Wed | Oct 17, 2018

Gleaner Editors' Forum | Nothing to fear! - STATIN blocked by law from sharing business survey findings

Published:Sunday | August 12, 2018 | 12:00 AMPaul Clarke

Business operators are being promised that raw data collected in the recently launched Jamaica Survey of Establishments (JSE) will not be shared with any other agency or authority by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), which is conducting the survey.

The JSE is an islandwide collection of data on businesses operating locally and will cover areas relating to the number of and types of entities operating in Jamaica, to help guide public sector policies.

With some business operators, particularly those operating outside the tax net, reportedly worried that this is a ploy by the Government to identify them, Carol Coy, director general of STATIN, moved to allay these fears during a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday.

Coy underscored that the law bars STATIN from sharing the raw data collected during the JSE.

"I just want to reassure all the businesses that under the Statistics (Amendment) Act 1984, STATIN cannot release any information to anyone, including the Government, the tax authority or any private-sector entity, information that can allow someone to recognise you," said Coy.

"Our data is collected for statistical purposes only. A failure to abide by the law in this case will be legally troubling for us at STATIN," added Coy.

The JSE will cover establishments based on size, industry and geographic location.

However, exceptions will be made for rare activities or industry segments, and those businesses which are characterised by a low number of employees, such as doctors, dentists and lawyers.

The project is being undertaken by STATIN as part of the Government of Jamaica Foundation Competitive and Growth Project.

Coy noted that the results of the survey will be used to inform policy.

"The aim of it is to make sure we have this frame from which we can draw a sample to measure what is happening in the Jamaican economy. So there is absolutely nothing to fear in this survey," declared Coy.

But that was not enough for Robin*, who operates an unregistered wholesale and a car wash on adjoining properties in the Corporate Area.

Robin told The Sunday Gleaner that when we contacted him it was the first he was hearing about the survey, and he was not initially inclined to participate.

"Certain information I may give I am sure could be used against me. Is just how the system set, but if they can convince me, I will participate. Honestly, I never heard of this survey before, but if it can help my business grow I doubt there would be any harm in it," declared Robin.

 

NOT SURPRISED

 

That position should come as no surprise to Trevor Fearon, CEO of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, who used the Gleaner Editors' Forum to urge the business community to cooperate with STATIN.

"I am speaking on behalf of all my members which are registered entities, and so we would not fall within the large group of perhaps unregistered entities that may have more of a reason to fear," said Fearon, as he pointed to confidentiality under which STATIN must operate.

Fearon urged the full cooperation of the business community, as he noted that the findings could help them to make informed decisions.

A further reassurance of confidentiality was given by Monique Harper-Griffiths, procurement specialists for competitiveness and growth projects at Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), which is a partner with STATIN on the survey.

"We have a service contract between PIOJ and STATIN, and the contract specifically states that the data belongs to STATIN," Harper-Griffiths told the forum.

*Name changed on request.

paul.clarke@gleanerjm.com