Typical street scene in Santa Ana, El Salvador. (Photo: iStock)

Typical street scene in Santa Ana, El Salvador. (Photo: iStock)

IMF Survey : IMF Offers Free Access to Its Online Economic Data

January 26, 2015

  • IMF’s online data free of charge to everyone
  • New data platform allows users to download, share data
  • Good data vital to help support sound policy decisions

From the start of 2015, the IMF has made its online economic data available to everyone free of charge. Users have access to a wealth of macroeconomic data covering all economic sectors of a large part of the IMF’s member countries.

New IMF data platform allows users to download, share data (photo: Ingram Publishing/Newscom)

New IMF data platform allows users to download, share data (photo: Ingram Publishing/Newscom)

Free Data

Good data can help policymakers identify and manage macroeconomic and financial vulnerabilities. The IMF's online free data program seeks to expand usage and facilitate greater transparency and better policy choices.

The free data program “will help all those who draw on our data make better use of this vital statistical resource—from budget numbers to balance of payments data, debt statistics to critical global indicators,” said IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde in announcing this change at the recent Second IMF Statistical Forum.

New data platform

To support the move to free data, the IMF has released a new data portal, an enhanced dissemination platform that allows users to search time series, access portals and create visualizations, as well as discover datasets, data news, and related documents, to name a few features. Time series can be collected in a workbook for further analysis.

The new data platform improves the way the IMF distributes data and statistics to its membership and users throughout the world. Users will have access to a wide range of macroeconomic data, which are compiled in accordance with internationally accepted statistical methodologies and are comparable across countries.

The data platform provides greater dynamic data visualizations, which show development over time and interact with each other. The platform strengthens the narrative and analysis of any data and allows users to customize their data experience.

The new platform will help users visualize, download, query, and share data.

Unrestricted datasets

Much IMF's data were already free. But historically, data compiled and published in the International Financial Statistics, Direction of Trade Statistics, Balance of Payments Statistics, and Government Finance Statistics have been subscription based. The IMF has discontinued charging for online datasets, but the print publications will still be charged to recover the cost of postage and printing.

The new unrestricted data include:

International Financial Statistics (IFS).  International Financial Statistics provides a complete library of continuously updated international statistics on all aspects of international and domestic finance. It reports, for most countries of the world, current data needed in the analysis of problems of international payments and of inflation and deflation, i.e., data on exchange rates, international liquidity, money and banking, interest rates, prices, production, international transactions, government accounts, and national accounts.

Balance of Payments Statistics (BOP/IIP). Contains balance of payments and international investment position (IIP) data of individual countries, jurisdictions, and other reporting entities, and regional and world totals for major components of the balance of payment, with history to 1960.

Government Finance Statistics (GFS). The comprehensive annual GFS data covers various levels of government—including relevant general, central, state and local governments. The GFS data are supplemented by metadata, that comprise the institutional structure of governments—budgetary and extra budgetary financial operations data of governments, with history to 1990.

Directions of Trade Statistics (DOTS). The DOTS displays the value of exports and imports between countries and areas with their trading partners, with history to 1980. Reported data are supplemented by estimates whenever such data are not available to allow for a global representation of trade.

Better policy choices

Data are an important building block to support good policy choices. Without reliable and timely economic data, observers cannot clearly identify turning points in the economy or see looming risks that require policy adjustments or changes in course. “The IMF will continue to be a vital source of public information that is needed to underpin sound policy decisions,” Lagarde affirmed.