Published On: Thu, Jun 7th, 2018

ECLAC emphasizes need for data collection

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Diane Quarless - eclac director - screenshotPHILIPSBURG – Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) became a bit less abstract on Thursday morning for St. Maarten due to a presentation in the Central Committee of Parliament by Diane Quarless, director of the United Nations Economic Committee for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC). “We have to be united and we have to localize to make the SDGs real,” she said.

ECLAC will be in St. Maarten on and off for the next three years to provide technical assistance. One of the entities that will be at the receiving end of this external help is the department of statistics (STAT).

Abdullahi Abdulkadri, ECLAC ’s coordinator of statistics and social development, hammered on the importance of not only collecting data, but also on the importance of sharing them. “The concern with sharing data is always about confidentiality,” he said. “Most government departments may not even understand the importance of the data they have. Departments should share data when there is a need for it.”

Quarless, answering a question from MP Rolando Brison, emphasized that collecting data is extremely important. “ECLAC serves 26 countries in English, Spanish and Dutch-speaking countries and in the Caricom countries, but St. Maarten is the only country where I was not required to fill out an immigration form.”

The technical support for St. Maarten’s statistics department will be fully funded by the United Nations; however if there is a need for investments in equipment or software, St. Maarten will have to foot the bill. Quarless began her presentation by showing a short video about the seventeen SDGs. Partnership and peace, national ownership and life-long learning are key terms in this concept.

“Looking at longer-term sustainable development requires a longer-term strategy,” Quarless said, noting that she understands the short-term solutions St. Maarten needs in the wake of Hurricane Irma. “It is nevertheless important not to lose sight of the longer-term vision. You don’t want to postpone this.”

To achieve this, Quarless said that there is a need to strengthen the political institutional framework. “”SDGs have to be expressed in national priorities and that requires political leadership and coordination across all levels of government.”

ECLAC will start its three-year long on and off presence in St Maarten with an assessment of ways to re-energize and diversify the economy. Revisiting the tax structure is the second priority. “Both these issues are more urgent before we get into long-term development,” Quarless said.

St. Maarten needs a statistics ordinance as well as data sharing policies, according to Quarless. A unique ID for official purposes is also on the activity-list.

“How will we be able to measure if we do not have data?” Quarless said. “For this, building capacity at the statistics department is essential. Only then will St. Maarten be able to work towards evidence-based policy-making.”

For now, Quarless said, “We are on a fact finding mission to identify the unique challenges of St. Maarten. This is a participatory process. It is important for us to engage with civic society And with the private sector.”

Photo caption: ECLAC -director Diane Quarless addresses the Central Committee of Parliament. Photo screenshot sxmparliament.org.