By TAUNA GEORGE
THE 22 participants from the provinces who attended a recent workshop in Lae are about to write their own history through their small contributions toward the development of PNG.
Not much is said of them or the seemingly trivial role they play but these individuals contribute immensely to determining the country’s consumer price index (CPI).
These people are known as price collectors and are casually employed by the National Statistical Office (NSO). Their job is simply to collect prices of selected food items at markets and retail outlets in their respective provinces on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. After collections their reports are submitted to the head office in Port Moresby to formulate the national accounts.
The national accounts system produces the gross domestic product (GDP) which gives an indication of the status of the country’s economy
The price collectors recently converged in Lae for a week-long refresher workshop to enhance their capabilities and discuss ways forward to improve their price collections methods.
The participants, both male and female, travelled in from the provinces and met at the Phil’s Hotel for the workshop which was themed Improving price collection in PNG. The workshop ran from May 16 to 21.
For some their role may seem insignificant, while others may regard it as an average paid job. However, the underlying fact is that it is a job that influences economic planning and policy-making.
“You should be proud of yourselves as you are the pioneers in price collections. You are making history in PNG. Thirty years down the line each of you will have become part of the history of PNG and NSO because you made a difference for the country by enabling it to produce what we call CPI more regularly and more so from the 22 provinces unlike in the past,” National Statistician Roko Koloma told the participants while officially opening the workshop.
“In many of our strategic plans we seem to always talk about the empowerment of our people. But how much have we empowered our people by doing what it takes to empower them.
“For me data collectors are very important people because the quality of the data is only as good as the person who collects it.
“We can be in the digital world but still humans will always collect data manually and punch in the numbers and decide how the numbers will be analysed. So the human factor still remains fundamental in statistical work.
“Whether you are in one of the statistical offices in the world or in an office consisting of two people like in Niue, everybody has to collect data in order to make it available to planners and policy makers.”
In his presentation titled, Understanding your role as data collectors and looking at the bigger picture, Koloma touched on various key topics with more emphasis on the reform journey that NSO has undertaken since 2014.
“You are what we thought would make a difference on the reform on CPI. We want you to learn and know what the bigger picture is.
“Why do we talk about the reform? The reform is about you who will be sitting through the refresher course. It’s been a long road since 2014 when we initiated the reform.
“Between 2007 and 2015 PNG never had any estimate on our economy which is the GDP. That’s because we didn’t compile the national accounts. That’s why this reform is all about improving economic statistics.
“Many times we feel awkward in the presence of our regional partners because we don’t have the numbers to talk about PNG. GDP is powerful, if you don’t have it you will not be recognised globally.
“Statistics are fundamental to good government, to the delivery of public services and to decision making in all sectors of society.”
Koloma also stressed on some very important points or guidelines as set out by the UN charter on statistics. He told the participants that these guidelines must be adhered to in order to get good, quality and positive outcomes in their roles.
Some of these guidelines are:
Collecting data and making it readily available for planners, researchers and policy makers to access;
Agreeing to methods for data collection, processing, storage and presentation;
Adoption of accepted standards of sources, methods and procedures;
Standard timeline for price collections throughout the provinces;
Confidentiality of information collected;
Consistency and efficiency in price collections;
Agreeing to concepts, classification and methods; and
Cooperation in statistics which contributes to improvements in government systems.
The NSO reform initiated under Koloma’s leadership is gradually producing results in statistical capability development in the 22 pioneer price collectors.
In his closing remarks, the chief statistician reminded the participants of the important roles they played and encouraged them to continue serving the country.
“I’ve seen the importance of your work and that I wish to interact with you so I can have my own analysis on how you do your work. I am working on a manual which I plan to teach you all the basics of statistics, hopefully in the next 12 months. You will be given certificates.”
The objective of the workshop was to provide an opportunity for the price collectors to share their achievements, learn from discussions and forge new pathways to improve their capability.
They may not be renowned, and their roles seemingly trivial, but the 22 price collectors will be a small part of PNG’s history.
- Tauna Georege is a communications officer at the National Statistical Office.