IMF Executive Board Discusses Eighth Review of Data Standards

Public Information Notice (PIN) No. 12/18
February 24, 2012

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On February 22, 2012, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) discussed the Eighth Review of the Fund’s Data Standards Initiatives.

Background

The Eighth Review of the Fund’s Data Standards Initiatives follows recent IMF Executive Board discussions at the time of the Seventh Review of the Fund’s Data Standards Initiatives in December 2008; its discussion on broadening financial indicators in the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS--see Public Information Notice No. 10/41) in March 2010, which led to modifications of the SDDS and the General Data Dissemination System (GDDS); and the Interim Report for this Eighth Review in February 2011. In March 2010 the IMF Executive Board agreed to accelerate the timing of the Eighth Review of the Fund’s Data Standards Initiatives to within 24 months―at least a year and a half earlier than previously anticipated.

The global financial crisis has highlighted areas for statistical development, especially for countries with systemically important global financial sectors. The report explored the possibility to create an SDDS Plus as part of the Fund’s Data Standards Initiatives. The SDDS Plus would be an upper tier of the Fund’s Data Standards Initiatives to help address data gaps identified during the global financial crisis. The SDDS Plus proposal takes into account the ongoing work in the context of the Data Gaps Initiative of the Group of 20 economies to fill data gaps highlighted by the crisis and promotes transparency through data dissemination. Improved data standards would further contribute to the Fund’s work to strengthen bilateral and cross-country surveillance. The SDDS Plus proposal was designed to be fully consistent with the Fund’s mandate on the stability of the international monetary system and on surveillance, and aimed to support other Fund initiatives.

The SDDS was established in 1996 to provide guidance on disseminating data to the public for countries that have or might seek access to international capital markets. There are 69 subscribers to the SDDS, an increase of five since the Seventh Review. Although subscription is voluntary, subscribers undertake to follow the SDDS requirements on the coverage, periodicity, and timeliness of national statistics under 19 SDDS data categories. Subscribers must disseminate advance release calendars (ARCs), giving the public prior notice when these data will be disseminated. Subscribers also update and certify their stated practices (also referred to as "metadata") on the coverage, periodicity, and timeliness of the data, as well as on integrity, access by the public, and other aspects of data quality. The Fund posts this information about subscribers' data dissemination practices on its Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB) at http://dsbb.imf.org. Subscribers are also required to maintain an internet website that contains the most recent releases of the data, referred to as a National Summary Data Page (NSDP), and to which the DSBB is electronically linked. The Fund uses the NSDP to monitor whether subscribers' data releases meet SDDS requirements. Annual reports on subscribers' observance of these requirements are also posted on the DSBB.

Discussions of the report included several proposals for the SDDS to prescribe hyperlinks to longer time series and more detailed data via the National Summary Data Pages (NSDP), set timelines in the context of the SDDS nonobservance procedures, and streamline the SDDS by adding structure to the Forward Looking Indicators and deleting the ARC flexibility options.

The GDDS was established in 1997 as a developmental framework for national statistical systems to meet the evolving requirements of the user community. Through its plans for improvement of statistics, the GDDS also promotes a systematic approach to national statistical development as well as helping to focus and coordinate the efforts of providers of statistical technical assistance. The DSBB contains the data dissemination practices and detailed plans for improvement of the 104 countries and territories participating in the GDDS. This is an increase of 10 countries since the Seventh Review. Ten countries have graduated from the GDDS to the SDDS since the inception of the GDDS.

Executive Board Assessment

Executive Directors considered the review of the Fund’s Data Standards Initiatives appropriate and timely, and noted that these initiatives have contributed to strengthening data quality and transparency. They considered proposals for further enhancing the SDDS and the creation of the SDDS Plus as a new tier under these initiatives, given the need to fill data gaps to help prevent and mitigate financial crises. Directors expressed broad satisfaction with developments in the data standards initiatives since the Seventh Review of the Fund’s Data Standards Initiatives in December 2008.

Directors broadly supported the proposed enhancements to the SDDS. They saw merit in enhancing the SDDS by adding hyperlinks on the NSDP to time series for all data categories. Most Directors supported the introduction of a more structured timeline to strengthen the credibility of the nonobservance procedure. Most Directors also supported proposals to streamline the SDDS, by structuring Forward Looking Indicators and deleting ARC flexibility options. In this context, Directors supported terminating the posting of the SDDS quarterly update on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board.

Directors encouraged members to continue their efforts to strengthen participation in the GDDS, including by further increasing participation and by encouraging participants to update annually their plans for improvement. Directors also agreed with the proposal to better leverage plans for focusing further and prioritizing the delivery of technical assistance in statistics. They looked forward to the graduation of additional countries from the GDDS to the SDDS as national statistical systems strengthen, while recognizing that progress in this area is likely to proceed at a measured pace. In this regard, Directors highlighted the importance of continued outreach efforts and well-prioritized technical assistance. A few Directors raised a concern about the resource implications that data initiatives for advanced economies may have on GDDS participants.

Directors broadly supported developing concrete proposals on the data categories and modalities of the SDDS Plus since the Interim Report for the Eighth Review in February 2011. They were encouraged to note that the proposed data categories and the modalities were developed in collaboration with other international institutions and capital markets, and were guided by feedback from SDDS subscribers and some GDDS participants.

Directors generally supported the nine additional data categories, especially for countries with systemically important global financial sectors, although many Directors saw merit in more flexibility for reporting and inclusion of certain categories. Directors supported the introduction of transition periods for certain categories to accommodate country-specific circumstances. In this context, Directors supported a transition period through end-2019.

Directors underscored the importance of continuing close collaboration with national authorities and relevant international bodies—in particular the Financial Stability Board, the Bank for International Settlements, and the Inter-Agency Group on Economic and Financial Statistics—for the resolution of any procedural and operational issues that may arise in the future.

In light of today’s discussion, updated SDDS and new SDDS Plus legal texts will be prepared by staff and submitted to the Executive Board in the second half of 2012 for approval. Upon approval, the SDDS Plus initiative would be officially launched and countries would be able to indicate their intention to adhere to the SDDS Plus initiative. Directors generally agreed that the next review of the Fund’s Data Standards Initiatives should take place in about two years.



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