Symposium 2001/23

11 July 2001


                                                                                                           English only


Symposium on Global Review of 2000 Round of

Population and Housing Censuses: 

Mid-Decade Assessment and Future Prospects

Statistics Division

Department of Economic and Social Affairs

United Nations Secretariat

New York, 7-10 August 2001













Statement from Suriname*

Iwan A. Sno **




A. Introduction. 1

B. Six symposium issues. 1

C. Closing remarks. 3


A. Introduction

Suriname’s General Bureau of Statistics (GBS) started preparing in January 1995 for the census it expected to conduct in 2000. However, after elections in 1996, it turned out that the newly elected government had no intention whatsoever to leave the General Bureau of Statistics[1] in charge of Census 2000, and a period of hostilities, especially in the media, emerged. This ended with our adversary in the Home Office, who was responsible for the continuous population register, being appointed General Leader (NCO) of the sixth population and housing census. After political unrest in May 1999, the government had to agree to hold early elections in May 2000, and after the newly elected government was formed in August 2000, the President of the country discharged the NCO and appointed the Director of Statistics as NCO[2]. As the previous NCO refused to step down, the matter ended in court, and in May 2001, the previous NCO was convicted and ordered to step down and hand over everything to his successor.


The following remarks are influenced by the results of a consultation and discussion meeting hosted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at the UNDP sub-office in Paramaribo on 5 June 2001.

B. Six symposium issues

1. Strategies for involving stakeholders in census activities


The GBS started with an internal committee (ASAVT-6) and has produced several drafts of the questionnaires, a census budget and a plan of activities (in particular regarding the fieldwork exercise). It has planned a double strategy for reckoning with the interests of all stakeholders, as follows:


·        Starting from the constraints side, the following issues were considered: interviewer load, respondent burden (duration of an interview, etc.), cost (duration of field period, amount of paper needed and cost for processing a very long questionnaire) and comparability with previous national censuses and with current regional censuses. Everyone involved will have to be convinced that the census questionnaire can have only a certain maximum length and once that has been achieved, there can be no more additions.


·        It was made known to all stakeholders that suggestions for topics to be included in the census questionnaire were welcome (actually the GBS has been receiving quite a number of requests). At first an “overcomplete” census questionnaire will be drafted, and then it will be trimmed. Those involved (especially Parliament, which needs to approve the questionnaire) will have to be convinced that the main purpose of the census is to provide the baseline data and, with regard to the overcomplete questionnaire, that in-depth follow-up surveys will be conducted to deal with other topics of interest. We will particularly stress the differences between a census and a survey.


2. Strategies for choosing among data-collection methods


In Suriname the conduct of censuses is stipulated by law. So far there is no other means of testing the adequacy of the continuous population register (one of the purposes of the population census) in Suriname. Using administrative records would involve assumptions—e.g., that they are reasonably complete or that their defects are known and can be corrected. Rolling samples have been looked at slightly but are not considered a serious option.


3. Adapting new technologies to census operations


The only considerations of the GBS for this issue (in order of importance) were:

·        The choice between scanning and data keying. For Suriname’s coming census, the choice was made to go with data keying;


·        The possible application of statistical quality control to census operations (not yet resolved); and


·        Whether printed publications should be supplemented by other means of data dissemination (not yet resolved).


4. Maintaining census-related activities during the intercensal years


            The new Statistics Act that was drafted ensures that the GBS is responsible for the population and housing census and most likely the head of the Population Statistics Section will be the Deputy NCO. In the establishment of the GBS there are provisions for a census officer and also in the new draft statutes/charter of the GBS (which will become a foundation), provisions have been made to ensure institutional memory and archiving of census activities. So far, given the smallness of the population (not exceeding 500,000) and of the business community in Suriname, disclosure prevention has been a major issue, so the census materials will remain located within the GBS. The GBS has decided that it will both produce special tables on request and provide samples of  “anonymized” records. Naturally, certain records will be blocked from being selected, because even with anonymization certain combinations of variables will permit disclosure.


5. Identifying and resolving problems of census mapping


Since Suriname conducted its last population census in 1980, the mapping situation in the country warrants urgent remedial action. Proper mapping is of the essence for securing complete coverage, for preventing duplication and for assigning workloads to enumerators. Mapping is also important for follow-up survey activities that will use the census as the baseline. Given cost and technical constraints (e.g., regarding enlargements of images), discussions in Suriname revolve around whether satellite imaging would be sufficient or whether aerial photography is necessary. In previous censuses cartography was very weak, especially regarding most areas of Suriname’s hinterland. Proper mapping will also be beneficial to our plans for expanding coverage of our continuous household survey.


6. Post-enumeration surveys: are they worth it or not?


In Suriname so far we have been unable to identify proper alternatives for PES’s to evaluate coverage and content errors of the census. We are still of the opinion that demographic analysis of the census and comparisons with administrative statistics or results of household surveys can complement a proper PES but cannot replace it. Discussions regarding the financial and management burden of the PES, as well as on whether census results should be adjusted on the basis of the PES are still going on.

C. Closing remarks

A population and housing census has often been called the largest and most expensive single data-gathering statistical exercise in a country. It has to provide population totals as well as some core population and housing characteristics by the smallest geographical areas of the country. Suriname’s General Bureau of Statistics plans to have the best population and housing census ever in Suriname either in late 2002 or early 2003.

*       This document was reproduced without formal editing.

**     Algemeen Bureau Voor de Statistiek, Suriname. The views expressed in the paper are those of the author and do not imply the expression of any opinion on the part of the United Nations Secretariat.

[1]  In the censuses of 1964, 1972 and 1980 the highest official of the General Bureau of Statistics (in 1964 and 1972 the Director and in 1980 the Acting Deputy Director) was appointed General Leader of the census.  As we pointed out to no avail to the previous government, in most countries of the world and in all Caricom members, the Director of Statistics is in charge of the census.


[2] Actually, this is a little trickier than it appears, as the obsolete Census Act (dating from 1949) stipulates that a person  (not an official) must be appointed NCO. Hence Iwan A. Sno  (Director of Statistics) was appointed.