Cooperation in the field of Statistics:

1.1 The South Asian region is richly endowed in terms of human resources and has to its credit several internationally renowned statisticians. Prof. P.C. Mahalanobis, the founder of Indian Statistical Institute was one of them who visualized, in early 40’s, Statistics as the “Key Technology of the era”. Over decades, Statistics has been used as the technology on how to measure various social and economic indicators in order to understand our Society better.  This will be clear from PARIS21 document which quoted “IF YOU CANNOT MEASURE YOU CANNOT MANAGE”.   

1.2 It is now imperative that the Statistics has to play an important role for closed cooperation within the SAARC region be it analysis of Intra-regional Trade Statistics according to common denomination and standardized Trade Classification or various socio-economic statistical parameters including poverty profile of the region.

1.3 Thus, for justified reason, the proposal for establishing cooperation in Statistics received enthusiastic support of the SAARC Member States which got the approval at the Thirtieth Session of the Standing Committee of SAARC (Islamabad, 18-19 July 2004). Subsequently, the Twelfth Meeting of the Committee on Economic Cooperation (Islamabad, 20-21 November 2004) welcomed the offer of India to host the First Meeting of the Heads of Statistical Organisations of SAARC Member States to examine the possibility of initiating cooperation in the field of statistics with a view to finalizing standard formats for exchange of statistical data in various economic and social fields. 

1.4 Accordingly, in order to pursue and concretize cooperation in the field of statistics, the Heads of SAARC Statistical Organisations in their Meeting at Kolkata, India on 26-27 May 2005 formed a permanent “SAARC Group on Statistics”, namely, SAARCSTAT; SAARCSTAT is now  a reality and this could be termed as milestone development for this region.

1.5 In the First meeting of SAARCSTAT at Kolkata, following Technical Subgroups were formed and the four countries offered to work as coordinators of Technical Subgroups:

S. No. Technical Sub-Group on Coordinator
1. SAARC Statistical Yearbook Bangladesh
2. Informal Sector India
3. Capacity Building India
4. SAARCSTAT Action Plan India
5. SAARCSTAT Website Pakistan
6. Classification Pakistan
7. SNA93 Sri Lanka

1.6 Besides, India agreed to prepare a Conceptual document on “Concepts, Definitions and Standards of Health Statistics for the SAARC region”.

1.7 The following Plan of Actions was also adopted by SAARCSTAT.

  • Development of SAARCSTAT Website
  • Setting up a SAARCSTAT office
  • Development and publication of a Manual on Statistical System of SAARC Member States
  • Development and publication of a Directory of Statistical Experts of SAARC Member States
  • Development and publication of SAARC Statistical Yearbook
  • Development of SAARC Industrial Activity Classification (SIAC) based on ISIC-rev 4 of the United Nations Statistics Division
  • Development of framework for measurement of Informal sector in SAARC Region
  • Development and release of Training calendar for human resource development of  Member States
    • Mathematical Statistics and
    • Official Statistics and related areas
  • ​​​Development of Framework for Inter-country comparison on National Accounts
  • Development of Time Series data-set for SAARC Member States and promote research
  • To bring out a list of Training Institutes for Teaching and research in Statistics.
  • To develop inter-regional / bi-lateral studies on emerging areas like Trade in Services, Natural Resource Accounting,

1.8 The SAARCSTAT meetings are now held regularly in rotation among member States. The Second Meeting of SAARCSTAT was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh on 17 April 2008. The frequency of meeting has been stabilized as “once in a year” since 2010. The Third Meeting was held at Paro, Bhutan on 18-19 November 2010, the Fourth was held in Islamabad on 24-25 November 2011 and Sixth  meetings was held on Nov 2012. The 6th meeting is due to be held shortly.

Follow up action:

​2.1 Follow up action was taken up by all concerned countries although the output could be delayed mostly due to non-response of information. This will be clear when we will see the SAARC reports uploaded in this portal. However in many cases data were taken from International publications. The activity relating to Capacity Building was however quite regular.

Recent developments:

3.1 There was a strong demand to expedite the progress of work of SAARCSTAT especially through tangible output. The member felt that the absence of any permanent office of SAARCSTAT, the coordination among member nations became very weak. At this juncture, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) offered technical assistance to SAARC Secretariat. As a result a SAARC-ADB joint project on “Enhancement of Efficacy of SAARCSTAT by developing web-based user protected interface and Institution of a Statistical Cell” (project no. TA 6512 REG) was initiated by engaging an International Consultant. Dr. S.K.Nath, former Director-General, CSO, India, who was also the chief coordinator of the first meeting of the Heads of the Statistical Office held at Kolkata, India during May 26-27, 2005, took over the charge of the project and successfully completed it in June 2012. The report was placed before the 5th meeting of Heads of Statistical Offices held at Maldives during Nov 2012, who had appreciated the report and approved the same. The said report inter-alia had provided a complete framework for development of SAARCSTAT web portal.

3.2 In pursuant to the recommendations of the report of the project TA 6512 REG, the SAARC took up another project jointly with ADB to develop the SAARCSTAT web portal in line with the framework contained in the first report.

3.3 The present web portal is the outcome of joint effort of SAARC-ADB who appointed Dr. S.K.Nath, former DG, CSO, India as the lead consultant.  The work of development of portal was divided into two modules. Pakistan Bureau of Statistics developed the Module-I containing Textual information and ADB recruited web developer at Nepal developed the Module-II of the portal and subsequently these two modules were integrated.

Web portal and its future:

4.1 The portal developed contains materials which are very rich source of information for SAARC nations. Even other web-users outside SAARC could be benefitted from the information it contains especially under “KNOWLEDGEBASE” AND “TRAINING”.

4.2 Introduction of DASHBOARD of macro-economic indicators on Home page is a forward looking idea. The portal is also a rich source of Statistical data of SAARC nations. For ensuring uniformity, Standard format of data exchange has been provided in the Tool bar. Countries are requested to send data for Dashboard directly to pbs@pbs.gov.pk . For updation of the Statistical databases, countries will be provided with user ID and passwords for uploading their own data online so that total confidentiality is maintained.

4.3 Attempts have also been made to generate value of indicators for SAARC region as a whole by using some statistical functions.

​4.4 Last but not the least is that development of a web portal is just a beginning. Proper maintenance of the same is most essential. It is a matter of great satisfaction that the Chief Statistician of Pakistan Bureau of Statistics has agreed to take up its complete maintenance. Their efforts will produce best fruits when all the SAARC nations will provide their up-to-date data to them on regular basis and upload data online in the Statistical databases. Missing data may be substituted by the data available from International organisations. But the countries can always replace those data online by their own data. Under HOME, we have provided a service called “Message for National Statistical Offices” to inform countries about certain data as per Standard Format or information. The countries are requested to provide necessary inputs for further improvement of the content.