The fire at the Financial Complex on Saturday destroyed data collected as part of this year's census. (Photo: searchlight.vc)

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – It has been confirmed, another census will be conducted to determine the nation’s population because the fire at the Financial Complex on Saturday destroyed data collected this year.

“… the Director of Planning, who has suzerainty over that process, … she simply tells me that we have to do over the census,” Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told Parliament on Tuesday.

Gonsalves said that census workers, having completed their fieldwork over a four-month period, were last week moving to hire persons to input data in preparation for analysis.

“Sadly, on the information available to me, the bulk of the material, or at least a significant portion of the raw material, [was destroyed],” he said.

Gonsalves noted that June is census month regionally and added, “… there are timing issues, technical issues, which are connected to holding a census”.

He said he and public servants would discuss whether the fieldwork could be done before next June.

“Hopefully, those who have done the census before, they would be able to do it faster and better because they had a run, so to speak, not too long ago,” Gonsalves said.

He further suggested that his government would consider training additional fieldworkers to reduce data collection time to about two months.

Gonsalves underscored the importance of the census data “ for all sorts of socio-economic purposes”.

“… and also it’s a legal requirement and a provision in the Constitution connects with the census: that is to say, the issue of constituency boundaries and the like. So the census is of real importance,” he told lawmakers.

Gonsalves, who is also Minister of Finance, said about EC$1 million of the EC$1.5 million budgeted for the census has already been spent.

“So, it has a cost. But more important than the cost is the delay and we have to get on it as swiftly as we can and to move with expedition,” he said.

Gonsalves further told Parliament that banana farmers can expect to receive their black sigatoka assistance and income support payouts today, Wednesday, while plantain farmers would to be paid by Monday.

He said the process was affected by the fire, which was contained to a small section of the third-floor of the five-floor building.

Smoke and water have disrupted operations on other sections of the building and the government has rented 8,000 square feet of floor space at the Reigate Building to house the offices affected.

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