Government has moved to relinquish partial control of the National Statistics Office by making it a semi-autonomous body.
While the agency will be funded by central government, its administration and functioning is expected to be independent.
It is to be governed by a board that will be accountable to a minister.
The change is being facilitated by the Statistics Bill that received bipartisan support when it went before the House of Representatives on Friday, though words of caution were issued by some members.
In his contribution, Leader of the Opposition Gaston Browne suggested that government is putting “the cart before the horse”.
“We need to strengthen the statistical divisions in the various ministries…and to make sure that we have proper information systems so that the dissemination of information into this institute will be seamless and very timely,” he said.
The St John’s City West MP cautioned against “exuberance” due to “significant weaknesses”, he identified, in the decades-old system.
“Significant thought has to be given to the human resource requirements and the financial requirements in terms of getting the necessary information systems as well as the level of corporation that we need between departments to ensure there is a smooth flow of information,” Browne added.
Stating that the body should be called the National Bureau of Statistics for Antigua and Barbuda, St Mary’s North MP Molwyn Joseph appealed to government to ensure that appointments to the board are not based on politics.
“Now is the opportunity for us to put in place a body [that is] independent, professional, credible with unquestionable integrity that when they publish a report that the country, the Caribbean, the world will embrace it as a report that is free from any prejudices, any influence political or otherwise,” the opposition parliamentarian said.
“Resist the temptation of making political appointments and identify people with the capacity, with the necessary discipline and put them on that board to carry out their functions. We cannot make a mistake with that body we are creating.”
He added, “Establishing the bureau by itself is not enough. Every department of government, every statutory body must now be mandated to put in place the capability of developing their own statistical capacity…”
If the legislation is passed by the Senate, Antigua and Barbuda will join Belize, Bermuda, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat and Suriname in modernising the regime of collection, dissemination and use of statistics.