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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:
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:
Mr Brian Pink, Australian Statistician:
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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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: