Sunday, January 26, 2014

New centralized statistics authority in PH nears activation

Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)
Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)
The National Statistical Coordination Board (NCSB) regional office for Bicol said that it is anticipating this year the activation of the newly established Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), a single body which consolidates the technical staff of all government agencies involved in statistical works.

The actual consolidation of these statistical agencies such as the NSCB, National Statistics Office (NSO), Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) and Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics (BLES) will come as a result of the Philippine Statistics Act of 2013, signed into law by Pres. Benigno Aquino III on September 12, 2013.

“We hope that initiatives on frequent and timely statistics, particularly on poverty, shall be sustained when the PSA becomes fully operational sometime this year,” NSCB regional head Gil Arce said.

These initiatives allow policymakers and poverty stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to work together in accelerating the reduction of poverty based on more relevant and more up to date snapshots of welfare and living conditions in the country, he said.

According to Republic Act No. 10625 or the Act Reorganizing the Philippine Statistical System, the PSA is attached to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) for purposes of policy coordination.

It shall be composed of the PSA board and offices on sectoral statistics, censuses and technical coordination, civil registration and central support and field statistical services.

The PSA board shall be the highest policy-making body on statistical matters and the data produced by the PSA shall be the official and controlling statistics of the government.

The PSA shall be primarily responsible for all national censuses and surveys, sectoral statistics, consolidation of selected administrative recording systems and compilation of the national accounts.

Its functions, among others, are to serve as the central statistical authority of the Philippine government on primary data collection; and prepare and conduct periodic censuses on population, housing, agriculture, fisheries, business, industry and other sectors of the economy.It shall also collect, compile, analyze, abstract and publish statistical information relating to the country’s economic, social, demographic, political affairs and general activities and condition of the people.

PSA is also tasked to prepare and conduct statistical sample surveys on all aspects of socioeconomic life -- including agriculture, industry, trade, finance, prices and marketing information, income and expenditure, education, health, culture and social situations -- as well as the government and the political sector for the use of the government and the public.

It will also conduct continuing methodological, analytical and development activities, in coordination with the Philippine Statistical Research and Training Institute (PSRTI) to improve the conduct of censuses, surveys and other data collection activities; and recommend executive and legislative measures to enhance the development of the statistical activities and programs of the government.

With the activation of PSA, Arce said, it is hoped that the government can also provide more investments in agricultural statistics that should serve as guideposts in actions needed to further improve food production and agricultural productivity.

These improvements will require investments and the government must invest not only in direct agricultural interventions, but also in statistics so that the performance of the agriculture sector is improved, Arce said.

Earlier, the NSCB, through its secretary-general Jose Ramon Albert, has called on the government for more investment in statistics on agriculture which, he said, is a crucial sector for reducing poverty and attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which includes halving the proportion of people in extreme poverty and hunger by 2015 from its level in 1990.

“While the economy is growing, there may be a need to examine the agriculture sector more carefully, since official poverty statistics (dating as far back as 1985 up to the most recently released figures in 2009) show that the concentration of the poor has been in the entire agriculture sector,” Albert said.

Many resources have been devoted by past administrations to agricultural modernization, the provision of agricultural inputs and agrarian reform, but the Philippines continues to face a lot of challenges, particularly to liberate the farmers from poverty.

Several decades ago, the country’s economy and employment have been dependent on agriculture. In recent years, however, the population has become less dependent on farming as in terms of share to the total economy, the agriculture sector’s importance has continuously dropped over the past decades.

In 1946, about a third of the economy (29.7 percent) was agricultural, but the share of agriculture to the economy has declined over the years.

In 2012, it contributed merely 11.1 percent to the economy, Albert stressed.

Statistics always become interesting when they are compared across time and across space, he said, citing as example economic statistics across regions of the country in 2011 that says Central Luzon and CALABARZON were the top two contributors to the agricultural sector at 13.8 percent and 9.5 percent, respectively.

“Comparing the share of agriculture in the total economies across all the regions, it can be observed that the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) has the largest share with 63.0 percent yet the region has consistently been on record as having one of the highest poverty incidences among all the regions at 45.9 percent in 2009,” Albert said.

As much as possible, Arce said, the NSCB wants to come up with more recent and updated statistics on agriculture but unfortunately, many statistics it could collect and compile only describe the past, and very often, even when policy interventions are made, the effects take time.

According to Albert, “whether the current efforts of government will be successful, only time will truly tell.

Many efforts have not yielded fruit, but perhaps, it is time also for everyone to recognize that we can’t leave everything to government.”

“If we wish the agriculture sector to grow in importance, then we all have to do our share in helping farmers in reducing transportation costs and reducing the profits of middle-men. This isn’t the sole responsibility of government,” he said.

Statistics in agriculture will also need to constantly improve to help serve as guideposts for government to recalibrate its actions as need be, Albert added. (PNA) CTB/FGS/DOC/CBD
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