Stats bureau website suspended

The Bureau of Statistics’ website has been suspended for unknown reasons and officials are unable to say why.

The timing of the suspension raises questions as it follows recent reports by Stabroek News which states that logging figures offered by Finance Minister Ashni Singh in his mid-year report were contradicted by figures released by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO).

In its bi-weekly report, released last Friday, the ITTO, citing figures supplied by the Guyana Forestry Commission (GFC) said that log exports rose by 80% in the first half of this year compared to the same period last year. This revelation contradicts Singh, who in his mid-year report in the economy attributed the 31.3% increase in timber export earnings to “an expansion in plywood earnings.”

The state of the website was discovered yesterday morning and it remained this way until press time last evening. A reporter from this newspaper visited the Bureau around 3:35 pm yesterday and waited for more than an hour to query the development with Chief Statistician Lennox Benjamin who was said to be in a meeting at the time.

When the reporter left at around 4:45 pm Benjamin was said to still be in his meeting.

Efforts were also made to speak to the agency’s Information Technology (IT) staff about the suspended site but a message from the department referred the reporter back to Benjamin. Eventually, a representative of the Bureau explained that the suspension of the site was noticed by them on Monday.

The official said that the Bureau has contacted the company which maintains the site to ascertain the reason for the suspension. Despite these efforts, she said, the Bureau remains in the dark as to why the site has been suspended. Stabroek News inquired the name of the service provider but the official was not aware. The official attempted to get the name of the provider from the IT department but related that the employees of the department were not keen on divulging the information.

Calls made yesterday to Singh on the issue were futile while Finance Secretary Neermal Rekha said he did not know that the site was suspended.

He further said that Benjamin was the best person to speak to on the issue as he is the subject agency’s head. Benjamin however, remained in his meeting even after the reporter left after waiting for more than an hour.

The ITTO reported that log exports for the first half of this year amounted to 54,376 cubic metres compared to 30,356 cubic metres for the same period last year. This amounts to a roughly 80% increase in log exports. In contrast, plywood exports for the first half of this year amounted to 1,931 cubic metres from 1,851 cubic metres for the same period last year, an increase of 4.3%.

Singh, in the mid-year report on the economy, said that the forestry sector grew by almost 40% for the first six months of the year. According to the report, the sector recorded growth of 38.1%, “supported by the introduction of new incentives to harvesters and sustained demand from the construction sector and furniture manufacturing subsector.” This was not explained.

As a consequence, the growth target for the sector has been revised upwards significantly from the budgeted 3.3% to 15% growth for 2014. The report said that timber export earnings rose to US$21.3 million, a 31.3% increase due to an increase in export volume, “reflecting an expansion in plywood exports.”

Based on the ITTO report, which used data supplied by the GFC, it would be unlikely that the plywood exports would have increased earnings by so much.

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