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St. Maarten minister Pantophlet explains delays with census results, ready by August


PHILIPSBURG–Minister of Economic Affairs Romeo Pantophlet on Monday told the Central Committee of Parliament that as far as the Government is concerned there is no delay with the Census 2011 data.

“We are on schedule,” the Minister said. He then went on to outline issues that caused “slight delays” with the same data.
In facing very little questions from the members of Parliament, one of whom questioned the “urgency” of the meeting, Pantophlet explained that the data collection phase of the census is complete with final results ready in August 2013.
He said the delay occurred during the period St. Maarten was working with the Central Bureau of Statistics of Curaçao. He explained that St. Maarten’s data were sent to Curaçao in September 2011 for scanning and compilation. However, Curaçao was occupied with its own census data at that time and agreed to address St. Maarten’s data when their process was complete.

The Minister said St. Maarten should have had its data back in December 2011. When this did not happen, St. Maarten’s Department of Statistics (STAT) recalled St. Maarten’s data which were eventually received in May 2012. At that point, the Minister said, STAT started the entire process anew.

As for the execution of the census itself, Pantophlet said some of the problems STAT encountered was having to work with outdated maps of homes provided by the Ministry of VROMI, the non-closure of schools to allow teachers to become enumerators and have children at home so the census could be conducted properly, and public participation was an issue.

Nevertheless, he said no census in the world could actually count 100 per cent of the people. He noted that teachers were key “competent people” who could have been used to accurately execute survey questions. He did not indicate if questions were inaccurately posed and, if confirmed, how many questionnaires had to be disqualified if any.
The unfounded stigma of the census also posed a problem with residents scared into thinking that a census is some form of immigration/tax method to track people down. The Minister said that STAT is now armed with the GIS (Geographic Information System) with updated maps and home information.

He also said STAT has information from GEBE and other entities to compare, as much as possible, population numbers based on, for example, GEBE home connections.

The rest of the Central Committee meeting evolved around MP’s, per usual, bickering about word play. A discussion went on about what the agenda point was, how members interpreted the agenda point, why the Minister should only speak about the delays and not the results of the Census and so on.

MP Gracita Arrindell used some of her time to stress to the Minister and his support staff from STAT that the provision of timely information could avoid numerous questions and misunderstandings.

In response, the Minister leaned on his experience as the head of the former Census Department for many years and explained finer details of the census. Arrindell thanked him for making it clear why the meeting was important to the public and the MP’s, contrary to the opinions of certain MP’s who did not think the meeting was urgent or important.
The Minister provided the MP’s with the preliminary census results which has been available since October 2012.

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