BVI News

‘Residents refuse to participate!’ Statistics Office raises concern ahead 2020 population census

File photo depicting sections of Tortola. (Photo by Davion Smith/BVI News)

By Davion Smith, BVI News

With the next population census scheduled to happen this year, the Central Statistics Office has expressed concerns about the general unwillingness of residents to participate in the census.

Director of the Statistics Office Raymond Phillips communicated those concerns recently when he met with the Standing Finance Committee (SFC), which comprises the territory’s 13 legislators.

He told the SFC that “it has been the culture for too long where persons do not cooperate in data-collection activities and get away with it”. He said, “people tend to have an attitude where they feel like they don’t have to cooperate and nothing happens to them”.

The 2020 census could be ‘very difficult to complete’

According to the 2020 SFC Report, there are public concerns about confidentiality, which some residents have given as a reason to not participate in the census.

The report stated that even the Director of the Statistics Office has been told by residents that “he could do what he wants and that they were not going to give him the data”.

Within the said report, Phillips further stated that unless something is done to address the matter, he fears that “the next census will be very difficult to complete”. He then stressed that he cannot produce statistics if he does not have the raw data.

The territory’s statistics law is deficient

While weighing in on the issue, Acting Permanent Secretary in the Office of Premier, Kedrick Malone, said there are deficiencies in the territory’s Statistics Act.

Malone argued that there where are no regulations attached to the law and noted that government needs to “work on strengthening it”.

Section 12 of that law states that the Central Statistics Office “may require by notice in writing” for any person or class of persons to furnish information for data-collecting initiatives such as a census. The law, however, has not made any provisions for persons who refuse to participate.

Public awareness campaign

Responding to the concerns, Premier Andrew Fahie, who has ministerial responsibility for the Central Statistics Office, said he is aware of the challenges that the office faces.

He further stated that “the department should use a public relations campaign to address some of the concerns of the public”. The Premier then noted a previous media interview in which Director Phillips made statements that allowed persons “to see the importance of statistics”.

‘Participating in census should be mandatory’

Throughout the SFC proceedings, no commitments were by legislators to come up with solutions to address the issue.

Government Minister Carvin Malone, however, suggested for the Statistics Office to use analytics from agencies such as the departments of Labour & Immigration, Motor Vehicles, and the National Health Insurance to help collect and compile data.

Another government legislator, Neville ‘Sheep’ Smith stated on record that he believes “it should be mandatory for persons to participate in the census”.

The BVI’s last population census was conducted in 2010. Some 28,054 persons were said to be residing in the territory in that year.

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  1. SMH says:

    Cart before the horse as usual? It’s only in 2020 we know that the laws regarding statistics is dated and needs to be revamped? What are all these senior civil servants being paid for over all the years?

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  2. FYI says:

    If the questions are too personal or probing people won’t want to answer. Especially if their name is on the form. Make those questions optional!

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  3. Diaspora says:

    The 2010 Census was a travesty; it was put out late and was incomplete. It failed miserably to deliver the value that a census is intended to provide. Advanced nations with several hundred million population and trillion dollar budget/economy deliver their census on time yet a small 1X4 territory failed to do likewise. Is it ineptness, incompetence, poor organizational structure, lack of resources……etc that is hindering a complete and timely manner report? Whatever the cause get ah fix, for the census is too important to be playing around with.

    It is common knowledge and an open secret that a census occurs every 10 years. With the 2010 census being an unmitigated disaster, now at the 11th hour in 2020, the next census, the Statistics Office is telegraphing that there may be problems with the census. Madness. Sh..t or get off the p..e.

    The Census is an important source of population and economic data. Among other thing it provides data/information for a)political representation, b)information for business development and investment and c) allocate government funds to where they are needed most. For example, it highlights where schools, fire stations, police stations, medical facilities, utilities……..etc may be needed.

    Undoubtedly, the information provided by participants should be treated with the highest level of privacy. Participants must have a high level of confidence in the office and in the people that work there. It is no secret that government offices leak information like a sieve. On the other hand, despite the concerns, residents should understand that a complete census plays a critical role in how, what, when, where and why government resources are allocated.

    Strongly encourage residents to fully cooperate with census workers and partake in the census. There should be swift and strong penalties for any census staff leaking private, sensitive and confidential information. The Statistics Office needs to launch and blanket the territory with a public education and outreach programme. Should have been years ago.

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  4. Albion says:

    The 2010 census was not published until December 2016.

    There are a lot of concerns around the census (and around privacy), but given it takes six years to publish the results, the data is hopelessly out of date by the time it is published.

    Which begs the question – why do we even do it?

    Like 14
  5. TurtleDove says:

    NHI may be more accurate.

  6. Mess says:

    Last time I was asked to write my answers in pencil near the answer area. That seems very untoward.

  7. Smh says:

    Once those who belong elsewhere migrate back to their motherland there wouldn’t be any issues. Real locals dont behave so

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    • Agree says:

      Agree wholeheartedly! Public awareness campaign done swiftly and urgently and the utmost confidentiality with anonymity on the forms. Last time I had to call the statistics office as they never came to my home. Training and education is also a must for the census takers. There is a polite and confidence inspiring way to handle the census questions when they are being asked.

    • Wrong says:

      That’s completely untrue and a very racist and xenophobic comment

  8. Musa says:

    Ok let’s start with the 1500 new belonged .

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  9. Confucius says:

    Nobody even bothered to come to our place in 2010! I’d happily cooperate.

  10. ?? says:

    Have a regular talk show on the economy as a way to make the populace understand how statistics assist the development and implementation of policy and changes in the economy and society.

    We need to do it and now, instead of just talking.

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