Atalig: Data is everything


The CNMI could greatly benefit from data collected by the 2020 Census, specifically in the fields of finance, education, and policy-making, according to Finance Secretary David Atalig.

With the 2020 Census preparing to kick off as early as spring 2020, the data that will be collected is essential for a government to make the necessary decisions, Atalig said.

“Census data for federal grants is very important. It is very important for the distribution of resources in terms of communities and precincts,” Atalig told Saipan Tribune in an interview.

Board of Education chair Janice Tenorio believes the data could also be used to determine where the Public School System could build its campuses to greatly benefit residents.

Several government agencies, according to Atalig, use federal grants to partially or even fully fund programs offered to the community.

“A lot of federal agencies that give grants use our census data as a formulary to give us an amount that we can generate from the federal government,” he added.

“Census information is essential on how we appropriate which areas need more [resources]. …It is helpful to have that data. …We use that data to help us be fair to the whole community,” Atalig said.

For PSS, Tenorio told Saipan Tribune that census data is very useful when it comes to knowing which precincts are the densest in terms of student population.

“[We can use] the census data to prepare for future expansion, or even to minimize classroom area,” she said.

Tenorio added that the census would be collecting demographic information that is useful to PSS, including the number of children in a household, their ages, and their location.

“This is great information in regards to expanding or narrowing our school zones. We would know…[whether there should be] more high schools, middle schools, or others,” she said. “This data could really pinpoint if we need to recruit [teachers] or build classrooms.,”

Acting governor Arnold Palacios noted in a previous speech that census data is essential for appropriating resources and determining policy decisions. “The census paints the characteristics of our community,” he said. “A lot of times, as leaders, we make decisions. A lot of times, we don’t have that information to make [better] decisions,” he said.

Palacios added that the effectiveness of policies would highly depend on census data.

“A lot of times, we introduce legislation…without those information. We don’t know how many people reside in the southern part of the island, and where the hospitals, dispensaries, and schools ought to be built,” he added.

“In the wake of my passion to grab resources for my precinct, I sometimes forget that there are people who live [on other parts of the island],” he said, adding that he believes that the data from the census could be used for a better community altogether.

Erwin Encinares | Reporter
Erwin Charles Tan Encinares holds a bachelor’s degree from the Chiang Kai Shek College and has covered a wide spectrum of assignments for the Saipan Tribune. Encinares is the paper’s political reporter.
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