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New Centralized Office Of Statistics Taking Shape

Given mandate to integrate, regularly report useful, accurate socioeconomic data


February 14, 2002
Copyright © 2002 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

Frustration in getting useful, accurate official socioeconomic data on a regular basis will become a thing of the past if the proposed new autonomous Office of Statistics the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico is successful in accomplishing its mission.

An initiative of the Calderon administration, the Office of Statistics is scheduled to be up and running with the new fiscal year, starting July 2002. For its first year of operations, the Administration is requesting a $16.5 million budget for the Office, including $6.5 million for facilities and the initial investment in information systems.

In subsequent years, the Office is expected to have an approximately $11 million annual budget, including $4 million annually for ongoing socioeconomic indicator development & methodological improvements, as well as $2 million for its 50-person staff expenses.

This represents a substantial increase in government investment in statistical operations. The Planning Board, for example, currently budgets $4 million annually for its four principal statistical units. Of that sum, 80% is used for staff expenses for 100 employees.

So far, the Office of Management & Budget (OMB) has allocated nearly $1 million in preparations to get the new agency off the ground and has completed two comprehensive studies on the government’s current statistical operations and needs.

"The Statistics Office will establish a central data warehouse for statistical information provided by 115 agencies and 500 different databases, covering the entire gamut of economic, social and health data," OMB Director Melba Acosta told CARIBBEAN BUSINESS.

"This data warehouse will be used to prioritize the use of government resources, and will provide useful decision making information for businesses as well," Acosta said. The Office will make the information that it compiles and generates public, through an Internet site as well as traditional publications.

Acosta said that in the process of reviewing current government data, she’s found that many provide statistics that are too general and not precise enough to contribute to the decision-making process, either in government or the private sector.

Among the priorities of the new Office, she said, is to ensure the reliability of statistical information, as well as its timeliness by establishing publication calendars for the regular dissemination of statistical information.

The Office of Statistics will initially be focused on correcting methodological deficiencies and assuring the implementation of mechanisms that assure that economic statistics reflect the changing structure of the economy, including better measurements of the services sector.

Economists consulted by CARIBBEAN BUSINESS have emphasized the need for the new Office to assure that economic data is generated on a trimester basis.

As to other socioeconomic areas, the Office will be tasked with assisting the Health Department in integrating and updating its statistics. For example, the Cancer Registry hasn’t been updated since 1991 and the government currently doesn’t have access to health data compiled by health reform insurers. Health data on the prison population is also reportedly inexistent.

The Office director, to be named by the governor, is expected to have a ten-year term. The Office is also slated to have an Advisory Council, to be comprised of representatives of different statistical sectors in the public, private and academic spheres. The members of the Council, to be named by the Governor, will serve for the length of the governor’s term in office.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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