Press Release: World Bank and IMF Launch Quarterly Online External Debt Database

November 18, 2004

The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) today launched an online database that offers access to external debt statistics for 41 countries, updated every three months. The database is unique in that it brings together external debt statistics that are normally published individually by countries that subscribe to the IMF's Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS). It provides policymakers and market participants with more timely data in a format that enables cross-country comparison, as well as better support for balance-sheet analysis and surveillance initiatives.

The Quarterly External Debt Database, which is maintained by the World Bank, can be accessed through the World Bank web site at: It assembles external debt data in one place, and represents a concrete step by the two institutions to facilitate and encourage worldwide dissemination of external debt data by as many countries as possible.

The data are supplied quarterly by countries in internationally agreed formats. Participation in the database is voluntary, and while initially it covers SDDS countries, eventually the goal is to extend participation to all countries where external debt data can be disseminated according to the SDDS requirements.

"We expect that policymakers and analysts will find this online database, updated on a quarterly basis, to be a valuable tool," said François Bourguignon, the World Bank's Chief Economist and Senior Vice President for Development Economics. "For the first time, they will have easy access to a one-stop shop that offers comprehensive external debt data that is timely and of high quality. We hope that this will contribute to sound macroeconomic policymaking, and that more countries will join this initiative."

"The database is a good demonstration of countries' willingness to compile and disseminate macro-economic data based on internationally accepted methodologies and standards," said Robert Edwards, the Director of the IMF's Statistics Department. "I welcome the increase in transparency of countries' external debt positions that this database promotes."

Background on Quarterly External Debt Database

The database conforms to the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) criteria for disclosure of economic and financial data, established by the IMF in 1996 to guide countries having or seeking access to international capital markets. It is organized into three sets of tables, based on compilation methodologies, concepts, and presentation formats articulated in the External Debt Statistics: Guide for Compilers and Users (Guide).1 All participating countries provide data for Table 1. Available data for the other tables are more limited at this point as countries work toward improving their external debt data. The three tables cover:

Table 1:External Debt Position by Sector, Maturity and Instrument

This core table in the database, based on SDDS prescriptions for the external debt data, also includes "Direct Investment: Inter-company Lending" to provide data on debt liabilities to affiliated enterprises as well as direct investors. Supplementary tables present information beyond SDDS requirements to facilitate detailed external debt data analysis.

Table 2 and 3: External Debt Position by Domestic - Foreign Currency Split, and Forward Debt Service Schedule

Information in Tables 2 and 3 is based on SDDS encouraged components. It is especially relevant for vulnerability assessment and will assist capital market participants in making informed borrowing and investment decisions. These also include supplementary tables.

The online database includes country tables and enables users to query and extract data by country, by group of countries, external debt components and reference period, among others, while also permitting cross-country comparisons and other types of data analysis.

The new online database is linked to the SDDS metadata for individual countries maintained by the IMF. These metadata provide users with information about the nature of the data disseminated, including the compilation and dissemination practices followed.

The launch of the database is the fruition of collaborative efforts by the World Bank and IMF over the past year, in consultation with SDDS subscribers.

1 The Guide was jointly produced by the Inter-Agency Task Force on Finance Statistics, which is chaired by the IMF. In addition to the IMF and World Bank, the work on the Guide involved representatives from the BIS, Commonwealth Secretariat, the European Central Bank, Eurostat, the OECD, the Paris Club Secretariat, and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development.


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