Opening Remarks at the IMF-World Bank Celebrations of the World Statistics Day

By Murilo Portugal, Deputy Managing Director, IMF
Tuesday, October 19, 2010, Washington, DC

As prepared for delivery


1. Good morning. It is a pleasure to participate in the celebration of the World Statistics Day. I would like to join my colleague Ms. Indrawati in extending a warm welcome to our distinguished speakers and participants. The World Bank and the Fund are not only major consumers of statistics, but also producers and disseminators of data. I am delighted to note that several joint data initiatives are currently being implemented—thanks to the good leadership and collaboration of our colleagues Ms. Shaida Badiee and Ms. Adelheid Burgi-Schmelz, heads of the statistical departments of the Bank and Fund respectively. Thank you and your teams for very important services to the international community!

2. The commemoration of the World Statistics Day presents an opportunity to celebrate the many achievements of official statistics and the core values of service, integrity and professionalism, and also a time to speak of hopes and aspirations, about our purposes and goals for the future. A time to thank our colleagues for their good work in producing and disseminating the data we need for wise decision-making. The official statistical community has made a great deal of progress in developing a methodologically consistent economic and financial statistics system covering traditional datasets, and in developing and implementing a number of important data transparency initiatives. This has brought great benefits to policy makers and analysts in terms of the availability, comparability, and broad consistency of data across countries.

3. In the Fund several initiatives are worth highlighting. I would mention the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) established in March 1996 to guide countries that have, or seek to have access to international capital markets, in providing their economic and financial data to the public. The General Data Dissemination System (GDDS), established in December 1997 to guide our member countries in developing plans for statistical improvements. Both have been very successful. As of today, there are 68 countries that are SDDS subscribers and 97 countries that are GDDS participants, accounting altogether for about 88 percent of our membership. In 2009, the Principal Global Indicators (PGI) website was established, as a joint effort of several international institutions represented at the Inter-Agency Group on Economic and Financial Statistics (including the Bank and the Fund). The aim is to bring data series for the G-20 economies on a common platform. Other successful initiatives include the work on the Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey, the Coordinated Foreign Direct Investment Survey, and the Financial Soundness Indicators.

4. I would like to acknowledge the excellent collaboration we have with the Bank in setting international statistical standards, as attested by a number of initiatives: the publication of the new System of National Accounts (SNA 2008), the Balance of Payments and International Position Manual (BPM6), the External Debt Statistics Guide, the International Transactions in Remittances Guide, the work on developing a Public Sector Debt Statistics Guide, just to name a few. I am also pleased to note that our two institutions have a very well established and fruitful collaboration on the International Comparison Program (ICP), which aims to produce GDP data calculated at purchasing power parity exchange rates. These efforts, together with the work on the Data Quality Assessment Framework, have helped improve comparability of data across countries.

5. Some of these initiatives were the result of the spate of emerging market financial crises that happened in the second half of the 1990s, starting with the Mexican crisis. We are now recovering from a much worse and devastating global financial crisis that has inflicted tremendous costs around the world, and which served as a humbling experience and wakeup call for most of us, and I believe including for statisticians. I would, therefore, like to make some remarks on the financial sector and, in particular the data gaps revealed by the financial crisis.

6. While the crisis did not happen because lack of data, it revealed serious data gaps in key areas that might have helped the authorities to measure, understand and respond better to risks to the international financial system. Even for the most advanced statistical systems, such as in Europe and North America, the crisis highlighted “black holes” in data that now need to be addressed.

7. The Group of Twenty (G-20) Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors has recognized the need to close data gaps that were revealed by the crisis, and asked the IMF and the Financial Stability Board to identify and develop a strategy to close these gaps. The IMF and the FSB reported back to the G-20 Ministers of Finance and Central Bank Governors at their meeting in November 2009, identifying a number of topics for further work:

  • The need to enhance data availability both to identify the build-up of risk in the banking sector, and to improve coverage in those non-bank segments of the financial sector, where data reporting is not well established.

  • The need to improve data on international financial connections and linkages of Systemically Important Global Financial Institutions (SIFIs), as well as a strengthening of data gathering initiatives on cross-border banking flows, and investment positions and exposures.

  • The need to enhance data on sectoral balance sheets and flow of funds data, including timely and cross-country standardized and comparable government finance statistics, and data on real estate prices, whose compilation is uneven across countries and which were highly relevant to the global financial crisis.

  • The need to promote effective and more timely communication of official statistics to enhance awareness of available data for policy purposes.

8. Closing these gaps involve an important and heavy work agenda for the years to come. We need to make the world statistical system more robust and better equipped to cope with the new and diverse needs and sources for data. Certainly, additional resources will be needed to improve the ability of the regulatory and statistical agencies to collect the necessary micro data. In some cases, there will also be a need for strengthened legislative frameworks to create an appropriate balance between confidentiality of data and transparency. It is imperative that data collection efforts particularly on global financial networks recognize international dimensions and seek appropriate participation from regulators worldwide, specially in jurisdictions with significant financial centers. The task before us, therefore, requires strong international coordination, collaboration, and cooperation. But I am sure that by working together, we can lay the foundations for a sound and stronger world statistical system.

9. I wish to conclude by extending congratulations to our colleagues who dedicate their effort to ensure that we have reliable and timely data.

Thank you



IMF EXTERNAL RELATIONS DEPARTMENT

Public Affairs    Media Relations
E-mail: publicaffairs@imf.org E-mail: media@imf.org
Fax: 202-623-6220 Phone: 202-623-7100