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Munk Centre

Victoriya Gumenyuk
(Department of Sociology, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Ukraine),

"Challenges of Doing Statistics in Ukraine: Legislation, Methodology and Access to Information"

"A popular joke in Ukraine muses that there exist three types of lies: a serious lie, a small lie andĂ–statistics." Thus Viktoriya Gumenyuk (Sociology, Kyiv-Mohyla Academy; Petro Jacyk Visiting Scholar) opened her presentation on October 10 on "Challenges of Doing Statistics in Ukraine: Legislation, Methodology, and Access to Information," which illustrated how this joke has come to be so descriptive of official statistics in Ukraine. For Viktoriya Gumenyuk herself statistics is inspiration as much as perspiration--the time she could steal from her full-time graduate studies has been devoted to intensive research work at the Kyiv-based International Center for Policy Studies, a non-profit public advocacy and research organization promoting administrative reform and improvement of the public services delivered by various agencies within the Ukrainian government.

Ms. Gumenyuk introduced the small but eclectic audience to the challenging project that she travelled to Canada to work on--a comparative study in the methodological, procedural, and administrative aspects of government statistics in Canada and Ukraine. By closely examining the way Statistics Canada operates, Ms. Gumenyuk hopes to gain valuable experience and identify key practices that may be replicated in Ukraine for improving the work of the government-run Central Statistics Committee.

Building on a three-prong critical analysis of the system of government statistics in Ukraine--legislative foundations, methodological challenges, and access to information--Viktoriya Gumenyuk's incisive study identifies several new and recurring problems that have compromised the accuracy of the data collected by the Central Statistics Committee and seriously undermined public confidence in the general validity of the Committee's analyses.

One major source of administrative inefficiency and structural malfunction has been the Soviet legacy that is still manifest in the hypercentralized multilayered bureaucracy of the Central Statistics Committee. Effective coordination between the central and regional levels of the government statistics establishment is close to non-existent. Serious legislative defects--like the practice of regulating ostensibly independent agencies through presidential decrees--have increased the Committee's vulnerability to external influence and rendered its practices less transparent.

A related and by far more prohibitive impediment to reliable government statistics in Ukraine stems from the obsolete methodologies and equipment employed by the Central Statistics Committee. A striking discrepancy exists between the impractical, non-interpretative, and largely chaotic nature of the Committee's statistical surveys, which were developed decades ago and tailored to the requirements of central planning, and the real needs of a contemporary market economy. As well, equipment is still both insufficient and in urgent need of upgrading despite western technical assistance. The absence of trustworthy and analytical official statistics has created lucrative market niches, which, as Ms. Gumenyuk reported, some private statistics agencies have been only too eager to fill.

Staffing problems plague the Central Statistics Committee. Attracted by substantially higher pay and more opportunities for professional career growth, most qualified and experienced statisticians have left to work in the private sector. The remaining employees are not remunerated adequately and still tend to adopt a Soviet-era mentality, which is not conducive to hard work.

A final touch to this bleak picture is the alarming precariousness of the existing legal mechanisms for public access to statistical data. In the absence of guaranteed avenues for open access and no regular information broadcast initiatives on the part of the Committee, the only reliable ways of obtaining official statistical data remain informal connections or quid pro quo favors.

With her concluding remarks, Ms. Gumenyuk addressed some broader questions pertaining to the degrees of transparency, accessibility, and reliability of government information in Ukraine. It is clear that the Ukrainian government bureaucracy is still a long way from meeting the benchmark for accountability and openness inherent in the concept of democracy. Yet, positive signals do emanate from examples of successful civic mobilization and self-governance initiatives at the grassroots municipal level as well as from the activities of the many NGOs devoted to monitoring government bureaucracy, one of which is Ms. Gumenyuk's International Center for Policy Studies. The activities of the latter have produced a promising information-sharing and resource-pooling partnership with the Central Statistics Committee--an encouraging step forward toward the ambitious goal of revitalizing official statistics in Ukraine.

Nick Roudev, International Relations

Content: © 2002 Petro Jacyk • Design: © 2002 dragandesign.