Prioritise census for a better PNG


THE national population and housing census scheduled for this year will now be held next July.
The deferral of the census was due to the impacts of Covid-19 on health and travel restrictions.
In this country, the national population count and survey takes place every 10 years.
PNG’s population and housing census apart from the national elections is one of the most significant national events in the country.
Since 1980, four full censuses have been carried out; 1980 Census, 1990 Census, 2000 Census and 2011 Census.
There is an urgent need to have accurate population statistics for the country for PNG to advance its socioeconomic development aspirations.
National Planning Minster Sam Basil last month reminded the National Statistical Office (NSO) not to let anything disrupt preparations for the national population and housing census next year.
The Government will definitely be closely monitoring what goes on at the NSO especially now that preparations for the 2021 national population and housing census were underway and a concern.
The Government is keen to ensure that the NSO and the 2021 national census is well above reproach and said it would not be looking at disruptions to preparations by anybody.
The data collected will correctly inform policy and decision makers to make deliberate policies and decisions.
Basil said there were funding shortfalls but was optimistic it could be overcome if stakeholders worked in partnership with government departments and agencies and provincial governments.
The number of people in each age bracket, the number of employed or self-employed individuals, school-aged children and the elderly are just some of the statistics listed.
The health, education, works and agriculture sectors are just a handful of the areas of a country that make use of population figures.
Without information on population growth and distribution, the Government cannot properly formulate plans to regulate economic growth, job creation, food production, emergency response and disaster relief and many other important services that rely in part on accurate and reliable information.
The national population census is one crucial exercise that provides that basis as a huge set of data which is a vital information source for development, monitoring and evaluation of various socioeconomic policies, strategies, and development plans at the national, sub national and sectorial levels.
The national census is a task of massive proportions at the best of times and therefore should be given priority in a rapidly-developing country such as PNG. Circumstantial evidence has the NSO having been managed on an ad hoc basis in the years leading up to the census.
It is precisely this blasé attitude that has borne the mess we are now seeing unfolding in regards to the 2011 census.
It is good news that unlike the last census (census 2011), the 2020 (2021) census will involve utilisation of appropriate technologies such as drone in mapping and use of tablets in the enumeration exercise.
This will enable efficiency, accuracy and timeliness in processing and release of census results.
This practice is in line with international best practices.
If the Government fails to keep abreast population figures and the general growth of the country, then we can be sure that the next decade of development will see the increase of unplanned and blind spending of resources to cater for the effects of a lack of accurate information.