Beautiful Virgin Islands

Friday, May 27, 2022

No idea whether postponed census will happen this year

No idea whether postponed census will happen this year

Director of the Central Statistics Office (DSCO), Raymond Phillips is hoping there are mechanisms in place to request emergency funding if the option to conduct the national census this year becomes viable.

The 2020 census has been postponed for the last two years because of the COVID-19. With this postponement, funding for the initiative did not appear in the Central Statistics Office’s (CSO) budget for either of those years.

Funding for Census 2020, again, did not appear in the 2022 budget as instructions were given not to include certain expenditures. The unpredictability of the pandemic means it remains unclear whether the exercise will be undertaken this year.

Addressing the Standing Finance Committee (SFC) late last year, Director Phillips referred to the potential cost of Census 2020. He said there are good reasons why censuses are every ten years as they are expensive, require many persons, and consume a vast amount of time to be completed.

In his presentation to the Committee — the details of which was outlined in the 2022 SFC report — Phillips also said the estimated cost for the enumeration of the Virgin Islands population is $30 per household. Currently, he noted, the territory has approximately 15,000 households which add up to roughly $450,000.

“The field exercise could run for six months, and the estimated cost does not include the cost associated with safety measures for a safe interview process. This does not include the cost of handheld devices that would be used to do the interviews. There are also other costs associated with coding and editing and other personnel who are involved in the internal processes,” the SFC’s report on Phillips’ presentation said.

More money will be needed

According to the SFC report, Phillips also told the SFC he hopes consideration is given to increase the budget from $30 per household. He said the current amount does not serve as an incentive for census interviewers; adding that this would increase the budget even more.

“Unfortunately, it appears that patriotism no longer serves as a good incentive,” the DSCO reportedly told the SFC.

He stated that censuses are very challenging frustrating and sometimes even dangerous. He also stated that compensation should come in to encourage maximum efforts.

Phillips further mentioned that there are other budgetary considerations that the SCO needs to think about.

“We need to obtain a high-definition drone which captured maps for fieldwork. We would have to consider incentives for households to encourage participation and hire transportation due to the increase in high gasoline prices that we are facing now. The non-budgetary requirement includes the legal reviews by Cabinet of the Statistics Act to include Regulations and a commitment from high-level government officials to undertake activities to encourage participation,” Phillips added.

He further stated that he was not aware of any written local, regional or international declaration that conducts the mandate of the census here in the Virgin Islands, but like the rest of the world, he noted the territory endeavours to adhere to this standard.

The current health crisis has crippled the efforts of the Statistics Office as personal interactions are discouraged. This encouraged innovative methods which are less expensive but more challenging and less effective. The CSO said they did a test survey by sending out links in text messages to residents and the responses were underwhelming.

The DSCO also said persons have been unwilling to share data. In April of last year, the government promised to revise the Statistical Act to make it mandatory for persons to provide data to the Central Statistics Office.


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