Closing gap is crucial: Minister

James Kon

A National Data Coordination Steering Committee has been established with the aim of creating a coordinating mechanism at the national level to increase effectiveness in national data coordination, through a whole-of-nation approach.

The steering committee’s role will include serving as an advisory in providing guidelines and direction in data planning at the national level, as well as strengthening collaboration and cooperation among data resource agencies, toward producing key statistical indicators for national and international use.

The Deputy Minister of Finance and Economy (Economy) will chair the committee, while its members will comprise permanent secretaries from relevant ministries.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah revealed this at the World Statistic Day celebration and the launch of the Population and Housing Census 2021 online portal yesterday.

He hopes the steering committee will further strengthen efforts toward closing the data gap, provide an accurate picture of Brunei Darussalam in the eyes of the world, and achieve the aspiration of ‘Connecting the World with Data We Can Trust’.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew stressed on the importance of data collection to come up with the appropriate preventive measures and public assistance to preseve the well-being of the people in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“With the world plagued by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in the loss of lives and disruptions to community life and economic development, we cannot deny that accurate, updated data are vital to enable governments to plan integrated measures to combat the pandemic. Access to accurate and timely information on the situation – not only within the country, but also neighbouring countries and globally – is very important to ensure the well-being and health of the people,” he said.

Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office and Minister of Finance and Economy II Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew bin Abdullah. PHOTO: JAMES KON

“With the threat of the COVID-19 outbreak, information and data need to be communicated and analysed as fast as possible to prevent bigger problems from arising. Therefore, the Government of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam started digital technology initiatives by developing the BruHealth mobile application. Such applications can provide real time data to help with risk assessment and contact tracing and swiftly bring the outbreak under control.

“As a result, this has enabled the government to immediately formulate appropriate measures that include providing assistance programmes for those affected by the pandemic, preserving existing jobs, providing support to individuals, providing support and assistance to the business sector, and subsequently implementing the de-escalation plans in phases,” he said. Meanwhile, in realising the comprehensive National Economic Development Plan towards strengthening the country’s economy, the minister highlighted that the Ministry of Finance and Economy (MoFE) is in the midst of completing Brunei Darussalam’s Economic Blueprint.

This will become the direction for all parties in supporting the achievement of Brunei Vision 2035’s third goal – to have a dynamic, sustainable economy.

One of the aspirations within the economic blueprint, “is having a productive and vibrant business, whereby the private sector will become the driving force of Brunei’s economy.

Several strategies will be implemented to strengthen the growth of the private sector, especially micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), and attract foreign direct investment (FDI) to the country.”

To increase gross domestic product (GDP) contributions from FDI companies, the efforts to attract FDI will also provide spin off including the opening of more job opportunities to locals, business opportunities for MSME, increasing local demands, increasing the nation’s export, transferring of technology and skills as well as introduction of latest innovation.

Dato Seri Setia Dr Awang Haji Mohd Amin Liew said, “There are several factors that attract foreign investment into a country, namely political stablity, comprehensive infrastructure and policy, adequate technical and professional workforce, among others. Therefore, easily accessible and transparent information/data providing a true picture of the social economic situation of a country is important as reference and for analysis by foreign investors to come to a decision as to whether to invest in our country.”

Any plan, policy or programme implemented by the government, he said, “is for the well-being of citizens and residents of the country.

The minister revealed that the Department of Economic Planning and Statistics (JPES) will conduct a Population and Housing Census (BPP) next year to obtain updated information on the population and housing in the country.

He described the BPP 2021 as a large-scale statistic project that is implemented once every 10 years to provide a new benchmark on the profile of population and housing.

This will assist the government in planning and providing public services and facilities such as education, healthcare, housing, land use and transportation. The BPP 2021 results will be able to ensure government implemented programmes cover the intended targetted group, and that no group will be left behind.

“I strongly support JPES’ effort to further improve the process of collecting and managing data for the BPP 2021. In line with the digital technology development, JPES will introduce a new method allowing the public to fill in personal information online anytime, anywhere within the established duration. The e-Census system will increase data quality and consistency as well as improve timeliness in processing data to produce statistic indicator more efficiently for the needs of users. It is hoped that the public will provide their unified cooperation in the implementation of the BPP 2021 and that the e-Census approach will get widespread response.

“The availability of national statistics, which is largely compiled and disseminated by JPES, either from census results and studies conducted or through administrative data sources from other government agencies,” he said, “needs to be complemented by the skills of data analytics in order to make detailed analysis to interpret useful data, reveal hidden trends and correlations, and summarise data in a meaningful way to get a more complete picture to make the best decisions.

“One example is the calculation of the minimum cost of basic needs (KMKA) based on data from the Family Expenditure Study, which is now being used in the National Welfare System (SKN) to align an individual’s eligibility criteria to receive welfare assistance from various responsible agencies. Therefore, I would like to call on government agencies to focus on capacity building for officers in data analytics and to utilise relevant statistics in their respective research and development,” the minister said.

In heading toward technological integration, he said a feasibility study for the BPP e-Census System to be integrated with other systems is crucial, especially with the system available in the MoFE to enable more comprehensive and detailed data analysis.

“Integration planning for the next phase can be considered to involve other relevant ministries or departments to enable population and housing data to be updated more frequently without waiting for the next census period, which is in the next 10 years. In this regard, I fully hope that the National Data Coordination Steering Committee will be able to facilitate data sharing between various agencies, including addressing the legal aspects of it,” he added.

“Data sharing will certainly reduce overlapping work, where various agencies collect the same data. This will in turn reduce government spending in handling data collection. However, it should also be remembered that data privacy and confidentiality are emphasised and must always be maintained,” the minister said.

This year’s WSD celebration theme is ‘Connecting the World with Data You Can Trust,’ reflecting the importance of authoritative and reliable data for use in evidence-based decision making.

The celebration’s main objective is to promote the importance of a quality statistical system at national and international levels. In addition, this celebration increases public awareness and confidence in the country’s official statistics.