Reports on Observance of Standards and
1. The principal standard against which the transparency of Albania's macroeconomic and socio-demographic data is assessed is the IMF's General Data Dissemination System (GDDS).2 The primary focus of the GDDS is on presenting a framework for evaluating the need for data improvements, prioritizing such improvements, and providing guidance on data dissemination. The GDDS emphasizes the development of core statistical frameworks and indicators; some supplementary aggregates are also encouraged. The focus on data quality recognizes the fact that for many countries improvements in data quality are a necessary precursor to enhanced dissemination of data to the public.
2. The GDDS places emphasis on following sound practices in four dimensions:
4. Albania has decided to participate in the GDDS and is committed to using the GDDS to develop its statistical systems. A GDDS coordinator has been appointed, and the preparation of its metadata, including plans for improvement, has been completed.
5. The coverage, periodicity, and timeliness for macroeconomic data in Albania are summarized and contrasted with GDDS recommendations in Table 1. As regards the quality of data, including their integrity and accessibility features, an experimental framework identifying six key aspects by which to judge the data has been developed by the staff and is presented in the Box and Table 2.4
6. The data meet GDDS recommendations on coverage, periodicity, and timeliness, except for national accounts, monthly industrial production index (IPI), and the quarterly wage data. No official national accounts statistics have been compiled. A well defined work program has been developed to strengthen the Institute of Statistics' (INSTAT) institutional capacity to compute national accounts, based on the 1993 System of National Accounts (SNA93). However, the production and publication of annual GDP data by industrial origin and expenditure at current and constant prices in line with GDDS recommendations remains a medium-term objective. In respect of both the monthly industrial production index and wage data, coverage is limited to the public sector, although both periodicity and timeliness conform to the GDDS recommendations. The consumer price index is produced monthly following international guidelines, and on a timely basis. Dissemination of data is occasionally delayed due to problems with the printing process. The posting of data on INSTAT's website, which is currently under development, should improve the timeliness of dissemination.
7. Compiled data meet GDDS recommendations on coverage, periodicity, and timeliness. However, the national presentation and classification of data for central government operations, which reflect administrative and operational purposes, are not in accordance with A Manual on Government Finance Statistics, 1986 (GFSM). With technical assistance from the IMF, the Ministry of Finance (MOF) is currently working on a new and more detailed classification of revenue and expenditure by economic and functional category. As regards central government debt, work is well advanced to improve the transparency and usability of the data through the separate presentation of arrears and guaranteed debt, as well as the presentation of data by maturity and currency.
8. The data for the banking system meet GDDS recommendations on coverage, periodicity, and timeliness. However, interest rate data, except for treasury bills which are disseminated online through the Bank of Albania's (BOA) Reuters page, do not meet the timeliness recommendation of the GDDS. This is because interest rates are disseminated in the Monthly Statistical Report (MSR), which has a two-month publication lag. This shortcoming is expected to be addressed when the BOA posts the financial sector data on its website.
9. The compilation of balance of payments aggregates generally follows the IMF's Balance of Payments Manual, fifth edition (BPM5) and meets the GDDS recommendations on periodicity and timeliness. Coverage of several components of the balance of payments, however, is deficient largely because of weaknesses in basic source data. Work on a number of fronts is underway to improve source data, although some results, especially those tied to surveys, will be realized only in the medium-term. Currently, the BOA relies on a variety of estimates to circumvent the shortcomings in coverage. The timeliness of international reserves data is affected by the three-month publication lag of the BOA's Quarterly Statistics Bulletin (QSB). Exchange rate data are posted daily on the BOA's Reuters page. As with the financial sector data, the timeliness of the external sector data, particularly for international reserves, will be significantly improved when the BOA begins to disseminate data on its website.
10. INSTAT compiles and disseminates indicators on population, health, education, and poverty. INSTAT plans to conduct a new population census in 2001, which will provide updated benchmarks for a number of socio-demographic indicators, and has begun a number of programs aimed at improving administrative efficiency and permitting the reporting of additional indicators. INSTAT is also committed to improve the timeliness of disseminated data through its forthcoming website.
11. Three agencies are primarily responsible for the production and dissemination of data covered by the GDDS - INSTAT, MOF, and the BOA. The dissemination of most data is carried out as a public service. All three agencies currently disseminate data through various publications, which are available (with and without charge) by subscription.
12. INSTAT, the national statistical agency of Albania, operates according to the National Assembly Law of Statistics in the Republic of Albania No. 7687 (Law of Statistics), dated March 16, 1993, and Decision No. 97 of the Council of Ministers, On Organization and Functioning of the Albanian Institute of Statistics, dated March 15, 1994. Under the provisions of the law, INSTAT is required to collect, process, and publish statistical results, in compliance with the National Statistical Program (NSP) and in accordance with international standards. By law, all statistical information collected by INSTAT is confidential and can only be used or published in aggregated form and on an anonymous basis. Staff are subject to fines and other administrative sanctions if confidential data are revealed. Individual data cannot be used for purposes of fiscal control, economic repression, or juridical investigation.
13. Statistical data in Albania are collected also by statistical directorates in the districts, statistical directorates (divisions) in government ministries and other central government institutions, and civil registration offices. These statistical bodies are responsible for implementing the statistical programs of their institutions and collecting statistical information relevant to their work. Recognizing the need for closer coordination and collaboration among all statistical agencies, the authorities recently established the Council of Statistics to formulate Albania's statistical policy, including the development of programs and the setting of priorities.
14. The MOF is responsible for compiling and disseminating data for central government operations and central government external debt. The Organic Budget Law of July 29, 1998 authorizes the Minister of Finance to specify accounting procedures and reporting requirements for government institutions. It also requires the Minister of Finance to present to the Council of Ministers and the Parliament a final statement of accounts by the end of June of each year and a statement on the government debt (foreign and domestic) situation twice a year. In keeping with the increased emphasis on the dissemination of data among users, the MOF has begun producing the Fiscal Statistics of Government (FSG), which contains short-period fiscal data for consolidated central government. Annual and monthly summary data in accordance with the GFSM will be published in the FSG, beginning with the first quarter 2000 issue.
15. The BOA is responsible for producing and disseminating data on the financial sector and the external sector. The law "On the Bank of Albania," No. 8269 of 1997, requires (a) all banks, institutions, juridical and physical persons to deliver statistical data in accordance with the reporting system approved by the BOA; and (b) the BOA to prepare periodic analyses on economic and monetary matters, publish the outcomes and submit proposals and measures to the Government. As regards confidentiality, BOA administrators, employees, and agents are prohibited from disclosing, or transferring to a third party any information obtained during the performance of their BOA duties, or using or allowing the use of such information for personal gain.
16. According to the Law of Statistics, all institutions of the public sector (general government and public enterprises) as well as private enterprises with 10 or more employees must report statistical information to INSTAT as part of the NSP. Data for government operations, covering both central and local governments, are compiled from administrative records of MOF's Treasury Department (TD) and returns from Social and Health Care Insurance Institutes and data for government debt are compiled from administrative records of the MOF's Debt Department and the BOA.
17. Data for monetary aggregates are based on the monthly balance sheets and other accounting records of the BOA and the commercial banks. As regards the external sector, data for the components of the BOP are compiled from administrative records and surveys obtained mainly from the General Directorate of Customs, government agencies, BOA, and commercial banks.
18. Incomplete or weak source data mean that estimates have to be made in compiling real and external sector statistics and socio-demographic indicators. Data on births and deaths from the vital registration offices are adjusted for consistency with other demographic indicators; population is estimated on the basis of statistics on live births and deaths and assumptions on migration flows; and employment in agriculture is estimated from available indicators such as production and area cultivated. For the balance of payments, the BOA makes adjustments to the customs data and estimates direct investment and informal imports of goods to address weaknesses in coverage due to inadequate source data. However, no statistical or seasonal adjustments are made to the central government operations and financial data.
19. With regard to the provision of information that allows users to assess aspects of the quality of data, INSTAT has published summaries of compilation methodologies for most of the indicators that it publishes and the BOA provides notes to the monetary and balance of payments tables as part of its QSB. There is no public dissemination of the compilation methodology for fiscal data, but the MOF has plans to issue descriptions of the methodology in its forthcoming release of fiscal data. With the important exception of national accounts for which there is no compiled data, the data disseminated by the agencies are presented in component detail and time series to permit users to assess the reasonableness of data.
20. The macroeconomic data produced by the three agencies are checked for intersectoral consistency. All systems apply the BPM5 residency criterion and SNA93's economic sectorization of accounts. In particular, the BOA uses the same balance sheet data from the commercial banks in compiling the balance of payments and the monetary statistics, thus ensuring identical instrument and institutional coverage. The balance of payments data on reserves are checked for consistency with the foreign asset position of the banking system, and fiscal financing data are reconciled with financial sector claims on and liabilities to the government. Similarly, government debt and official flows data are reconciled with the balance of payments.
21. The statistical agencies have begun to further strengthen data consistency through the use of common data sources and regular reconciliation of data both within and among agencies. The MOF and BOA have plans to improve the database for foreign loans, develop a database for private sector foreign debt, and establish an electronic link between the BOA and the MOF. The BOA plans to use INSTAT's Business Register and the results of INSTAT's Structural Survey and Household Budget Survey to improve estimates of some components of the balance of payments. As regards data reconciliation, the data from the MOF's Treasury and Debt Departments are reconciled on a monthly basis, as are data between the Debt Department and foreign creditors and the domestic commercial banks. The BOA also reconciles its balance sheet data with corresponding data in the commercial banks' and the MOF's records.
22. Recently, the Albanian authorities have placed considerable emphasis on articulating principles and establishing practices with respect to data integrity and access to the data by the public. INSTAT began publishing an advance release calendar in 1999, and will continue to do so at the beginning of each year. The calendar covers real sector indicators, socio-demographic data, and the external trade statistics published by INSTAT. The calendar is disseminated in the publication Calendar of Publication and is usually updated in June. The BOA and MOF are currently developing advance release calendars for their publications. The BOA plans to post its advance release calendar on its website, with the initial release of the calendar announced in the Monthly Statistical Report. In the case of MOF, an advance release calendar for the next four quarterly issues will be regularly included in the FSG, beginning with the issue for the First Quarter 2000.
23. All statistical agencies release statistical data simultaneously to all users through press releases and periodicals; the BOA disseminates higher frequency data on exchange rates and treasury bill rates to subscribers of the Reuters online service. No outside agencies have access to the data before they are released and there are no ministerial commentaries on the data released by INSTAT and the BOA at the time of release.
24. With Albania's transition to a market economy in 1992, and despite the severe disruptions during the civil unrest of 1997, its statistical system is progressing toward meeting the needs of both official and private users of statistics. Under the impetus of Albania's decision to participate in the GDDS, as well as technical assistance provided by the IMF and others, the BOA, MOF, and INSTAT have enhanced their capability to compile and disseminate statistics that meet, and in many instances exceed, the recommendations of the GDDS. Among the notable recent improvements in dissemination are the publication of an advance release calendar and an increasing number of regular and special statistical bulletins by INSTAT, the publication of the FSG by the MOF, and the use of press releases by INSTAT, MOF, and the BOA to ensure more timely release of data. Data dissemination should improve significantly in the short-term as the respective agencies utilize the Internet as a dissemination mode. Although the principles and practices with respect to data integrity and access to the data by the public are relatively new in Albania, current practices are generally consistent with the GDDS objectives.
25. The area of greatest concern for Albania's statistics, and consequently the one demanding urgent action is national accounts--no official national accounts are compiled. However, INSTAT is developing a methodology for compiling national accounts based on SNA93, in accordance with a well-defined work program formulated with assistance from the IMF. New data sources, such as well designed surveys, and improved statistical techniques that capture transactions both in the formal private sector and in the informal sector are crucial to overcome the inadequacies in the coverage and quality of the data for both the national accounts and balance of payments statistics. These deficiencies are also common to other countries in transition.
26. Against this background, the authorities should aim to strengthen the legal framework by clarifying the responsibilities of the official statistical agencies, enforcing compliance of both private and public sectors with the provisions of the NSP, and revising the report forms, with a view to increasing administrative efficiency and expanding the range of statistical indicators. Sustained action to improve the functioning of the INSTAT would also help the compilation of the major components of the balance of payments, which rely on estimation methods to overcome problems in coverage. In that regard, the authorities are committed under the current Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility to strengthening the staffing of INSTAT and introducing new legislation on statistics. Given the detailed plans, drawn up by the authorities in cooperation with the Fund staff, to develop their statistical system within the framework of the GDDS, and the authorities' track record of implementing their work programs, there is a strong prospect that the needed improvements will come sooner rather than later.