First ever economic census for business establishments to be carried out by NSB

The National Statistical Bureau (NSB), with technical and financial support from the World Bank will carry out the first ever nationwide economic census for all business units in Bhutan from December 2018 to January 2019.

Business units like the State Owned Enterprises, sole proprietors, partnership, private and public companies, FDIs and NGOs will be covered. The informal sectors in the country which constitute about 75 percent of the workforce and contribute to the economy through enterprises such as street vendors, temporary workers, and roadside fruits and vegetables vendors, among other will also be surveyed as they are also engaged in economic activities.

“The objectives of conducting such nationwide economic census for the first time are to address the data gap that is hampering research activities, thus if we have accurate data, it will help in formulation of evidence based policies. This in turn will create enabling environment  for development of the private sector,” said Chhime Tshering, Director of NSB.

He added that the economic census will collect detailed information on the structure of all sectors of the economy, establish benchmark information for the level of economic development in the country, update and improve the Statistical Business Register, and construct a sampling frame for any future economic related surveys.

The next economic census will be carried out in 2028, after a gap of 10 years.

The Director said that the plans to carry out the economic census has been in the pipeline for quite some time but was withheld the previous year as the Bureau was thoroughly involved with the Population and Housing Census of Bhutan and the Bhutan Living Standards Survey.

A total of 85 graduates have been selected as the enumerators and they are currently being trained in a week-long program by the NSB officials. During the training they are taught the methodologies to conduct the census and other soft skills to deal with people once in the field. The enumerators with the support from the field supervisors will visit every business establishment. The survey is expected to take about 30-40 minutes of the respondent’s time.

The Director said that if they suspect any false information, they’ll carry out proper check and balance to verify the answers.

“Although we claim that private sector is the engine of economic growth of the country, it is ironic that in reality we do not even have any record on the total number of private establishments in the country. We have been carrying out ground works like preparing manuals for every party involved in the survey and field listing, so the economic census is one of the most important surveys that will be carried out. We are aiming to release our findings from the economic census by June next year,” said the Director.

A recent report by the World Bank stated that Bhutan has room to improve the quality of its statistics and capacity of statistics’ office. Bhutan’s score in the World Bank’s 2017 Statistical Capacity Indicator was 66 (0=lowest, 100=highest), lower than the average score in South Asia (74) and neighboring countries (Bangladesh=70, Nepal=73,and India=91). Among three sub-indicators (methodology, source data,and periodicity), Bhutan’s score is found to be especially low in methodology, including the national accounts base year.

The National Statistics Bureau (NSB) publishes the national accounts once a year with 9–10 months lag. The frequency and timing make it difficult to monitor economic developments on a timely basis, the report stated.

“One of the major challenges faced today is the coordination between the data producers and the data users, so we hope to address this important issue through a calculative approach. NSB is working on providing reliable and quality data for the academicians, researchers and policy makers can come up with better plans and policies. Improving data and statics management is one of the priorities of the Bureau,” said Chimme Tshering.

During the survey, information such as business registration number, period of operation of business, identification and contact information of the establishment, number of employees, source of income, income and expenditure of the company, and the challenges faced by the establishments will be collected.

However, home-based businesses such as operation of taxis or trucks, handicraft activities, home-based subsistence growing of crops and rearing of livestock, religious institutions, general government offices, and defense services will not be listed for the economic census.

NSB said that the data collected will be for statistical purposes by which information will only be used to produce general economic indicators and tables at the aggregate level and no individual establishment will be identified from the information released.

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