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

By Ms. Adelheid Burgi-Schmelz, Director, Statistics Department, IMF
Tuesday, October 19, 2010, Washington, DC

As prepared for delivery

1. Thank you for the colorful introduction! We are coming to the conclusion of this morning. I would like to thank everyone for joining us in celebrating the World Statistics Day. We truly appreciate your presence this morning to join us in our celebration. I would also like to thank our guest speakers Dr. Sojo, Dr. Sen, and Prof. Deaton for their excellent presentations. Let me also thank my great colleague Shaida Badiee, who, I dare say, is a true dynamo when it comes to reforming the world statistical system. A big thank you, Shaida, to you and both of our teams— it is always rewarding to collaborate across the street!

2. You will all agree with me that we have had a very valuable and useful discussion. We heard very open and insightful thoughts from two senior officials—Sri Mulyani Indrawati, Managing Director World Bank, and Mr. Portugal, Deputy Managing Director, IMF. The dialogue with all of you and our guest speakers was also extremely valuable and provided us with plenty of food for thought—which is very convenient to have right before lunch!

3. Let me briefly summarize what I take away from this:

4. One message is that we need to address the data gaps and in particular improve information on Systemically Important Global Financial Institutions (SIGFIs). This will require resources and strong political will, particularly in striking an appropriate balance between confidentiality of data and transparency. The IMF Statistics Department accords high priority to this work.

5. Another message is that we need to broaden the range of datasets for enhanced policy making. To this end, and as Mr. Portugal has mentioned in his opening remarks, the IMF has launched various initiatives such as the Financial Soundness Indicators, the Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey, the Coordinated Direct Investment Survey, and the Financial Access Survey.

6. Another message is that we need to do more in disseminating information to the general public. The IMF work on the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS), the Principal Global Indicators (PGI), and the World Bank Open Data initiative are cited as major contributions. On the latter, let me applaud the World Bank for this important initiative and say that I really wished we had a similar approach at the IMF!

7. The messages from our guest speakers and the discussion range from seven challenges, the understanding of the WSD, statistics vs. regulators to successes. It is such a pleasure to have the usually humble statistical community reflect upon its successes! Usually, the focus is on outstanding tasks only.

We also talked about data disclosure and research activities in an NSO.

8. But the key message though is that official statistics has worked hard to define standards that allow for internationally comparable statistics. The Consumer Price Index goes back to the 1920s; the GDP was developed in the 1940s and refined continuously through collaboration around the globe.

9. For all these concepts to carry proper fruits, a high level of professionalism and integrity of statisticians in national and international agencies is required. In this regards, the UN Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics, established in the 1990s, are a major achievement. They are the foundation for the global community of official statistics uniting a rich diversity of cultural, economic and political backgrounds to produce the public good called official statistics.

10. All countries should be able to benefit from these achievements concerning standard setting and professionalism. This is why the IMF is providing training and technical assistance in statistics to virtually all of its 187 member countries.

11. Finally, we must not forget the big picture: We have plenty of reasons to be proud of all the relevant and high quality statistics that are being produced every day all over the world to provide transparency, to monitor progress of societies and to help shape policies around the globe!

12. Please keep this in mind even after leaving this joint IMF/World Bank World Statistics Day celebration. Again, thank you all for attending, and we count on you to be good ambassadors for statistics!


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