Selected Decisions and Selected Documents of the IMF, Thirty- Eighth Issue -- Summing Up by the Acting Chairman—General Data Dissemination System, Executive Board Meeting 97/125, December 19, 1997Prepared by the Legal Department of the IMF
As updated as of February 29, 2016
|ARTICLE VIII, SECTION 5|
|Furnishing of Information|
Summing Up by the Acting Chairman—General Data Dissemination System
Executive Board Meeting 97/125, December 19, 1997
Executive Directors welcomed the report provided in SM/97/275 and the staff proposal for the establishment of the General Data Dissemination System (GDDS). They recognized that the establishment of the GDDS was an important step for all Fund members not only in providing guidance in the provision of data to the public, but also in encouraging improvements in the quality and accessibility of economic, financial, and socio-demographic data.
In light of the above considerations, the Executive Board approved today the establishment of the GDDS, whose scope, operational characteristics, and mode of implementation are set forth in the revised draft Annex V of SM/97/275, Correction 1.
Executive Directors generally agreed with the purposes and orientation of the GDDS. In particular, Directors supported a system that recognized that for many countries improvements in data quality were a necessary precursor to enhanced dissemination of data to the public. The GDDS was seen as a useful framework for development of a broad range of statistics, including major macroeconomic and financial data, as well as socio-demographic indicators.
Directors endorsed the staff’s proposals concerning implementation by countries of the General System. They agreed that participation in the GDDS should be voluntary, and they supported the three elements of participation: commitment to use the GDDS as a framework for statistical development; designation of a country coordinator to work with the Fund; and development of metadata. The metadata were considered important as a means for identifying strengths and weaknesses in existing data systems, developing plans for improving data, and providing users with a means for assessing countries’ practices and developmental plans against the objectives recommended by the General System. As the GDDS was recognized as a long-term exercise for many countries, the metadata were also seen as useful for tracking counties’ improvements over time. The recommendation in the GDDS to focus primarily on a set of core frameworks and indicators, supplemented by encouraged data systems and categories, was viewed as useful, as it made the General System relevant to a very broad range of countries and provided a clear set of links between the GDDS and the SDDS. These links would be particularly helpful to countries that wished to use participation in the GDDS as a step toward subscription to the SDDS.
A few Directors suggested a number of additions to the core data specifications of the GDDS, including in the areas of national accounts, and more fiscal data, including off-budget transactions, and the accounts of local and regional governments. The staff will explore these suggestions and report in the context of the next review of the GDDS.
Most Directors supported inclusion in the GDDS of a set of socio-demographic indicators because of the importance of these data in assessing economic developments in many of the likely participating countries. However, some Directors reiterated that the responsibility for development of social indicators should be left primarily to other international organizations, and some expressed doubts regarding the appropriateness of inclusion of these data in the GDDS. Directors agreed that there should be close cooperation with regional and other international organizations.
Directors acknowledged the importance of the access and integrity dimensions of the GDDS, as aspects of openness and transparency. The principles embodied in these dimensions were not yet standard practice in many countries, and it was therefore considered appropriate that the GDDS focus on the development of these dimensions in the practices of data compiling and disseminating agencies.
Most Directors supported a phased approach to the implementation of the GDDS that focused first on education and training through development of appropriate documentation and presentation of seminars and workshops. It was recognized that the GDDS was a very ambitious project, both for the Fund and for countries that might wish to participate, and many Directors agreed that a longer-term approach to implementation was appropriate in recognition of the substantial resource costs to the Fund and the resource costs to, and absorptive capacity of, participating countries.
Executive Directors agreed with the staff’s proposal to begin the compilation of metadata on participating countries’ statistical practices and plans for improvement. Most Directors endorsed the proposal that the Fund disseminate these metadata to the public through an electronic bulletin board, as the most efficient means. However, Directors agreed not to preclude other means of communication, given the different situations of members. Directors also pointed out the need to clearly distinguish between the bulletin boards for the GDDS and the SDDS.
I. Purposes and Framework
The purposes of the e-GDDS are (1) to guide member countries in the provision to the public of comprehensive, timely, accessible, and reliable economic, financial, and socio-demographic statistics in a world of increasing economic and financial integration; (2) to provide a framework for evaluating needs for data improvement and dissemination as well as setting capacity development priorities; and (3) to encourage member countries to improve data quality. The e-GDDS framework comprises four dimensions: (a) coverage, periodicity, and timeliness of data; (b) improved access to data by the public; (c) integrity and credibility of the disseminated data; and (d) data quality. For each of the four dimensions, the e-GDDS describes good practices to serve as objectives in the development of national systems of data production and dissemination. Box 1 provides an overview of the four dimensions of the e-GDDS.
II. Dimensions of the e-GDDS
1. Coverage, periodicity, and timeliness of data
Dissemination of reliable, comprehensive, and timely economic, financial and socio-demographic data is essential to the transparency of macroeconomic performance and policy. Thus, the e-GDDS encourages the dissemination of data as described in Table 1.
The focus is on data that are most important in evaluating economic performance in four macroeconomic sectors—real, fiscal, financial, and external—as well as complementary sociodemographic data that shed light on economic development. Table 1 shows the e-GDDS encouraged and supplementary data categories. It also allows a selection of socio-demographic indicators as needed by reporting authorities.
Box 1. The Four Dimensions of the e-GDDS
Table 1. The General Data Dissemination System: Data, Coverage, Periodicity, and Timeliness—Macroeconomic and Financial Sectors and Sociodemographic Data
1 Based on BPM6 categories; BMP5 data should be presented in equivalent detail.
(ii) Periodicity and timeliness
The e-GDDS recognizes the importance of production and dissemination of data that are of appropriately high periodicity and timeliness.
Periodicity refers to the frequency of compilation of the data (that is the relevant period covered by a data observation, i.e., annual, quarterly, monthly, weekly, daily). The periodicity of a data category reflects several factors, including the ease of data collection and compilation and the needs of analysis. The e-GDDS should be viewed as encouraging improvements over time in periodicity of data dissemination (that is higher frequency) that are consistent with improvements in data quality.
Timeliness refers to the speed of dissemination of the data—i.e., the time between a reference date (or the close of the reference period) and dissemination of the data. It reflects many factors, including institutional arrangements, such as the preparation of accompanying commentary.
Dissemination of statistics takes several forms, including:
The intent of the e-GDDS is to encourage improvements over time in the timeliness of data dissemination, consistent with improvements in data quality.
The e-GDDS periodicity and timeliness set out in Table 1 are less stringent than those for the SDDS, except for national accounts and balance of payments, where they are proposed to be the same, given their importance for surveillance.
The e-GDDS objectives for coverage, periodicity, and timeliness are summarized in Table 1. Table 1 specifies two groups of macroeconomic and financial data: (i) encouraged data; and (ii) supplementary data. Countries are encouraged to develop and disseminate all data categories with the indicated periodicity and timeliness regularly. The e-GDDS encourages the use of internationally accepted statistical methodologies (see http://dsbb.imf.org/Pages/SDDS/StatMethod.aspx) for the compilation of data, and countries are encouraged to indicate deviations from these internationally accepted statistical methodologies in their metadata.
(i) Macroeconomic and Financial Data: Encouraged Data Categories
The encouraged comprehensive statistical framework for the real sector is the national accounts, consisting of nominal levels and real (price-adjusted) levels. For price statistics, consumer price indices are encouraged.
For the fiscal sector, the encouraged statistical framework covers the general (central plus state or provincial and local) government.3 As more frequent and timely indicators of the fiscal stance, central government indicators are encouraged. Data for government debt are encouraged in terms of central government debt.
For the financial sector, the encouraged statistical framework is the depository corporations survey (DCS). The DCS is to cover all depository corporations, which include the central bank and all other depository corporations (ODCs). The ODCs, in turn, are to cover resident financial corporations and quasi-corporations that mainly engage in financial intermediation and that issue liabilities included in the national definition of broad money. The data category encouraged to track banking system developments on a timelier basis is the central bank survey.
The encouraged interest rates should cover short- and rates on long-term government securities, as appropriate to the country (e.g., three-month Treasury bill rate and ten-year government bond rate) and a policy-oriented rate, such as the central bank lending rate. Where rates are administratively determined, changes in rates should be disseminated as soon as possible. In countries where a stock market exists, the e-GDDS encourages the dissemination of share price indices.
For the external sector, balance of payments data are the encouraged statistical framework. For more frequent and timely basis, the encouraged data are the official reserve assets and merchandise trade.
The e-GDDS encourages a separate data category for external debt, with the following data components:
With respect to the international investment position (IIP), the e-GDDS encourages the dissemination of annual data (encompassing components consistent with internationally accepted statistical methodologies) within three quarters after the end of the reference year.
The e-GDDS also encourages that spot exchange rates be disseminated to the public on a daily basis. If these are readily available in the media or through online systems, public redissemination may not be needed or may be limited to monthly or preferably weekly, end-period and period average rates.
(ii) Macroeconomic and Financial Data: Supplementary Data
The e-GDDS encourages the dissemination of a single production index or a selection of production indices to track GDP on a more frequent basis. The index or selection of indices that are relevant will depend on a country’s economic structure—manufacturing or industrial production in some countries, and primary commodity production (e.g., petroleum or rice) and/or agriculture production in others. For price statistics, producer price indices are also encouraged as supplementary data.
Labor market data are critically important statistics in industrial countries, but may be less meaningful in others, such as those with large informal or subsistence sectors. Thus, the-GDDS encourages the dissemination of these data recognizing that the coverage of the employment, unemployment, and wages/earnings components may, of necessity, be less than the total economy and that such concepts may not be meaningful in every case. Consistent with efforts to strengthen financial sector surveillance to better detect systemic risks, the e-GDDS encourages the dissemination of data on financial soundness indicators.
(iii) Demographic and Selected Socio-Economic Indicators
Except for population, the e-GDDS makes no specific recommendations concerning which social or demographic indicators should be disseminated. Countries are encouraged to construct indicators to meet their own national needs following good statistical practices.
2. Access by the public
Dissemination of official statistics is an essential feature of statistics as a public good, and equality in access is a principal need of the public, including market participants.
To support ready and equal access, the e-GDDS recommends:
a. Advance release calendars
Advance release calendars (ARC) reflect sound management and transparency of statistical compilation and provide data users with information needed to take a more active and organized approach to acquiring the inputs for their work. The objective may be met, for example, by the dissemination of calendars showing release dates for the current month and for the following three months. Agencies are encouraged to make widely known the name and address of an office or a person who can provide the latest information about the ARC, including release of data for which periodicity and timeliness are irregular, and newly disseminated data.
b. Simultaneous release to all parties
In the interest of equity and recognizing data as a valuable commodity, the e-GDDS encourages the release of data to all interested parties at the same time. Release is not intended to refer to access by government agencies, including those other than the producing agency; pre-release access is governed by conditions set out in the description of integrity (see subsection 3.b below). The act of release may consist of providing summary data to be accompanied, perhaps later, by provision of detail. The objective may be met by providing at least one publicly identified and accessible location where data are available to all on an equal basis once they are released.
With the ongoing global integration and increased reliance on the Internet and electronic data transmission, the e-GDDS encourages the release of data simultaneously to the public through a National Summary Data Page published on the website of one of the statistics agencies (see III. 2).
3. Integrity and credibility
To fulfill the purpose of providing the public with credible information, official statistics must have the confidence of users. In turn, confidence in statistics ultimately becomes a matter of confidence in the objectivity and professionalism of the agency producing the statistics. Transparency of practices and procedures is a key factor in creating this confidence. To assist users of the data disseminated under the e-GDDS in assessing the data’s integrity, the e-GDDS encourages:
a. Dissemination of the terms and conditions under which official statistics are produced, including those relating to the confidentiality of individually identifiable information
This practice, which was embodied in the Fundamental Principles of Official Statistics adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in January 2014 (Resolution 68/261), is indirect, but nevertheless fundamental to fostering confidence in the objectivity and professionalism of official statistics. The terms and conditions under which statistical agencies operate may take various forms, including statistics laws, charters, and codes of conduct. Accordingly, a first step toward this objective would be to put such laws, charters, and codes in place. The terms and conditions incorporated in them may refer to matters such as the relationship of the statistical unit to a larger department or ministry of which it is part (if relevant), the legal authority to collect data, the requirement to publish data it has collected, the terms of reference for the chief statistician/director, and procedures and processes related to confidentiality of individual responses. Dissemination of this information may take a variety of forms, including annual reports of the producer of statistics, abstracts in key publications, and statements of relevant passages referring to confidentiality of survey forms. Statistics producers may find it convenient to use logos and other insignia to remind users of the terms under which statistics carrying the logo are produced. These terms and conditions should be kept up-to-date.
b. Identification of internal government access to data before release
In the interest of transparency about possible undue influence on the data before release, the e-GDDS calls for listing the persons/positions within the government, but outside the agency producing the data, which have pre-release access. Such identification—that is, statements of who knows what—may take a variety of forms, including brief notices to the public and annual reports of the producer of statistics. This practice is addressed mainly to situations in which the data are sensitive for policy or other reasons, and the objective may be met, at a minimum, by following this practice for the most sensitive data categories and indicators.
c. Identification of ministerial commentary on the occasion of statistical releases
Ministerial commentary is not necessarily expected to maintain the same degree of objectivity or freedom from political judgment as would be expected of good practice for a producer of official statistics. Therefore, a good practice is to identify such commentary so that its source will be transparent to the public. The identification of ministerial commentary on the occasion of statistical release may take several forms including separate statements by the minister (or other policy or political official) or, alternatively, identification of a statistical agency’s material in a release that contains both ministerial commentary and data. The agency’s material may include data, explanatory text (e.g., of an unusual event affecting the data), and objective analysis; the identification of an agency’s material may be made in various ways, including the use of source lines in tables and of the producer’s logos or other insignia. This practice is addressed mainly to situations in which the data are sensitive for policy or other reasons, and the objective may be met, at a minimum, by following this practice for the most sensitive data categories and indicators.
d. Provision of information about revision and advance notice
In the interest of transparency about the data producers’ practices, the e-GDDS calls for the provision of information about past revisions and about one of the major prospective sources of revision. Relevant information about revisions in data may include statements about the policy followed (e.g., a policy of revising monthly data when an annual, more comprehensive survey becomes available or a policy of no revision) and data about the size of past revisions; both policies and data on revisions may have to be developed before they can be disseminated. Changes in methodology (e.g., changes in base year, major expansions of sample size, introduction of alternative data sources, reclassification of transactions or industries) are to be expected in developing statistical systems. The advance notices may take a variety of forms, including, at a minimum, a short statement in the last presentation of unrevised data or on a stand-alone basis. These statements would identify the kinds of changes to be made and give a source for additional information, such as a paper available on request or the name and address of a person able to explain the upcoming change. Members are encouraged, as well, to provide easy access to information explaining revisions after they are released (e.g., by access to a person able to answer questions about revisions).
Data users should be provided with information necessary to assess quality and quality improvements. Participants in the e-GDDS are encouraged to implement internationally accepted statistical methodologies for all data categories and to indicate where statistical practices deviate from these methodologies (a specified list of these methodologies is posted on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB, see Section III.2). Although quality is difficult to judge, proxies may allow users to assess quality. To assist users to assess quality, the e-GDDS encourages:
a. Dissemination of documentation on methodology and sources used in preparing statistics
The availability of documentation on methodology and sources underlying statistics is key to user awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the data. In addition to information on the DSBB (see Section III.2), the participant’s documentation may take several forms, including summary notes accompanying release of the data, separate publications, and papers available on request from the producers. Participants are encouraged to prepare and disseminate statements about important features of quality (e.g., the kinds of errors to which the data are subject, sources of non-comparability over time, measures of coverage for census data or sample error for survey data).4
b. Dissemination of component detail, reconciliation with related data, and statistical frameworks that support statistical cross-checks and provide assurance of reasonableness
To support and encourage users’ checks and verification of data, e-GDDS participants are encouraged to disseminate components underlying aggregate series, comparisons and reconciliations with related data, and statistical frameworks. Component detail should be at a level that does not conflict with other desirable characteristics such as the confidentiality of individually identifiable information or statistical reliability. Comparisons and reconciliations include those that cut across frameworks, such as exports and imports as part of the national accounts and as part of the balance of payments. Statistical frameworks include accounting identities and statistical relationships, such as matching stocks with flows.
III. Implementation of the e-GDDS
5. Participation in the e-GDDS
Members are encouraged to participate in the e-GDDS on a voluntary basis. Participants should make best efforts to disseminate the data as set out in Table 1, and are encouraged to discuss data and dissemination issues with staff during Article IV consultations. Participation involves: (1) a commitment to use the e-GDDS as a framework for the development of their national systems for the production and dissemination of macroeconomic, financial, and socio-demographic data; (2) designation of a country coordinator to work with IMF staff; and (3) preparation of descriptions (“metadata”) of (a) current statistical production and dissemination practices and (b) plans for short-and longer-term improvements that would be disseminated by the IMF. Participants also are expected to describe recently implemented improvements. The descriptions of current practices and plans would correspond to each of the objectives for the data, coverage, periodicity and timeliness, access, integrity, and quality dimensions (using the IMF’s Data Quality Assessment Framework (DQAF)). The plans would identify the major shortcomings relative to the objectives set out in the e- GDDS; the steps by which the short-comings would be addressed; the resources, including technical assistance, necessary to achieve the improvements; and the time frame during which the improvements would be achieved. In particular, the improvements to be undertaken within the next year and within two to five years would need to be identified.
Participation will depend upon the completion of the three actions set out above and be publicly recognized by the IMF when the metadata are posted on the IMF’s Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB). At any time before the completion of such actions, members may indicate their intent to participate by sending an appropriate communication to the IMF, which will provide the basis for work with the member on the actions involved in participation.
A country could opt for participation from the outset, move gradually toward participation, or continue to work with the IMF on the improvement of national systems for the production and dissemination of statistics, as in the past, without participation. Member countries cannot participate in both the e-GDDS and the SDDS at the same time. Although, participation in the e-GDDS is not a prerequisite for subscribing to the SDDS, member countries may well find the e-GDDS framework useful as a stepping stone for subscribing to the SDDS. In this context, e-GDDS plans for improvement should be oriented towards meeting SDDS requirements, where relevant.
6. Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board
The IMF, as a service to its members, has established and maintains an electronic Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB) on the Internet, a system to store and disseminate the metadata provided by participants (DSBB). The DSBB identifies the members participating in the e-GDDS and provides easy access to the members’ respective metadata. The responsibility for the accuracy of the metadata and of the economic, financial, and socio-demographic statistics underlying the metadata rests with the member countries. Although, participants are expected to review and update their metadata on either a “best-effort” or “when-merited” basis, participants are expected to update their plans for improvement on an annual basis.
It is recommended that e-GDDS participants establish a NSDP on the Internet, which is linked to the DSBB electronically through “hyperlinks.” The NSDP should be modeled on an information-technology platform using Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) as the enabler. The proposed NSDP would have a relatively simple web layout to reduce cost. Customized to the authorities’ preferences, the NSDP would feature columns indicating the e-GDDS data categories, hyperlinks to the authorities’ dissemination sites (for example, the websites of the national statistical office, central bank, or ministry of finance), and hyperlinks to the electronic SDMX data files. Alternatively, participants in the e-GDDS may also disseminate the encouraged data through an NSDP based on an open-data platform, or ODP. This electronic platform shares similar advantages with an SDMX-based NSDP (e.g., machine-readable, push/pull capabilities; data exchange; enhanced coordination). Furthermore, participants are to disseminate on the Internet an ARC showing the data release dates for the current month and for the following three months (see Section II.2.a).
7. Automated monitoring arrangements
Once e-GDDS participants disseminate data via the NSDP, staff will assess progress against the core data categories, making reference to periodicity and timeliness, in an annual report and a brief semiannual update. For each participant, staff also would make a judgment as to what threshold (see Table 2) the participant meets. A table on the status for each country with an NSDP would be posted on the DSBB, and a short summary on data dissemination issues also would be included in the Statistical Issues Appendix (SIA) accompanying each Article IV consultation staff report. In the context of the Article IV consultations staff will be expected to discuss the constraints to data dissemination and, where discussed with the authorities, report their findings, the authorities’ views, and remedial plans in the Article IV staff report.
Table 2. e-GDDS: Graphical Presentation of Monitoring Thresholds
Note: NSDP refers to the National Summery Data Page and ARC to the Advance Release Calendar.
8. Reviews and withdrawal
Reviews of the e-GDDS content and implementation procedures will be conducted by staff at intervals determined by the Executive Board, and will be informed by the views of producers and users of data. At the completion of these reviews, revisions of the e-GDDS framework may be adopted. Reviews of the IMF’s Data Standards Initiatives are available on the DSBB (http://www.imf.org/external/np/sta/dsbb/list.htm).
Members may withdraw participation at any time by sending an appropriate communication to the IMF. Upon withdrawal, relevant data and metadata would be removed promptly from the DSBB.
1 This Annex incorporates amendments approved by the Executive Board at various reviews of the GDDS/e-GDDS through May 1, 2015.
2 Ed. Note: This amended Annex is set forth as Annex I in Decision No. 15827-(15/67), July 1, 2015.
3 Where the statistical framework covers the full public sector, countries are encouraged to disseminate public sector data.
4 The size of past revisions, which is an important aspect of quality, is included under integrity, drawing on its role as an indicator of the transparency of conditions under which data are produced (see II.3.d).