The ABS continued its role as an important and active member of the international statistical community in 2000-01. It is regarded as one of the world’s best international statistical citizens. The main activities of the ABS during the year in terms of international involvement, were contributing to the development of international statistical classifications, frameworks and standards in a variety of international fora, and providing technical assistance to overseas statistical agencies, particularly developing countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
Key international meetings attended during the year included the United Nations (UN) Statistical Commission (the peak intergovernmental body for official statistics) where Australia is represented by the ABS. At this year’s session, the Commission reviewed progress and set directions for further action on several topics on which Australia had been active. It included the International Comparison Programme which publishes purchasing power parities to enable cross-country comparison of gross domestic product and other economic aggregates, improvements in the accuracy of the Human Development Report, and environment statistics. This year, I was elected as a Vice-Chairman of the Commission.
The ABS is also an active participant in the Committee on Statistics of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific. At the Committee session during the year, Tim Skinner, (Deputy Australian Statistician, Population Statistics Group), was elected to be the Chairperson of the Committee for the next two years. The ABS also participated in a Regional Meeting of Heads of Statistics of Pacific Island Countries organised by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.
The ABS continued to provide a valuable contribution to international statistical training through the UN Statistical Institute for Asia and the Pacific (SIAP). Tim Skinner is Australia’s representative, and in 2000-01 was re-elected as Chairman of the SIAP Governing Board.
In May 2001 the ABS hosted a meeting on price indexes for experts from national and international statistical agencies and academic institutions around the world (known as the International Working Group on Price Indices, or the ‘Ottawa Group’), to consider and address issues relating to the development of statistical standards in this field. The main topics considered were the use of scanner data, pricing of financial services and telecommunication services. In addition, the ABS made contributions through a number of other international groups specialising in individual fields of statistics.
ABS technical assistance in the Asia-Pacific region is undertaken in cooperation with the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) which provides funding for some activities. The ABS is grateful for that support.
A major development in 2000-01 was the signing of an updated Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Indonesian statistical agency, BPS-Statistics Indonesia (BPS) on ABS-BPS cooperation. The updated MOU reflects the new and continuing statistical priorities which the BPS will need to address to assist policy development and planning in Indonesia.
The ABS continued its technical assistance program to the statistical agency in Papua New Guinea, by assisting in its population census in July 2000, and in post-census evaluation. 2000-01 also saw the completion of an 18-month program of technical assistance to Thailand to strengthen its macro-economic statistics. Technical assistance was also provided to statistical agencies in Cambodia, China, India, Mongolia, the Philippines, South Africa, Vanuatu and Vietnam.