1001.0 - Australian Bureau of Statistics -- Annual Report, 2006-07  
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Contents >> Section V - Performance Information >> Chapter 16 - International engagement

Section V - Performance Information

Chapter 16 - International engagement

INTRODUCTION

One of the ABS’ functions, established in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975, is to provide ‘liaison between Australia, on the one hand, and other countries and international organisations, on the other hand, in relation to statistical matters’.

During 2006–07, the ABS met its international responsibilities through an active contribution to the international statistical activities that are important to Australia and the region, including:

    • active and high-level membership of the international statistical community (including influencing the development of international statistical standards and indicators), and
    • targeted and tailored technical assistance to national statistical agencies in the Asia-Pacific region.


    Dennis Trewin, former Australian Statistician, meeting Charles Louis Kincannon, former Director of the US Census Bureau
    Dennis Trewin, former Australian Statistician, meeting Charles Louis Kincannon, former Director of the US Census Bureau

INVOLVEMENT IN THE INTERNATIONAL STATISTICAL COMMUNITY

The ABS’ involvement in the international statistical community takes a number of forms, including participating in international meetings, visiting the statistical offices of other national statistical organisations and international intergovernmental organisations, and hosting visits from staff of these organisations. This involvement provides effective interchange with counterparts in statistical and international organisations. In many cases, these discussions related to the development of international standards, frameworks and methodologies.

In 2006–07, the ABS participated in a number of important international meetings and conferences, including:

    • Conferences of European Statisticians, held in Geneva, Switzerland and Washington DC, United States
    • Eleventh Meeting of Heads of National Statistical Organisations (NSO) of East Asian countries, held in Tokyo, Japan
    • Sixth Management Seminar for Heads of NSO in Asia and Pacific - United Nations Statistical Institute for Asia Pacific, held in Hong Kong
    • Thirty-eighth Session of the United Nations Statistical Commission Meeting, which marked the sixtieth anniversary of the Statistical Commission, held in New York, United States
    • Seventh Association of South East Asian Nations Heads of Statistical Offices Meeting, held in Gadong, Brunei Darrussalam
    • Fifth Meeting of the United Nations Statistical Division Advisory Expert Group on National Accounts, held in New York, United States
    • International Comparison Program Executive Board, Advisory Board and Regional Advisory Board Meetings, held in Washington DC, United States, and Manila, Philippines, and
    • Fifth Session Asia Pacific Excellence in Statistics - UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, held in Daejon, Republic of Korea
ABS senior executive hold prominent positions on a number of international groups.

Mr Brian Pink, Australian Statistician:

    • Australia’s Head of Delegation to the United Nations Statistical Commission
    • President of the International Association for Official Statistics, 2005–07, and
    • Vice Chairman of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Committee on Statistics.
Mr Dennis Trewin, Australian Statistician, retired in January 2007 but has continued in
these positions:
    • Chair of the International Comparison Program Global Executive Board, World Bank
    • Chair of the Conference of European Statisticians Task Force on Confidentiality and Microdata, and
    • Member of the Advisory Board of the Marrakesh Action Plan for Statistics.
Mr Peter Harper, Deputy Australian Statistician, Economic Statistics Group:
    • Chair of Canberra Group II on the Measurement of Non-financial Assets
    • Member of the Advisory Expert Group for the 1993 System of National Accounts Update, and
    • Member of the Regional Advisory Board for the Asia-Pacific International Comparison Project.
Ms Susan Linacre, Deputy Australian Statistician, Population Statistics Group:
    • Council member of the International Statistical Institute, and
    • President Elect of the International Association of Survey Statisticians (2007–09).
VISITS TO THE ABS

During the year, the ABS received a number of visits from other national statistics offices, statistical agencies and international statistical organisations, including from Cambodia, Canada, China, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Qatar, Republic of Korea, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States, Vanuatu, Vietnam, the International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization and the OECD.

The duration and purpose of these visits vary, but all act to build stronger relationships with organisations with which we share knowledge and know-how. For example, discussions held during the year on statistical management information systems with representatives from the General Statistics Office (GSO) of Vietnam were most productive. Further work with the GSO is expected in 2007–08, with the overall aim of strengthening the national statistical system of Vietnam.

INTERNATIONAL STANDARDS, FRAMEWORKS AND METHODOLOGIES

The ABS supports sound methodological approaches to the development of standards, aids international comparability where meaningful, and helps ensure that such standards and statistical developments reflect Australian user interests. User interest in these types of studies continues to develop.

The ABS has contributed to the development of key international standards, frameworks and methodologies. Examples of contributions are outlined below:

    • ABS staff participated in a review of the Chilean Information and Communication Technology (ICT) satellite account work, undertaken by Chile’s Ministry of Economy. Australia and Chile are the only two countries that produce an ICT satellite account, and discussions were held to develop consensus on issues, for which there are no international standards. The two countries will continue to collaborate in this field of work.
    • The ABS is represented on an OECD task force on the Development of OECD Statistical Products.
    • The ABS contributed at meetings of the OECD Working Party on National Accounts, and the Working Party on Financial Statistics in October 2006. The ABS presented papers on the ICT satellite account and updated measures of hours worked.
    • ABS staff participated in the 2006 International Association for Official Statistics Conference - People on the Move: Measuring Environmental, Social and Economic Impacts Within and Between Nations.
    • ABS staff attended a group meeting on Environmental–Economic Accounting and a United Nations Committee of Experts on Environmental–Accounting meeting. The groups continue to work towards increasing the implementation and use of the System of Environmental–Economic Accounting (SEEA), with one goal being to raise SEEA to an international standard by 2010.
    • ABS staff attended the United Nations Statistics Division Advisory Expert Group on National Accounts in March 2007, which is coordinating the update of the System of National Accounts for proposed endorsement at the 2008 meeting of the United National Statistics Division.
    • ABS staff participated in the International Meeting on Indigenous Health Measurement, which was held in Canberra. Representatives from Canada, the United States, New Zealand and Australia attended.
    • ABS staff contributed to an OECD workshop in London, discussing the measurement of non-market output.
    • ABS staff presented a course at the United Nations Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific Fifth Management Seminar on Time Series Analysis.

INTERNATIONAL COMPARISON PROGRAM

The International Comparison Program (ICP) is a statistical initiative to produce internationally comparable expenditure values, purchasing power parity (PPP) estimates and comparative price levels. All major international development agencies, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the World Health Organization and the United Nations Development Fund, use PPP to analyse economic and social conditions within their areas of concern. PPP takes into account the cost of a common basket of goods in the countries being compared. The ICP offers a powerful tool for comparative research on economic and social development.

The former Australian Statistician, Mr Dennis Trewin, has retained the Chair of the ICP’s Global Executive Board, which last met in February 2007. The Deputy Australian Statistician, Mr Peter Harper, has also been appointed to the Board. The Asian Development Bank is responsible for coordinating the Asia-Pacific region’s participation in the ICP. A Regional Advisory Board for the Asia-Pacific region meets about every six to eight months to monitor progress in the region, the most recent meeting of this group was in June 2007.

The ABS has been heavily involved in most recent ICP exercises, particularly in China, the South Pacific and Asia Pacific regions. ABS assistance to the China and South Pacific sub-projects was recently completed and the ABS is continuing its commitment in the Asia-Pacific region, in particular, assisting the Asian Development Bank to release the final publication by the end of 2007.

STATISTICAL TRAINING AND TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE

The ABS continues to contribute to international statistical training, through the United Nations Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific, the South East Asian Central Banks Research and Training Centre and the International Monetary Fund.

The ABS provides international statistical assistance to countries in the Asia-Pacific region, which seek ABS advice and support and are high priority for the Australian Government. The ABS currently has three major long-term programs of technical assistance in place:

    • Indonesia - Government Partnership Fund
    • Pacific region - Pacific Governance Support Program, and
    • Vanuatu - Vanuatu Statistical Institutional Strengthening Program.

INDONESIA

The ABS has had a long association with Badan Pusat Statistik (BPS) - Statistics Indonesia, and the two agencies have signed a number of successive memorandums of understanding on cooperation in statistics. As part of the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Reconstruction and Development, AusAID is managing a Government Partnership Fund (GPF) to assist Indonesia. The GPF is a flagship of Australia’s enhanced partnership with Indonesia and provides a vehicle for supporting the further development of Indonesia’s economic governance and public sector management capabilities.

Specifically, the goal of ABS involvement in the GPF is to improve the Indonesian statistical system and to establish greater coordination and a stronger relationship between Australia, BPS and Bank Indonesia, with a mutually agreed identification of skill and capability gaps.

A planned program of assistance, to be funded under the GPF, was reviewed in 2006–07, during a visit to the ABS from the new head of BPS. The program and its two priority areas were confirmed.

Two missions were undertaken in 2006–07 by senior ABS officers. The first mission assisted BPS to strengthen its labour statistics, including population frames, sampling strategy and sampling rotation process and small area estimation. The second mission provided advice to BPS in its development of a strategic plan for its information technology. The strategic plan is expected to include key initiatives in the areas of governance, communications, service orientation, reliability, people and IT management systems.

Further missions under the program are planned for 2007–08.

PACIFIC REGION

In 2005, AusAID agreed to fund an ABS proposal under its Pacific Governance Support Program. The aim of the proposal is to strengthen the national statistical systems of Pacific Island countries.

In 2006–07, the ABS, in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, provided project management training in the Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands and Tuvalu. Core activities involved:

    • providing project management training for a major survey
    • returning at the field-test stage of the survey to ascertain the extent to which the principles of project management had been put into practice and implement any remedial action required, and
    • returning after the completion of the survey to review and evaluate the overall process.
The training has been well supported and all participants have been interested and enthusiastic. By using a current survey as a case study, participants have benefited from practical project management rather than simply learning theory. Having the training delivered in three phases has helped to reinforce the techniques and principles of project management and allowed discussion on consequences of actions taken, and ways to avoid similar problems in the future. It has also allowed remedial action to be taken when required.

The training room used for participants from the National Statistics Office and the Ministry of Health attending an eight-day course conducted by the ABS in the Solomon Islands
The training room used for participants from the National Statistics Office and the Ministry of Health attending an eight-day course conducted by the ABS in the Solomon Islands


The current program should be completed by December 2007. The ABS has sought further funding under AusAID’s PGSP 2007–08 funding round to extending the project management training to two more countries in the Pacific region and to pilot a strategic planning workshop for statistical agencies in regional countries.
VANUATU

The ABS continues its assistance to the Vanuatu National Statistics Office (VNSO) under the AusAID-funded Vanuatu Statistical Institutional Strengthening Program. The aim of the program is to ensure the sustainable development and capability of the VNSO through improved corporate governance. In addition to delivering strategic planning and forward work programming training to the VNSO, the ABS also reviewed and provided advice on restructuring the office to improve its efficiency and to enable it to meet the emerging information requirements of government more effectively.

Activities at the beginning of 2007 had a practical focus. Assistance has been provided to enable the VNSO to complete two major surveys simultaneously - the Agriculture Census and the Household Income and Expenditure Survey - and to maintain its ongoing work program. The ABS arranged technical consultancies to assist with various aspects of the Household Income and Expenditure Survey and to compile and produce the Vanuatu National Accounts.

In May 2007, the ABS commenced an executive mentoring program in Vanuatu, with a focus on developing leadership, management, budgeting and planning skills. Other activities planned are the delivery of the project management for surveys training, and continued technical assistance.

The program will continue through 2007–08 with the ABS and AusAID reviewing progress every six months.

In addition to planned programs of assistance, the ABS provided statistical advice and capacity building in response to various requests from countries in the region and from international statistical organisations. This included assistance to:

    • Vietnam on information and knowledge management and statistical management information systems
    • Singapore on national accounts and population census
    • China and India on management of data and metadata, and
    • the IMF in reviewing macro-economic statistics in Papua New Guinea.

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