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AS I SEE THINGS: Statistics and statistics

Brian Francis

AS I SEE THINGS: Statistics and statistics

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When it comes to the unemployment rate in Barbados, which of the two statistics should the public accept – 11 per cent or 12.1 per cent?  
How could I not ask this question in light of the disquieting revelation made by the Governor of the Central Bank of Barbados in his Press conference last week at which he addressed the current and future state of the Barbadian economy – a revelation that has resulted in strong responses from some who care passionately about statistics and the role they play in aiding our understanding of how economies work.
Given the current state of the local economy and what is at stake for our political leaders in the coming 15 months with a general election looming, the rate of unemployment is bound to be a major talking point.  
Any perception of increasing unemployment can only mean bad news for the incumbent. It is for this reason that accurate statistics must always be created using the most urbane and appropriate methodology applicable to the generation of such data.
And when one compares the methodology outlined by the Governor of the Central Bank with that explained by the Statistical Department on its official website, the choice of a winner is a non-issue.
Despite all that has been said thus far, there is a far more deep-rooted issue at stake here.
You see, Barbados, as a small, open economy, depends largely on foreign injections of financial resources for the survival of the economy.
The economic environment which encapsulates the type of economic system in place in the country, the economic policies of the Government, and the current and future performance of the economy are major elements of the underlying business environment and in many instances can make or break a country’s chances of attracting international business.
Does the current debacle in relation to the unemployment rate help this country’s cause specifically in attracting foreign investment? I think not.
In the circumstance, therefore, and considering all that I have outlined, I now present my answer to the very first question posed in this column: 12.1 per cent!
By accepting the unemployment rate issued by the Statistical Department, it is quite clear to me that the pronouncement made by the Governor of the Central Bank with respect to the unemployment rate in Barbados in September 2011 and his explanation of how the data was compiled amounts to an unbelievable act that must be treated with a high degree of seriousness by those charged with the responsibility of leading this country.
On that premise, I am forced to ask: what should be done to ensure that this issue never arises in Barbados again?  
Fortunately, I do not have to provide a direct answer to this question because one of my colleagues, Clyde Mascoll, has already done so quite eloquently. And I fully endorse Mr Mascoll’s call!