Stats Data Unreliable

Methodology flawed, religious and ethnic categorisation in survey report questioned: A-G
15 Sep 2021 11:17
Stats Data Unreliable
Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum. Photo: DEPTFO

We will not be able to progress, and we will not be able to assist the right people if people are categorised based on their ethnicity and religion.

These remarks, by Attorney-General and Minister for Economy Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, were made last night in a press conference where Government raised concerns about the latest Household Income and Expenditure Survey made by the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (FBoS).

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also raised concerns about the way this data was gathered, especially when a similar report had already been prepared without the ethnicity and religious categorisation.

According to maps highlighted as part of the report, only 6000 households were taken as a sample size.

“Firstly, the data cannot be relied upon. There are huge integrity issues in respect of how they chose the sample in respect of what the sample was,” he said.

“There was no clear methodology given, apart from the two pages in the report, half of which are diagrams,” he said.

“I also want to make clear that we are not in any way challenging poverty statistics, we want to know as much about it as possible.”

He said philosophically, Government was opposed to putting ethnicity and religion as a category when collecting data on poverty.

“It’s a big issue. If you’re going to start having compassion for people based on ethnicity, then you’re losing your sense of humanity and that’s precisely what has happened.

“If you look at the, the press releases put out by the political parties that immediately jumped on ethnic bandwagon, or religious slant.

“Now, over the last few years, we’ve been very steadfast in ensuring it is Government policy. The Bureau of Statistics knows this and this is why it is even more of a problem when FBoS has gone off and done this on his own accord. In fact, there is a breach of Section Five of the Statistics Act.”


Methodology flaws

He added that the way the Fiji Bureau of Statistics (FBoS) had derived the sample and the religious and ethnicity conclusions was flawed.

“They have not described it and not a lot of details were given,” he said.

“We will talk to the various people to the Fiji Bureau of Statistics and for them to follow the law themselves and hopefully things will improve.”


Religion and ethnicity

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum added that it was highly improper to do a religious and ethnic breakdown on poverty.

“When you have a country, there’s been so much politicised along the lines of ethnicity and of course now, religion, that you won’t be able to progress. We won’t be able to get assistance to the right people if you’re going to have every single decision of yours, based on ethnicity. Common and equal citizenry means equality means that everybody that deserves assistance will get assistance.”


World Bank

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum also revealed that the World Bank, when contacted
yesterday, had highlighted the sensitivities around, ethnic, and religious categorisation.

He said they had also raised concerns about the issue.


Political Parties respond:

SODELPA leader Viliame Gavoka said: “The 2019-2020 Household Income and Expenditure Survey has shocked us to our core. On ethnic basis, 76 per cent of the poor are iTaukei and by religion 78 per cent of the poor are Christians. This was in 2019 and 2020; one can imagine what it is like in 2021 with the pandemic.

“SODELPA has always decried the poverty of the iTaukei, calling it as the ‘elephant in the room’. This is very serious and SODELPA will insist that poverty of the iTaukei is central to the discussions in Fiji. We will dissect this report and come to grips with the full extent of poverty in our midst. We will chart out our policies on the way forward to combat poverty.”

Unity Fiji leader Savenaca Narube said: “It is shocking that 30 per cent of our people live in absolute poverty, according to the latest Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). Reducing the curse of poverty is the ultimate measure of the success of any Government.

“The measurement of poverty in this HIES is much broader than those of the past. However, I believe that the increase in poverty is a true reflection of the deterioration in our welfare that we have endured in the last decade.

“The HIES period did not cover the second wave of the virus. The level of poverty is therefore much worse. The HIES estimate that with a 20 per cent increase in the poverty line, nearly 50 per cent of the population will be living in absolute poverty. The people living in rural areas are suffering more than those in urban areas. 41 per cent of the rural dwellers live in poverty, more than doubled those in urban areas.

“It is tragic that resource owners who live in rural communities are living in poverty. Nearly 40 per cent of the indigenous people live in poverty. I believe this is the highest in our recorded history.”


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