National statistics is one of the main sources of the Republic of Belarus’ information system. It is used by central and local state bodies, educational establishments, civil society, private sector, and international community. Nowadays the Republic of Belarus is a member of an increasing number of international organizations and good quality statistics is a basis for effective collaboration.
In the framework of the TACIS programme, the European Commission , through DG ESTAT (Eurostat), has been providing assistance in the field of official statistics to Belarus as well as other CIS countries since 1993. This framework has been enhanced by the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) signed in 1995. The Agreement identifies the long-term objectives of statistical co-operation between Belarus and European Union, namely the adaptation of Belarus statistical system to international standards, methods and classifications; provision of statistical data; etc.
At present, the EU technical assistance in statistics provided to Belarus can be divided into two main periods:
An initial programme, funded from a TACIS Inter-state budget (1992-94 and “Statistics 1”, 1993-96), was driven by common NIS inter-state priorities and organised as two sub-programmes of a regional nature: technical assistance and training. Most activities were organised at interstate or sub-regional level.
This stage covered an initial introduction to EU statistical standards and methodology of the Minstat staff through training activities, expert’s missions and study visits. During this period all technical assistance for Belarus statistical development provided by international donors was coordinated.
The EU technical assistance in statistics was mainly provided in the field of business statistics; business register; statistical classifications and foreign trade statistics.
The first workshops and meetings allowed Belarusian specialists to get acquainted with the methodology and system of statistical indicators, standards used and practice of EU countries in the above-mentioned areas. The development of the new statistical business register corresponding to international standards was initiated; programmes of sample surveys of enterprises were prepared; new foreign trade statistics was established. New methods of statistical observations, like sample surveys, have been introduced into national statistical practice.
The second period was based on national TACIS programmes (“Statistics 1”, 1996 - 2000) that were mainly focused at particular needs of the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis of the Republic of Belarus. At the same time, the programmes also covered common activities for all the TACIS countries: high level seminars, task forces and steering groups organised on a regular basis in the framework of the TACIS co-operation, as well as organisation of some horizontal activities such as thematic meetings at the international level.
In the course of these programmes the works started at previous stages of TACIS co-operation were continued and some new areas were added as well.
Implementation of different activities under these components resulted in improving the national statistical legislation, introduction of NACE and other classifications in practical use; development of some strategic papers, like those on classifications, some areas of business statistics – industry, construction and internal trade, etc.
The purpose of this contract is to continue the statistical co-operation with Belarus, extending the assistance to new areas and improving some of the results of earlier statistical support programmes.
The general objective is to have an official statistical system able to provide data meeting EU and international standards in Belarus.
The specific objective of this contract is to assess the structure, role, and efficiency of the national statistical system. The assessment will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the system by:
- reviewing the system ability to meet the needs of national data users (public and private) as well as international community;
- evaluating the system capabilities to produce relevant and good quality data in a timely fashion;
- reviewing the adequacy of methods used for data collection, processing and dissemination with regard to international standards and professional principles;
- better comprehension and implementation of the requirements of a modern statistical system, including data confidentiality, improvement of the multi-annual planning, management, etc.;
- reviewing the existing strategies and working out a draft strategy for harmonising the Belarusian statistical system with European standards;
The project was carried out according to the specifications. The results were performed in two activities (components) related to the objectives above mentioned:
Component 1 - Global Assessment of the National Statistical System of the Republic of Belarus
To assess the statistical system of the Republic of Belarus in relation to the European Statistical System and to develop an action plan for filling the possible gaps according to the list of priority areas, the following targets were specified:
- an objective description of the institutional and technical capacities of the Belarus statistical system;
- an assessment of the overall conformity of the Belarusian statistics with European standards;
- a description of the present state of affairs in the different statistical domains with respect to European standards;
- elaboration of a draft action plan on how to reach European standards in the different domains and a comprehensive list of priorities;
- provision of information to national and international stakeholders on the results of the assessment carried out.
The task was developed according to these specific activities:
- During the first mission the expert met the top management of the Ministry of Statistics and Analysis of the Republic of Belarus (Minstat) and people responsible for the domains covered by the assessment, visited regional statistical departments, other institutions playing an important role in statistical work: National Bank, Ministry of Finance, Ministry of Economy, etc. and made contacts with important users. A first draft report was prepared;
- Descriptions of the statistical domains and the degree of harmonisation with the ESS methodologies and standards were drawn up;
- During the second mission the draft assessment report was revised and agreed upon with the top management of the Minstat. A draft of the action plan was designed;
- During the third mission the advanced draft assessment report was presented to the top management of Minstat, including recommendations and conclusions for the further development of the national statistical system as well as priorities for the future EC technical assistance.
Component 2 - Participation in International Events, Meetings, Seminars, Conferences
The participation in international events allowed Belarusian specialists to get acquainted with the methodology and system of statistical indicators, standards used and practice of EU countries in the above-mentioned areas. The following targets were specified:
- Improve the knowledge on data confidentiality, statistical business registers, statistical classifications, macroeconomic, business and social statistics
- Raise awareness of international standards in these fields of statistics
- Be informed about international developments in new statistical legislation in EU
- Be capable to apply international standards to the statistical practice of the Republic of Belarus
The results obtained were:
- Actualisation of the methodological documents related to the national statistical system.
- Improvement of the national statistical system of Belarus.
- Setting up of a draft plan concerning further developments of the national statistical system of Belarus.
Through the specific activities performed:
- Participation in CES organised by UNECE.
- Participation in seminar on data confidentiality.
- Participation in seminar on statistical business register.
- Participation in seminar on statistical classifications.
- Participation in seminar on social statistics.
- Participation in seminar on macro-economic statistics.
- Participation in seminar on business statistics.
- Study tour (Vilnius, Lithuania)
Taking into account that since 2004 Lithuania has become a member of the EU, the study tour to have the notion on the organization structure of the work in the Statistical office was very useful. Minstat benefited from a study tour to a new EU Member State, in order to learn from the experiences of harmonising statistical systems in line with EU standards.