Statistics is a science, without which it is impossible to imagine any of today's activities.
It is, in fact, a system of collecting, keeping, processing, and analyzing corresponding indexes, which can research the society, the social-economic phenomena, the change of their quantitative characteristics, due to the impact of natural and technical factors, the influence of the society’s vital activities on the environment, etc.
Following is an interview with Chairman of the NKR National Statistics Service Karen NERSISIAN on the sphere’s problems, development prospects, and some other issues.
- Mr. Nersisian, what is generally official statistics? How does it reflect the real situation in the country?
- Perhaps this word received the most accurate interpretation in the Armenian language – vichak-a-grutyun (description of the situation), i.e. fixing the situation in a particular sphere, country or accounting the indexes characterizing the situation. Statistics has its basic principles, which are followed by all statistic agencies, including accuracy, integrity, and reliability. These provisions should be followed for targeted and convincing work organization. As for the second question, I think in our case we have no reason not to believe the official statistics. Maybe somewhere, in some area or some of the gaps in official statistics, but it is common to perform its diagnostic role, recording accurate information. Maybe somewhere, in some area or in some issue the official statistics has some lapses, but in general, it implements its diagnosis role, fixing precise data.
- What are today's standards for the NKR National Statistics Service (NSS)?
- We follow the standards accepted in 1993, but try to implement the standard of 2008, which is currently guided by the Republic of Armenia. Recently, the NKR NSS has signed a cooperation memorandum with the similar structure of the RA, according to which these standards will be also applied here. Thanks to the cooperation, we hope for serious progress in the field, and all the reforms will be aimed at the modernization and development of the system. Therefore, we need not only financial resources, personnel, time, but also clear programs and a clear strategy.
- Does the NKR NSS have these resources? What strategy is currently applied?
- The focus of our work is reflected in the three-year strategic programs. In 2014, the National Statistics Service is implementing the final stage of the last three-year program. The strategic program, the realization of which will start in 2015, will reflect new approaches and reforms. Naturally, we have much to do for training the corresponding personnel, introducing modern technologies, programs, etc. Recently, we have started to develop a program of household survey, which will allow us not only to assess the level of poverty, but also its reasons. This will allow the authorities to properly distribute the state funds, to control the migration flows, to calculate the GDP on a new method.
- What do you think is the basic task of the NSS?
- Currently, I think the basic task of the service is introduction of the above mentioned standards. We have no right to hesitate. As I have noted above, we have started to actively cooperate with the corresponding structure of the RA, which, by the way, is one of the leading structures among the countries of not only in the region, but also some European states, and it is not our subjective assessment, but that of professional international organizations. With the support of the RA NSS, we’ll try to introduce them as soon as possible (but not in a hurry). So, first of all, we should create a corresponding basis: we have already realized structural changes, methodological and other reforms are also expected. Thanks to the reforms, we’ll have a more professional and developed system. Besides, there is the issue of some legislative changes, on which we are also working. Frankly speaking, there is also the problem of introducing the mechanisms of accountability and selective studies, which should be regulated by law. They are already applied in the RA. In the agricultural sphere, a mechanism of comprehensive reporting is used, requiring a lot of resources, including financial and manpower. The NKR lacks this possibility yet, but it can be applied in the future.
- According to the law, a census should be held every 10 years. So, should we expect a census next year?
- It is necessary to prepare for a census. This requires a pilot census, an organizational work, solution of the staff issue to have accurate statistics on all parameters. Census of population is an important and major event. In late 2014 or early 2015, we’ll try to hold a pilot census. It is extremely important to use information technologies and to provide the software, which isn’t, unfortunately at the proper level yet.
- Is the issue of raising the awareness actual?
- Surely, the citizens should understand that the state is obliged to estimate the potential of the country, to know, for example, about its food supplies. They should understand that accounting is not to harm their property, but to assess the real abilities of the country. Therefore, statists should be a little bit psychologists, a little bit lawyers, or, multidisciplinary. These data are very important for any country. And doubly important for a transitional country, which is in a complex geopolitical situation and has economic risks, such as our country.
- In some areas, the practice of receiving electronic documents is already applied. Hasn’t the statistics service such an experience yet?
- Yes, the tax sphere applies this practice in the income tax section. We have not applied this yet, because there is a lot of reporting forms. But, we are negotiating for gradual transition to this system. It is not applied in the RA yet. I do not think we’ll apply it earlier. There are a lot of problems. In particular, there is much distortion in the financial reports. In this area, the control is enhanced, so that we can get more accurate and reliable indexes.
- The main task of the statistics service is to get accurate data. What do you do to eliminate shadow phenomena?
- I’d call the unrecorded part a shadow phenomenon. We do have this problem, in particular, in the agricultural sector. And I think the above mentioned study on household accounting will have a quite positive impact on the identification of the unrecorded part. Besides, we cooperate with different spheres in this direction.