Official statistics are an indispensable public good for the proper functioning of societies and democracy, according to the representatives of Latin American and Caribbean countries gathered at the Twelfth Meeting of the Statistical Conference of the Americas, which is taking place through Thursday, September 28 at the main headquarters of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) in Santiago, Chile.
Starting today, the intergovernmental meeting – which is the main forum for discussing the development of statistics in the region – has convened authorities from National Statistical Offices who will debate issues of relevance for regional statistical development, such as the strengthening of statistics on the environment, climate change and disasters, and progress on the implementation of platforms for access to statistical and geographical information.
The Conference was inaugurated by José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary; Marco Lavagna, Director-General of the National Institute of Statistics and Censuses (INDEC) of Argentina, the country serving as Chair of the Statistical Conference of the Americas of ECLAC; and Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the United Nations Statistics Division (participating virtually).
In his opening remarks, José Manuel Salazar-Xirinachs stressed the importance of official statistics for good public policy design and implementation. He added that their dissemination and communication contributes to citizens’ access to information, strengthening one of the pillars of the right to freedom of expression.
ECLAC’s Executive Secretary warned that since 2014, the region has been suffering from a “low-growth disease,” marked by average growth of just 0.8% per year for the 2014-2023 decade, which is less than the 2% average growth rate for the region during the infamous lost decade of the 1980s.
“If we continue this way, we will lose social peace, we will be ever more unequal and violent societies, we will have more and more people migrating, and we will lose democracy,” he warned.
ECLAC’s highest authority stressed the urgency of addressing the problems associated with the environmental emergency, which exposes and deepens the problems of inequality that affect the region as a whole.
In that regard, he underlined the need to tackle the macroeconomic effects of climate change. To do so, it will be necessary to move towards creating greater fiscal space, better management of financial and foreign exchange risks, greater mobilization of concessional finance and development banking, and better debt relief mechanisms, he explained.
Salazar-Xirinachs reiterated the urgent need for transforming development models, including a major transformation for achieving higher, sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth.
To that end, he stated, ECLAC proposes escalating productive development policies in a list of 14 sectors that drive growth, which include the energy transition, electromobility, the circular economy, the pharmaceutical and life sciences industry, the medical device industry, exports of Internet-enabled modern services, gender equality and the care society, sustainable tourism and food security, among others.
“For these and all other public policies, statistics for making evidence-based policies are fundamental,” he declared.
In his speech, the senior United Nations official warned that in the context of recent multiple shocks, National Statistical Offices have faced numerous challenges, especially those focused on carrying out the 2020 round of population and housing censuses.
In addition, he reiterated ECLAC’s commitment to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the motto of “leaving no one behind.”
“This poses a public policy challenge, as well as a statistical challenge: to help the most vulnerable groups, it is necessary to have indicators that are sufficiently disaggregated according to diverse population traits and geographical scales,” he indicated.
Finally, he thanked the member states of the Statistical Conference of the Americas for their active participation and valuable collaboration through the Working Groups to generate products based on international cooperation that contribute to strengthening regional statistical production.
Meanwhile, Marco Lavagna, Director-General of Argentina’s INDEC, emphasized that the Statistical Conference of the Americas is a space conducive to cooperation and coordination among National Statistical Offices, with a perspective on the region.
“The voice of Latin America and the Caribbean must be heard in the area of statistics. As the Statistical Conference of the Americas, we must actively participate in international forums and set out our own agendas,” he stated.
Stefan Schweinfest, Director of the United Nations Statistics Division, stressed the importance of countries having a solid national data system, located at the center of the statistical architecture.
He also noted that we are at the halfway point for fulfilling the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and while the news is not always good, “the one good piece of news is the recognition that data is critically important.”
“Data serves not only to monitor the SDGs, but also to enable them,” he added.
CEPALGEO offers a set of technological tools for accessing various sources of geospatial information and promoting its utilization in public decision-making in the region. Its implementation is a new contribution by ECLAC to disseminating georeferenced information.
The Portal of inequalities in Latin America, meanwhile, seeks to disseminate information on different aspects of inequality in the region’s countries in a simple and understandable way. The platform uses graphics to clearly visualize the existing gaps and texts that describe the construction of the indicators, their interpretation and the results they yield. All the information contained in this portal comes from CEPALSTAT, the main gateway to statistical information collected, systematized, produced and published by ECLAC.