IMF Workshop Outlines Japanese-Funded Project to Assist Asian Countries Develop Government Finance Statistics (GFS) Systems

Press Release No. 12/103
March 23, 2012

The International Monetary Fund (IMF), which has launched a three-year project to boost the capacity of 12 Asian countries to produce higher quality data for the Government Finance Statistics (GFS) systems, conducted an inaugural workshop in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 19-21 with statisticians and economists from all the countries concerned. The workshop also identified technical cooperation and assistance to be provided by the IMF as part of the initiative, which is being funded by the Government of Japan through a technical assistance account administered by the IMF. The project is expected to eventually accommodate technical assistance in some 20 countries from the Asia region and from Pacific Island countries.

Dr. Somchai Sujjapongse, Director-General of the Fiscal Policy Office in the Thai Ministry of Finance and Dr. Nutavoot Pongsiri, Assistant Governor at the Bank of Thailand welcomed the opportunity to host the workshop in Thailand and launch the project for Asian countries from Bangkok. “The project’s focus on coordinated statistical capacity building across international, regional, and national organizations will pay dividends for participating countries,” noted Dr. Sujjapongse. Dr. Pongsiri added that GFS compiled in accordance to international standards provide an important framework for analyzing and evaluating fiscal policy, as well as an opportunity to improve government and public sector performance.

Ms. Adelheid Burgi-Schmelz, Director of the IMF’s Statistics Department, noted that “as part of the project, the IMF will provide hands-on assistance through visits by experts to participating countries, combined with workshops to provide practical training and allow countries to share experiences.” Mr. Sonam Wangdi, a participant from Bhutan, welcomed the opportunity to work on improving their fiscal data according to international standards, based on a coordinated plan stretching over three years.

During this inaugural workshop, country representatives from Thailand, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam discussed and defined project objectives, and prepared a detailed work plan to guide each country. IMF staff shared their expertise in developing systems for compiling GFS and government debt statistics. Technical assistance needs were drawn up based on national priorities and work planned or already underway. This work reflects the recent initiative to utilize GFSM 2001 methodology in reporting systems for fiscal statistics that would be compatible with international standards and best practices, and consistent with other macroeconomic statistical systems.

At the workshop, presentations by participants on their current fiscal data compilation practices showed that Asian countries have fiscal data that vary in degrees of coverage, timeliness, and consistency with international standards. Usually, the timeliest data follow national presentations, while internationally comparable data are available with considerable delay or not at all. In participating countries, the project will support the improvement in production of timely data on government finances, including debt and financial balance sheets. Participants used the workshop as an opportunity to identify priority areas for basic fiscal statistics development. They also explored possible action plans to fill the data gaps in their fiscal reporting as a prerequisite to building capacity needed for moving forward with a phased migration to more comprehensive GFS-compliant systems.



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