04 July, 2013
Eurostat, having implemented Global Assessment of Georgian Statistics System, recommends implementing more reforms so as to make Geostat, Georgian National Statistics Service, independent and free of political influence. To this end the Eurostat finds apt to put Geostat in subordination of one of the governmental structures from administrative point of view as well as make Geostat accountable against the parliament alone. Georgian sector pundits oppose the idea and believe Georgian statistics must be put as far as possible from the
state structures.
International Mission of Eurostat scrutinized Georgian statistics system through two missions visiting Georgia in 2012 and aired its Global Assessment on Georgian Statistics System on June 26, 2013. The Assessment Team was satisfied that, as a legal entity of public law (LEPL), Geostat is independent in Georgian law, reporting directly to Parliament. It was concerned, however, that this situation may leave the Executive Director of Geostat exposed to strong political influence on administrative matters, particularly budget negotiations. Therefore Eurostat recommends placing Geostat under the responsibility of a government department for administrative purposes in a manner that does not compromise professional integrity.
Soso Archvadze, an economic analyst and former head of statistics body of Georgia, disagrees. He finds the Eurostat report very comprehensive spotting out both achievements and defects of Georgian statistics system but assesses the recommendation on putting Geostat as a part of government torn from reality. He believes strictly outlined legal framework should guarantee the independence of statistics in Georgia. “There is no unified model of safeguarding independence of statistics service globe over and we should choose the model based on our reality,” he said. “Sometimes local specifics are not visible from the outside recommendations to put statistics service under subordination of some governmental structure are no recommendations in fact,” Archvadze said. “The most optimal thing will be to put statistics service as far as possible from the state structures that have big influence over the ruling system in the country, would be that the president [who comes from certain political party and can be partisan], parliament [with overwhelming majority in Georgia can make subjective decisions] or government.”
The reality is that statistics has been largely controlled by the ex-power in Georgia thanks to law meantime that allows indirect intervention of interested governmental bodies to the Board of Geostat. Out of eight Board members three government officials come from the central bank, economic and finance ministries – all interested parties. They have unlimited tenure and are approved by the President. “These could all be construed as political measures which undermine Geostat’s independence,” Eurostat accentuated at this point and recommended three government officials on the Board to be selected from across all departments producing official statistics and should be approved by Parliament. Nominations for the remainder five non-public servant posts on the Board, from which the Executive Director is selected, are made by the Office of the President of Georgia. Eurostat report considered this as a political process compromising the principle of an independent statistical office.
To insure independence to Statistics in Georgia Archvadze finds apt to have a very strict legal framework guaranteeing its independence as much as possible. On the other hand, a reputable and competent person should be appointed as the head of the statistics service who will be making proper decisions and not trying to gain authority through the chair; also make his/her office term longer than the presidential or parliamentary tenures to escape political influence. Besides, the head of statistics body should not be dismissed by the President without any clarification as the law states today but only by parliament involving both majority and minority MPs’ votes.
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