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Dwindling number of statisticians alarms NSCB

The shortage of government statisticians has now become alarming, which now threatens the capability of major state statistical agencies to come up with official statistics effectively.

This is the lament expressed by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), which, along with the National Statistics Office (NSO) and the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), has been seeing a steady decline in the number of statisticians.

NSCB, a statistical agency functionally attached to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda), is the highest policy-making and coordinating body on statistical matters in the Philippines.

“As we strive to meet our mandate, I am also getting more and more concerned that 15 years ago, there were 50 NSCB technical staff estimating the annual and quarterly national income accounts, and now, the number of NSCB staff doing these accounts has dropped to 15,” Dr. Jose Ramon G. Albert, NSCB secretary-general, said.

With the lack in manpower, Albert said his staff had to “work overtime up to unholy hours, including weekends [even without overtime pay], just to meet our calendar of release” of the national income accounts in the previous two quarters.

“Other major statistical agencies, such as the NSO and the BAS, have also experienced a significant reduction in their respective staff complement, by at least a fifth of their total human resources in 2004,” Albert said.

He said one of the reasons for the dwindling number of statisticians in public service is the government-wide rationalization initiative done under Executive Order 366 that pegged institutions to the number of filled plantilla positions in 2004.

Another reason, he added, is the substantially higher compensation package offered by other institutions that government statistical agencies can’t match.

The retirement of employees, prevailing restrictions on hiring of new staff, and the rather limited supply of graduates of statistics programs have all contributed to the dwindling number of government statisticians.

“If statistics are relevant to government and the public, in general, for examining where we are and where we have been, there ought to be a serious attempt to provide the requisite human resources we need in generating statistics, so that the PSS can continue to come up with official statistics effectively,” he said.

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