomed participants and encouraged them to focus on the opportunities, despite the challenges faced by the COVID-19 pandemic. She stated

“The global community for statistics understands national statistics offices (NSOs) in small island development states (SIDS) will be comparatively more affected by COVID-19 than those in developed countries. The community stands ready to support these NSOs to navigate a multiplicity of challenges while at the same time exploiting the opportunities for statistical development.”  

Mr. Elbert Ellis, Operations Officer (Social Analyst) at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), and the Project Supervisor of the Enhanced CPA Project, observed how “COVID-19 has taught us the importance of data”, and in his address to the meeting expressed the Bank’s commitment and readiness to support its borrowing member states; and to work with other partners to invest in data collection and analysis to ensure that countries have data for policy responses.

Mr. Alexandru Narteau, Monitoring and Evalution Specialist, UNCEF expressed UNICEF’s willingness to support Member States to produce social protection data. Despite the challenges, he stated “NSOs are open for business” and where possible, work continues in the Member States.  The World Bank representatives also expressed the Bank’s commitment to support countries and encouraged them to apply for the needed support.

Ms Lori-Rae Alleyne, Chief Statistician, Anguilla Statistical Department, expressed her concern for the budget cuts being faced by NSOs across the region due to reduced revenue and the reallocation of resources to finance national COVID-19 responses and recovery interventions. The meeting agreed that policy-makers need to be mindful of how reduced investment in statistics will further exacerbate the data availability problem that confronts the OECS Member States. Moreover, the COVID-19 protocols to manage the spread of the diseases, such as social distancing, means the countries now have to reschedule household surveys – such as the population and housing census, the labour force survey, the household budget survey and the survey of living conditions.

The Commission is planning a follow-up meeting with development partners to craft a post COVID-19 programme of support for statistical development in the OECS region.

The meeting was attended by Permanent Secretaries, Directors, Chief Statisticians, the CDB, the ECCB, the World Bank, UNICEF, Turks and Caicos Islands and the Commission staff including from the Statistical Services Unit, Social Development Unit and the Finance and Accounting Unit.

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