Pointing out that data collection is usually an expensive undertaking, the leadership of the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN) is convinced that its current World Bank-funded US$500,000 islandwide business/establishment survey is value for money.
Titled the Jamaica Survey of Establishments, the study, which will target at least 50,000 establishments, is seeking to provide analytical information on the number and types of businesses operating in Jamaica, with the collected data accessible to both the private and public sector.
STATIN Deputy Director General Leesha Delatie-Budair told a Gleaner Editors' Forum last Thursday that the findings would, among other things, provide the institute with baseline information it does not have as well as improve economic planning and decision making.
"It will also provide us with certain categories of information to improve business activity in Jamaica," said Delatie-Budhair.
"So, for example, we are going to be collecting information on the use of information and communications technology (ICT), which will inform government policy on how it rolls out and makes ICT more accessible to businesses and increases the usage of ICT as it is a key enabler for growth. We'll also be capturing information on foreign direct investment and ownership by foreign nationals. We'll be looking at information on the use of alternative energy, so the value of the information should be the focus and not the cost of the survey," she added.
The survey, which is a component of the Foundation for Competitiveness and Growth Project (FCGP) being managed by the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), should also provide critical information that will inform the work of the FCGP as it seeks to strengthen the business environment for private-sector investment.
Kirk Phillips, deputy director general for corporate governance and management at the PIOJ, argued that the data, in all likelihood, would translate into policy at the national level.
"This survey on the business environment goes across not just PIOJ, but the relevant ministries, agencies, and even the businesses," Phillips said.
Another panellist at the forum, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Officer Trevor Fearon contended that data can also be of great use to the business community.
"If we are looking at ICT usage and access to loans, there are clear business opportunities that out astute firms will be looking at. That type of data is useful not just for policy makers in the public sector. It is very useful information for the business community," he said.