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Information Crisis

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Diode

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We have a real problem here.

Are we allergic to data in Trinidad and Tobago?

 

Last week's entry dealt with the West Park Savannah. I wanted to get some facts while writing, so I pulled up the Port of Spain City Corporation website. What a dismay. Despite a great deal of articles about Carnival initiatives, the Corporation's responsibilities, departments, and various forms, there nothing to be found about the West Park Savannah. For that matter, I found that this was not simply an overlooked project; no portion of the website focused on ongoing projects at all! Nope; nothing.

At around this time last month, I wrote about drought. Let me put it this way: Finding information on local desalination was a job most suited to the likes of Sherlock Holmes. It was so bad that the only mentions of one such plant existing in Moruga were found in old newspaper articles. It is as if it does not exist, or ever existed, at an official level. As for the Desalcott plant in Point Lisas, well, what can I say? Their website's most recent - and only - "Latest news" entry has no date, but talks about a 2011 milestone.

These are just two examples from recent blogging to show how difficult it is to find information in this country. We are terrible at recording it, we are terrible at keeping it, and we are terrible at publicising it. Now if we are terrible at all of these things, then it makes complete sense why we are so terrible at making decisions. After all, are decisions not supposed to be made based on information?

 

The CSO

These shortfalls led me to ask: What about national census data? The most recent national census data available from our own Central Statistical Office (CSO) website is from the year 2000. That's sixteen years ago! The website says that the 2010 census was delayed to 2011 as a result of the General Elections of that year. Apart from that being a very poor reason for the CSO not to undertake its scheduled work, 2011 was a full five years ago - so where is that data?

Not to overly focus on the CSO here, but they are supposed to be the source for national statistics. Have a look at their "Latest Indicators" page. Note the years of each entry and then look at today's date. Do you see the problem? I'm sure that you can.

Now I'm not saying that the CSO does not gather data, nor am I saying that they don't put it into the useful form that we call information - but where is it? Why, in the information age, are the most recent statistics not readily available on the website of the Central Statistical Office?

It is particularly telling that the statistics on the T&T entry of the CIA World Factbook, a website run by a foreign power, are more recent than our local resource.

 

We can do better than this, Trinidad and Tobago. It's time we start expecting, doing, and demanding better.

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Truly amazing and shocking. With respect to the Port of Spain City Corporation and possibly all the regional Corporations that in this day and age they are unable to keep the population informed. Maybe the West Side Savannah was just a wild idea thrown out when they were in dispute with WASA on who owned the property rights for that venue. You may be quite correct, there is no plan, just plain old talk.

The CSO should be restructured with the entire team being replaced. Absolutely no reason for such tardiness and lengthy delays in providing data that is so needed. USing the elections as a delay is plain nonsense.

 

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As we are dealing with information crisis I want to draw your attention to the sloppiness that we have to put up with, The Inland Revenue. Imagine we are almost at the end of April 2016 and persons with additional income to their than emolument income and many small businesses have not received return forms for filing. There are not even forms on the website and none is available at the revenue offices. There is no notification advising persons that returns can be filed online, but  reading a comment in the guardian newspapers by an individual, he has suggested that the site is not user friendly.

Why has the public not been informed.

My take is that we should not file returns and pay any outstanding taxes. Let the Revenue challenge us and let us go the courts.

This brings me to another point. If we are being required to apply for Government Services online why are we not given a tax allowance on computer equipment including printers and inks. Why did the Minister of Finance take the backward step and add VAT on Computers, Printers and related products?

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On 11/04/2016 at 2:21 PM, willanr said:

Truly amazing and shocking. With respect to the Port of Spain City Corporation and possibly all the regional Corporations that in this day and age they are unable to keep the population informed. Maybe the West Side Savannah was just a wild idea thrown out when they were in dispute with WASA on who owned the property rights for that venue. You may be quite correct, there is no plan, just plain old talk.

The CSO should be restructured with the entire team being replaced. Absolutely no reason for such tardiness and lengthy delays in providing data that is so needed. USing the elections as a delay is plain nonsense.

 

It looks as though earthworks have picked up pace at the West Park Savannah site, but there is little information to be found as to what exactly is taking place. One would expect at least a billboard with concept art and an opening date, but not even this seems to exist.

On 24/04/2016 at 5:29 PM, willanr said:

As we are dealing with information crisis I want to draw your attention to the sloppiness that we have to put up with, The Inland Revenue. Imagine we are almost at the end of April 2016 and persons with additional income to their than emolument income and many small businesses have not received return forms for filing. There are not even forms on the website and none is available at the revenue offices. There is no notification advising persons that returns can be filed online, but  reading a comment in the guardian newspapers by an individual, he has suggested that the site is not user friendly.

Why has the public not been informed.

My take is that we should not file returns and pay any outstanding taxes. Let the Revenue challenge us and let us go the courts.

This brings me to another point. If we are being required to apply for Government Services online why are we not given a tax allowance on computer equipment including printers and inks. Why did the Minister of Finance take the backward step and add VAT on Computers, Printers and related products?

That the necessary forms are not available this close to the deadline is nothing short of amazing, and yet completely expected. Didn't something similar happen not so long ago and the deadline had to be extended?

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It has become almost a norm that the BIR has to extend the date for the filing of returns and payments. I have absolutely no issue with online filing but why not educate the public. Since by at least March 2016 the BIR should have been running ads in the daily newspapers advising the public on this new development and set up hotlines that people could have accessed to deal with queries in setting up the on line filing system.

What amazes me is that when you go to the Queen Street BIR office to request tax forms all the lady at the front desk is politely inform you that no forms are available. She will not or has not been trained to communicate the changes to John Public. I know for I have been there a few times.

Truly a sad situation. Never to late to remedy this, what I will call an oversight.

 

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Just to digress a bit but two areas of concern regarding the failure of Government Ministries that have failed to use available technology to make life easier for senior citizens.

Imagine Government retirees still have to present themselves in person to show that they are still alive to that they can continue to receive their in many cases measly pensions.

Take the Ministry of Social Development and Family Services have the recipients of the grant having to do the same as Government Pensioners.

The point that I am trying to convey is that there is a database available from I believe The Elections and Boundaries Commission ( or at least use the same database) that once your birth certificate pin number is available they will then be able to verify that a person is still alive or has passed away.

Just present yourself at some of these offices where the elderly have to come to. No parking facilities, some are almost blind. some on wheel chairs.and quite a number have to use walking sticks and you name it.

Guess what? No Minister, No Prime Minister gives a damn. And knowing this we have so many drooling over Ministers, both past and present.

 

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There is no reason why the data cannot all be linked. It won't be an easy process but it's all completely doable and should have been done a long time ago.

The idea of a TTConnect ID is a good one, but not everything seems to be linked to it yet. I found it a bit disappointing that once I had a TTConnect ID, I still had to go in to a physical location to register it for use with e-Tax. These things should all be verifiable online.

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