STATIN's plea - Institute urges greater support for household expenditure survey
The Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) is urging Jamaicans to participate fully in the household expenditure survey (HES) which is now under way as it will directly influence decisions that will impact their lives.
The survey, which is budgeted to cost $200 million, started on February 6 and is slated to run until January of next year, but Director General of STATIN Carol Coy has described the response so far as merely adequate.
"The response could be better," said Coy. "One of the ways we have to counteract this is that we oversampled in the sense that we chose more households than what we needed to, but the reason for that is that we knew that some of the dwellings that we go to might be empty and some persons might refuse, or persons just not at home at that time to answer the questionnaires."
Under the HES, baseline information will be collected for the Consumer Price Index (CPI), the metric used to determine the weighted average movement of prices in Jamaica (inflation).
According to Coy, the importance of the HES is easier conveyed to persons who are working but it is important for everyone to participate.
"For those persons who are working, it is easier because you can say to them, if your union is negotiating for you or if you're bargaining with your employer for more pay a number of them look at the inflation rate, that is what they tend to base their increases on," said Coy.
"Even the minimum wage persons tend to look at how inflation is moving. For the person to whom that is not important, they need to understand that when shopping in the market that is what is being reflected.
"There is a component of your light and water bill that is based on the inflation rates, and for persons living in Portmore, your toll rates," she added.
Information kept confidential
Coy is also reminding persons that whatever information they give is kept strictly confidential and cannot be released under any circumstance, so they do not need to have reservations in sharing.
"Last year we (SATIN) celebrated 70 years, and we have never released information so that any person can be identified," said Coy.
"It's in our Statistics Act which forbids us to give information to anyone; Government or private sector. STATIN is not interested in you, the person, and your name; what we are interested in is the statistics."
The CPI basket currently contains more than 500 items, with 280 items added after the 2004-05 survey.
In tracking the CPI, which estimates headline inflation, planners, government and private-sector decision-makers are effectively tracking items that households consume, and this underscores the importance of keeping the basket current.
The last HES was conducted in 2004-05 and STATIN would ideally like to undertake one every 10 years. International best practice prescribes one survey every five years, which means the one now being done is long overdue.
"The inflation is one of those macroeconomic indicators that give a signal as to how the economy is moving," Coy explained.
"High inflation rates tend to negatively impact the performance of an economy, and so we think that it is a critical indicator and we need to ensure it maintains its currency.
"Sometimes we have a view based on our perception, but the reality of it is what happens out there and the reality of it is evidence-based; this is what persons tell us they are spending," added Coy.
STATIN has an interview pool of 120 persons which is split into two groups that tackle alternate months. At the end of each month, the data is processed and analysed to identify patterns.
"What we do at the end is to add everybody's expenditure together, whether you are living in upper St Andrew or the inner-city area. And it's the expenditure of the total that gives that weight, and the reason we do that is to ensure that because you are tracking the Consumer Price Index it has to be representative of the population expenditure," said Coy.