Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Dalley admits administration surprised by population data
Horace Dalley, minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Finance, says the Government has put in train plans to amend the laws governing the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) in the wake of Wednesday's release of the Population and Housing Census 2011.
At the same time, Dalley has conceded that some of the revelations of the census, which was conducted between April and August 2011, were surprising to the Government and likely to trigger some alterations to long-term planning.
"We are seriously considering this option as it has been on the table for some time, that we should revise the law to establish a statistics commission," Dalley told The Gleaner. "This would mean that one agency under one commission would be charged with the capture of all data that the country needs."
Prepared to re-examine
Dalley said while no proposal has been presented to Cabinet as yet, he was preparing to re-examine the existing proposals.
"I want to see it (the draft proposals) first. I know it was on the table and I know that it is something that STATIN is pushing and we support and are going to see how we can move speedily ahead with the plans," he disclosed.
The minister described the findings of the 2011 census as enlightening and stressed that they would inform the direction of the Portia Simpson Miller administration of which he is a part.
"What it is telling us as an administration is that we will have to pay more attention to the information that STATIN and the Planning Institute of Jamaica provide for the administration and the country," he said.
Among the noteworthy factors he said Government would have to take into consideration was the declining birth rate and the less-than-significant difference between the number of males and females in the country.
He said it was brought to his attention by Director General of STATIN Sonia Jackson that there is a likelihood that schools will exist without children if proper planning is not executed in regard to education.
"There may not be the adequate number of children to attend schools based on the trend we are seeing that the birth rate has been significantly reduced," Dalley stressed. "So we need to forge ahead with the plans based on these very revealing findings."
He added: "It (the report) has reflected the rapid growth in some of our rural parish townships and capitals, especially Black River and Spaldings, It has shown also that the number of persons in each household has reduced over the past 10 years to 3.05 per cent. It helps you with your planning for critical matters such as education and health."
As a former health minister, Dalley said the data collated by STATIN would serve to assist in that arena where health care is under severe stress.
"The data will help in the way we plan our health-intervention programme," he said.
Dalley expressed confidence that while the public health sector was always under pressure, capable hands were available to apply the effective remedies to address the problems. He dismissed claims that the system was in shambles.
"It is always burdened but I don't think it is in any turmoil, I think the team is competent, but the challenges are always great as emergency and accidents cost a lot of time and money ... the lifestyle of the country must change in order to reduce our chronic illnesses."