St. Maarten census data expected in August

POSTED: 01/29/13 1:07 PM

St. Maarten – The final results of the April 2011 census should be ready by August, Minister of Economic Affairs and Tourism Romeo Pantophlet told members of the Central Committee yesterday in a meeting called by the United People’s party-faction.

The UP-faction had called an “urgent meeting” but National Alliance MP Louie Laveist wondered what the urgency was. He also pointed out that there are more ways to obtain information, suggesting that the meeting was a waste of time.

Minister Pantophlet, who worked at the Central Bureau for statistics for 26 years, said that, unlike the UP-faction suggested in the questions it posed to him, that there are no delays in the completion of the census-information.
“Anywhere in the world it takes a year to compile the data and to complete the analysis,” the minister said, but he would also explain that the process had encountered more than one bottleneck.

The census was conducted in April 2011, with a second round in June of that year. “The data collection part of the process is complete,” Pantophlet observed.

The problems started when the Schotte-government announced that it would axe all forms of cooperation with St. Maarten.The statistics Department in St. Maarten worked together with the Central Bureau for Statistics in Curacao on the census.

The census in Curacao was done a few weeks ahead of the one in St. Maarten and CBS already indicated that it would work on Curacao’s data first, before it would get around to those of St. Maarten.

“By the end of December 2011, we would receive the first data-file,” Minister Pantophlet said. “but we received it only in May of 2012.”
After the cooperation with Curacao fell apart, St. Maarten sought expertise from the statistics bureau in Aruba.

There were other bottlenecks though. Minister Pantophlet said that he had during his career been responsible for three censuses, and that every time the schools were closed for the duration of the census. This way, the statistics bureau could use teachers for the field work.

But in 2011 Education Minister Rhoda Arrindell refused to cooperate in closing the schools. That robbed the statistics department of a pool of “competent people” to go into the field with the elaborate questionnaire.

Another problem was that the maps of the Department of Public Housing, Urban Planning, Environment and Infrastructure (Vromi) turned out to be outdated. These maps are used to identify all houses and other structures in St. Maarten. Minister Pantophlet said that Vromi has now updated maps available that have been generated with a GIS-system (Geographical Information System).

A third bottleneck was the lack of participation by the public. “Some people live on the island illegally and they may have been afraid of repercussions. But the census has nothing to do with immigration,” Minister Pantophlet said. “Still, some of the people who feared repercussions simply disappeared.”

Before the census was launched in April 2011, the government hired Innovative Marketing Creations – a company that was supposed to drum up support for the census. But apparently the publicity this company generated has not been able to lift participation among the population to the desired level. Nevertheless, the marketing company engages companies like Philipsburg Broadcasting, KFC, Pizza Hut and UTS and organizations like the hospitality and trade association SHTA to support the census.

When the publicity campaign for the census was launched on February 17, 2011, the statistics bureau had recruited about one hundred so-called enumerators for the field work, but it still needed an additional 400.

In March, more than sixty enumerators underwent an extensive training in preparation for the census. “This training focused specifically on equipping the enumerators on team building and team management, information management, sensitivity management, confidentiality and safety precautions in detail. We made sure that the head enumerators and the assistant head enumerators are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills to carry them through the census week,” senior statistical analyst Maurette Antersijn said on that occasion.

In December 2011, a spokeswoman for the statistics department told this newspaper that the results would become available “early next year.”

That did not happen, but in October of last year, the department released preliminary results that showed, among many other details, that just 30 percent of the population on the island is actually born in St. Maarten, that 63.7 percent has the Dutch nationality and that the second largest group of foreigners are Haitians with 6.7 percent. This newspaper published these data on October 15 of last year.

That there were problems with the census results, appear from a statement made by Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams at a press briefing on April 4 of last year. The PM said that there were significant discrepancies between the data gathered during the census and information from the civil registry. This is one of the “yard sticks” Minister Pantophlet mentioned yesterday as a tool to assess the reliability of census-data.

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