Statistically Speaking by Dr. Romulo A. Virola 1
The Philippine Statistical Development Program (PSDP) 2005-2010 2
The Philippines seems to be the only country in the world that periodically formulates a statistical development program which cuts across various sectors of society and encompasses the statistical activities of the entire government. That makes us a leader, a pioneer, in spite of the relatively limited resources our government gives to statistics. In other countries, their national statistical agencies usually come up with a plan limited to the programs of their agencies and excluding the statistical activities of the other agencies of government, thereby contributing to an imbalance in statistical development.
Last Friday, preparations for the 2005-2010 Philippine Statistical Development Program (PSDP) officially started under the stewardship of the NSCB with the organizational meeting of the Steering Committee. The meeting drew very enthusiastic response from the different government agencies, the Senate, the House, the UP School of Statistics, the Philippine Statistical Association and the Employers' Confederation of the Philippines. This will be the seventh PSDP - previous versions covered 1976-2000, 1978-82, 1983-87, 1990-92 (Perspectives 1993-95), 1993-1998 and 1999-2004. Among the new statistics generated or developed during the 1999-2004 PSDP were satellite accounts on health, environment, education and tourism; the plan period also saw the dissemination of advance release calendars by the different agencies of the Philippine Statistical System which enhanced the transparency of official statistics in the country.
Relatedly, in the Steering Committee meeting of PARIS 21 (Partnership in Statistics for Development in the 21 st Century) last 3 November 2004 in Paris, one very important agenda item was the National Strategies for the Development of Statistics (NSDS). It focused on the objective of PARIS 21 to encourage all low-income countries to establish an NSDS by 2006. Like the PSDP, the NSDS is a national agenda for statistical development that extends to the concerns of the statistical units in the different branches of government.
It is therefore expected that, especially with the upcoming 2005 MDG summit when national progress towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals will be reported, statistical systems of developing countries will gear towards the preparation of the NSDS. In this aspect, the Philippines is way ahead and has the advantage of having a decentralized statistical system with a coordinating and policy-making body independent from the major data producing agencies. In many countries where statistical coordination is lodged with the main data producer, the statistical development of the other government agencies becomes stunted and cooperation and collaboration among the statistical offices in the various ministries of government are generally nonexistent because the main data producer is preoccupied with its own parochial concerns and would not give priority attention to the needs of the other statistical agencies.
The PSDP is a tool for integrating and coordinating the statistical activities of the government. As the main purpose of statistics is to serve society, the PSDP acts as a statistical blueprint of the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP). And even if some of us disagree with the focus, the programs or the strategies in the MTPDP, the 2005-2010 PSDP will address the information requirements of the 2005-2010 MTPDP and lay the necessary framework for generating statistics and indicators needed by various stakeholders and data users, including those from the private sector. After all, statistical agencies must strive to be relevant, first and foremost! If a statistical office refuses to generate and disseminate reasonable data needs of users or does not contribute to policy formulation or informed choices, it deserves to be allocated an annual budget of isang kusing !
By the very nature of the PSDP, its preparation requires multi-sectoral collaboration and cooperation. All departments and major agencies of government as well as the private sector are represented in the Steering Committee. In addition, a group of eminent users, providers and producers of statistics will be consulted. Thru the PSDP, the information needed to monitor the achievement of the 10-point legacy enunciated in the MTPDP will be generated. Among the primary concerns to be addressed in the PSDP are statistical policies and coordination mechanisms, data generation and dissemination activities, capacity building, legislative measures on statistics, sub-national statistical system, application of information and communications technology to statistics and international statistical commitments. It is also envisioned that thru the PSDP, budgeting for statistical activities will be rationalized and facilitated, by incorporating an indicative three-year budget for statistical activities. If all goes well, the 2005-2010 PSDP will be launched before the end of the first semester of 2005.
As we want the PSDP to be able to serve the information needs of the greatest number of data users given the limited manpower and financial resources of the statistical agencies, we invite all concerned sectors to articulate their data needs in the medium term thru our website http://www.nscb.gov.ph or email address firstname.lastname@example.org. Let your views count in the 2005-2010 PSDP! Now.
At the same time we appeal to all to manage their expectations and recognize the fact that the generation of statistics needs resources. If we want to be able to wield the power of high quality information, we must have the political will to invest in statistics. Let us stop expecting something out of nothing! In the third Millennium, information is as basic a need for our mind as food is a basic need for our body. By all means, let us win the war against poverty. Of information!
And may 2005 bring peace and love to our nation!
Reactions and views are welcome thru email to the author at email@example.com.
1 Secretary General of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) and Chairman of the Statistical Research and Training Center (SRTC). He holds a Ph. D. in Statistics from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor , U.S.A. and has taught mathematics and statistics at the University of the Philippines . He is also a past president of the Philippine Statistical Association.
Posted 10 January 2005.