The Business Year

HE Butti Ahmed Mohamed Bin Butti Al Qubaisi

UAE, ABU DHABI - Economy

A Numbers Game

Director General, the Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi (SCAD)

Bio

Butti Ahmed Mohamed Bin Butti Al Qubaisi is the Director General of the Statistics Centre – Abu Dhabi (SCAD) and also a member of Abu Dhabi National Advisory Council, the Board of the National Statistics Center, the Sub-Committee on Population Structure, the Abu Dhabi Center for Corporate Governance, and the Abu Dhabi Food Security Committee. He holds a Master’s degree in Business Administration from Geneva and a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the UAE University.

"Part of SCAD’s strategy is to support informed investment decisions by the private sector."

How would you assess the importance of your statistics overall?

Trusted statistics provide a sound basis for decision-making and policy development. SCAD is the key producer of statistics for the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. We collect, compile, and analyze data from primary and secondary sources, and using modern technology we disseminate statistics on a wide range of subjects including businesses, economic indicators, prices and foreign trade, demographics, agriculture, and the environment. For example, the recently completed Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) is an important survey that looks at individual and household spending and income patterns. The results will throw light on the living standards of households, which in turn can provide a way to measure the well-being of society. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is constructed from the results of the HIES. This measure provides information about price changes in the Emirate’s economy, which is used by government and industry sectors, as well as the research community. Furthermore, SCAD is the only source of time series data that tracks the social and economic development of the Emirate. This is a key resource for correlation, trend analysis, and forecasting studies.

Do you think your data is being used correctly by the business community in general?

Part of SCAD’s strategy is to support informed investment decisions by the private sector. The availability of reliable and relevant statistics promotes investors’ confidence and facilitates informed decision-making. This mix serves as a platform for balanced and sustainable economic growth in the Emirate. SCAD compiles and disseminates a wide range of official statistics of interest to the business community. These include economic, demographic, agricultural, and environmental indicators. For example, GDP is one of the most important indicators of the economic performance of a country. The FDI statistics show something of the relationship between foreign investors and the Abu Dhabi Emirate. The statistics demonstrate that European countries account for the largest proportion of FDI. SCAD undertakes a number of initiatives to improve the understanding and use of statistics, especially among those in the business community, including investors. These include collaboration agreements and MoUs, advisory committees, and specialized dissemination tools. These collaborations are part of SCAD’s efforts to increase the level of cooperation on data sharing and engaging key entities to develop accurate data to support development initiatives in Abu Dhabi.

“Part of SCAD’s strategy is to support informed investment decisions by the private sector.”

What have been the highlights of SCAD so far?

Since the commencement of SCAD’s operations in April 2009, we have taken care to build our capacity as a statistical agency of note. We strive to achieve the highest standards and to implement best practices in the field of statistical work, and we do this by making improvements in terms of accuracy, data quality, and methods of presentation and analysis. SCAD has successfully implemented several major statistical projects. These include conducting large-scale economic and social surveys, and the Abu Dhabi Census 2011. Some surveys are annual, such as the Labour Force Survey, while others are less frequent, such as the Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES). Our flagship publication is the Statistical Year Book, which is a compendium of recent data on the economy, industry and businesses, population, demography, social services, labor force, and agriculture and environment over a period of several years. This is complemented by the Abu Dhabi in Figures series, a compilation of annual key statistics and indicators. In 2012, SCAD released a book titled “Abu Dhabi Over a Half-Century,” which covered all sectors of the economy over a longer period from 1960 to 2010. We have many solid indicators and reports, and we intend to remain on that path of producing reliable and comprehensive statistical products. SCAD is currently working on another major project, namely the Abu Dhabi Statistical System, which will automate the flow and processing of administrative data from various entities, thus enabling the compilation of real-time indicators.

Are you planning to expand your database to other fields in the near future?

SCAD is keen to open new opportunities by working with strategic partners in government and the business world. The current Sport Survey, undertaken at the request of the Abu Dhabi Sport Council, will provide baseline information for planning and policy for sport, recreation, and community health in the Emirate. The Disability Survey is being undertaken in collaboration with the Zayed Higher Organisation, and will produce measures such as disability prevalence rates and participation rates in education and work by persons with disabilities. Thus, we continue to make advances by coming up with new indicators in the economic and social sectors. Recently, SCAD released a new indicator called Expected Inflation, which we will continue to issue every quarter. During the holy month of Ramadan, SCAD produced weekly reports to monitor inflation and analyze how the market fluctuates during that time of each year. We are currently working in partnership with the Abu Dhabi Food Control Authority (ADFCA) on the Abu Dhabi Agriculture Census, collecting data on agricultural holdings, livestock, and fisheries. The Abu Dhabi Statistical System leads the way into the next five years of SCAD’s Strategic Plan. It will utilize the e-Statistics system within all participating entities. Development of the e-Statistics system is already well underway and is applying state-of-the art technology. It is expected to be operating by early 2015. This will make our data easier to be accessed in a timely manner. Our aim is to have all statistical products available in soft copy on the website. By making the information broadly available in this way, the maximum value will be obtained from our statistical work at the center.

How do you see your contribution to the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030?

By law, the government acknowledges SCAD as the official statistical organization of Abu Dhabi. One of SCAD’s strategic outcomes is to ensure sound government policies and decisions based on relevant statistics. Whenever official figures are needed, SCAD is the main resource for statistics. We have assumed the role as the trusted partner in providing timely and relevant statistical products, which support decision and policy makers.

As such, SCAD is a key player in the pursuit of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 under the umbrella of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi Emirate. We have been an active contributor to the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 since its first draft, and we update all the data at appropriate intervals. As the provider of latest available data and official statistics, SCAD makes a fundamental contribution to the technical work aimed at achieving the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030. SCAD contributes to the Five-Year Economic Development Strategic Plan, which contains the guiding principles for Abu Dhabi to achieve its 2030 targets. Decision and policy makers use our data to understand developments in the social and business environment and the economy to measure progress of the plan. SCAD provides all necessary data and statistics and it is one of the most trustworthy players involved in achieving the vision for 2030.

What are the advantages of SCAD’s recent MoU with the Italian National Institute?

SCAD has signed several MoUs with key international statistical agencies. The first international agreement was signed with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in February 2011 and Statistics Korea (KOSTAT) in September 2012. This year we signed a MoU with the Federal Statistical Office of the Federal Republic of Germany (Destatis), and most recently with the National Institute of Statistics of Italy (Istat) in May 2014. The aim of international cooperation is to boost the technical know-how in statistics especially within the younger generation of UAE Nationals. Building these alliances has supported SCAD’s success in hosting the Conference of International Association for Official Statistics (IAOS) to be held in Abu Dhabi in 2016. By raising SCAD’s profile internationally and with the transfer of knowledge and experience gained through our international partnerships, we hope for further success in bidding to host the International Statistical Institute World Statistics Congress (WSC ISI) 2021. Learning from other statistical agencies is essential for SCAD to meet its ambitious targets. It translates the vision of HH Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and HH General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, and Chairman of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi. SCAD is striving to achieve this vision by raising its image in the international arena. I believe SCAD is considered one of the best offices regionally and we are trying to offer our experiences and support to other offices in the region. Ultimately, we need the know-how and technical skills from our international partners to elevate SCAD to be one of the top statistical agencies globally.

How do you see your relationship with foreign investors in general?

Foreign investors in the private sector represent a significant component of the economy. Building a sustainable economy relies upon mutual cooperation between the public sector and the private sector. When the private sector is strong, the public sector will be strong. We do not want to have any weak areas. We are working toward strengthening our partnership with the private sector through workshops and other projects. In our relationship with the private sector, it is important for SCAD to build positive relationships through various initiatives. It is planned to share our five-year strategy for 2015-2019 with not only the public sector, but also with the private sector. If there are specific indicators that are critical for the private sector, then SCAD will work toward providing such indicators. It is important to extend our support and build trust within the private sector. When we have strong trust, I think we will have a strong relationship. You cannot accomplish everything by law.

© The Business Year – September 2014

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