UNUnited Nations Economic Commission for Europe

Press Releases 2000


Press Release ECE/STAT/00/7
Geneva, 25 July 2000


Selling statistics: a matter of survival


"Statistical Offices in the countries of the former Soviet Union have embraced capitalism, and would like to sell their products on the market, but find obstacles in national legislation and practices" says Mr. Paolo Garonna, Director of the Statistical Division of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE). Selling on the national and international market is a question of survival for many agencies, fighting with shrinking government budgets and increasing demands for more and improved data. Moreover, marketing statistical products provides incentives for innovation efficiency and responsiveness to users.

"National decision-makers, be they private or public, and the international community badly need these data. Countries of the former Soviet Union need to adjust their legal frameworks to make it possible for public agencies to sell statistical products on the market" appeals Mr. Garonna. Only a handful of countries, among which Armenia, have recently introduced a new "statistical law", establishing a clear framework for statistical activities.

When the legal possibility of selling exists, a major obstacle is often found in practices, which do not make the revenues from data sales available to the statistical agencies that produced them. "Lack of autonomy in managing the budget for statistical activities may affect the independence of the agency, and therefore the credibility of the data".

In advanced statistical systems, there is no contradiction between providing the public service of statistical information for all citizens, and selling data at marginal or full cost, sometimes in partnership with private business. Revenues from sales cover in some cases up to 15-20% of the total costs of public statistics. CIS countries under pressure from lack of resources and growing demand have to set more ambitious aims. In Russia, for instance, only 20-25% of the costs of required statistical activities can be made available from the public budget; the remaining resources must come from other sources, such as international aid and business sponsorships.

A Seminar was organised in Vienna by the United Nations Statistics Division and the United Nations Population Fund on marketing and disseminating statistics in the ECE region. The Seminar discussed a set of initiatives for enhancing the skills and techniques available, such as direct marketing, users’ focus groups, public-private partnerships, the media, product innovation, pricing and geographic information systems.

The most difficult task for transition economies is to shake up and upgrade the local capacity to understand and use data for decision-making by business, policy-makers, the media and public opinion.

International support has to be provided to "educate" the market, bring statistics close to the citizens, and create, through national and international campaigns, an enabling environment for investing in data quality and improving the accountability of business and policy decisions. The benefit is obvious, and goes well beyond the prospect of enriching the budget of the neo-capitalist statistical agencies in transition economies. It would, in fact, promote a new sector of business services, essential for the new economy; it would also increase the operational transparency of markets and institutions, which is essential for Foreign Direct Investment, debt relief or Official Development Assistance. But it is even more essential for providing foundations and confidence to fledgling democracies.


For further information, please contact:

Mr. Paolo Garonna, Director
Statistical Division
United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UN/ECE)
Palais des Nations
CH - 1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

Telephone:   (+41 22) 917 41 44
Fax:            (+41 22) 917 00 40
E-mail:    [email protected]


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Thank you.