Federal Finance Minister Senator Ishaq Dar on Saturday said that the government would take necessary steps to bring the issue of conducting population census in the next meeting of Council of Common Interests (CCI).

He made these comments while chairing the 7th meeting of the Governing Council of the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS). Member/Secretary of PBS informed that summary for conduct of population census is on the agenda of the CCI. This needs to be prioritized as considerable time has passed since the last census and availability of census data is a dire need of the time. Other members also mentioned the importance of the census data and asked the chair to bring this issue in the next meeting of the CCI.

The chair desired that minutes of the last meeting of the CCI may be shown to him and since CCI is the proper forum to decide on the matter, therefore, he will take necessary steps to bring this issue in the next meeting of CCI.

Chief Statistician/Secretary of the GC briefed the meeting about the implementation status of the decisions taken in the last meeting. The chair was informed that PBS was assigned the responsibility of developing SAARCSTAT Database and Web Portal for all the member states and that PBS has successfully achieved the target, using in house expertise. In recognition, PBS has been asked to maintain and update the same in future. The chair appreciated the work done by the PBS and congratulated the staff who worked on this assignment.

The meeting was informed about the developments regarding the change of base of National Accounts as well as Price Statistics to the year 2015-16. A project was got approved which envisaged a number of surveys and studies to be carried over a period of three years. The house was informed that work on three of the six surveys to be conducted during this year had already started while the rest are under preparation. On Price Statistics Rebasing, the GC was informed that a kickoff meeting has been planned for 3-4 February 2015 where all stakeholders would be invited to solicit their views on the rebasing methodology.

The meeting thereafter discussed updating of area sampling frame for urban and rural areas of the country. The Member-Secretary briefed about the process of updation and use of GPS devices for this purpose. He explained that after completion of this exercise PBS would have an updated frame for all its census, and surveys. This would greatly facilitate the enumerators and improve the quality of their field work. This would also enable PBS to disseminate its data on digital maps. The meeting was informed that the entire urban area of the country comprising of 48052 enumeration blocks have already been updated by PBS, whereas updation of rural area frame is being planned. A PC-1 costing Rs.306m has been submitted to Planning Division for approval. Meeting was informed that PBS has initiated the updating work in the rural area with the financial support of UNFPA and has updated 8718 enumeration blocks so far. The chair appreciated the work of PBS and directed that this activity be expedited.

Conduct of Agriculture Census was another focal item in the meeting. The Secretary/Chief Statistician informed the meeting that in the past PBS was conducting three censuses i.e. Agriculture Census, Agriculture Machinery Census and Livestock Census with different time frame. The same segment of population was being approached thrice for similar information. This was a waste of financial and human resources as well as response burden on the respondents. It was proposed combine the three surveys into single exercise. The house, after deliberations, approved the proposal that Agriculture Census, Agriculture Machinery Census and Livestock Census be merged into single exercise as Agriculture Census and the same may be conducted after every five years.

The chair was informed that PBS is conducting PSLM survey since 2003 as a project and that this project will close on 30th June, 2015. The Member Secretary informed that nine rounds of the survey have been conducted so far. PSLM collects data on household income and expenditure which is used for computation of poverty indicators. It also provides data on 8 MDG Goals, 16 targets and 37 indicators. The chair was informed that 18 officers and 245 officials are working on the project on contract basis since 1995. These staff members have long experience in collection of data in the field and their services need to be regularized. The Member Secretary proposed that in view of the important nature of the survey, this activity may be continued as a regular activity of PBS and the staff may be regularized. The chair, after due discussions, decided that the PSLM survey to continue with an enhanced scope. The chair also directed that the modalities of continuation of the survey as well as the issue of the staff may be discussed with the Secretaries Finance and EAD.