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Frequently Asked Questions

World Economic Outlook (WEO)

Last Updated: April 08, 2014

Frequently Asked Questions are divided into four topics. Click on the corresponding question to view the answers. For all other questions and comments, post them in the WEO Data Forum.

1) WEO Database and Publication

2) Data Availability and Coverage

3) Specific Data Series

4) WEO Country Groups and Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)

For all other questions and comments, post them in the WEO Data Forum.


1) WEO Database and Publication


Q. How often is the online WEO database and publication updated?

A. The WEO database and publication are updated and published twice a year, usually in April and September/October as documentation for meetings of the International Monetary and Financial Committee, and forms the main instrument of the IMF's global surveillance activities. The schedule for the IMFC meetings can be found here: http://www.imf.org/external/am/index.htm.


Q. What is the WEO Update and how can I access the data?

A. In response to the growing demand for more frequent forecast updates, the WEO Update is published in January and July between the two main WEO publications released usually in April and September/October. The WEO Update is distributed on a complimentary basis and provides a sub-set of revised estimates for key indicators. You may access the latest WEO Update from http://www.imf.org/external/ns/cs.aspx?id=231. Limited data from the WEO Update are available from the most recent WEO database.


Q. Is there a way I can receive notification via e-mail when a new WEO report is released?

A. For WEO updates and news, you can subscribe to our free e-mail notification at https://www.imf.org/external/cntpst/(ucpvwhi1wxxnr2rhlz4mmq45)/index.aspx. To unsubscribe to e-mail notifications, see https://www.imf.org/external/cntpst/(ucpvwhi1wxxnr2rhlz4mmq45)/signinmodify.aspx


Q. What changes have been made to the WEO database in this issue compared to the previous edition? Where can I find a list of changes that have been made over time?

A. A list of the changes that have been implemented with each WEO edition are listed in the Changes to the Database page.


Q. Is there any way I can save my query?

A. Unfortunately, this feature is not available at this time. You can, however bookmark the url address when you download the data. After you complete a query where you have a preview of the final report that you would like to download, you can bookmark the url in the address bar of your window as shown below:

http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/2014/01/weodata/weorept.aspx?sy=2011&ey=2018&scsm=1&ssd=1&sort=country&ds=.&br=1&c=156%2C158%2C132%2C112%2C134%2C111%2C136&s=NGDP_RPCH&grp=0&a=&pr.x=79&pr.y=14

Please note that the location of the WEO changes every publication. In this example, for the next WEO, you will have to change 2014/01 to 2014/02. The first four numbers represent the year of the publication. The second set of numbers refers to the month of publication, 01 for April and 02 for September/October. You should get to the same table but with the updated data.


Q. Could I use WEO data for my written work?

A. You are welcome to use WEO data for written work as long as you cite the publication/database accordingly. For copyright and usage information on IMF work see http://www.imf.org/external/terms.htm.


Q. What explains differences between WEO and IFS data and/or the latest data available from the source?

A. The data appearing in the World Economic Outlook are provided to the Research Department at the time of the WEO exercises. The historical data and projections are based on the information gathered by the IMF country desk officers in the context of their missions to IMF member countries and ongoing analysis of the evolving situation in each country. Historical data are updated on a continual basis as more information becomes available, and structural breaks in data are often adjusted to produce smooth series with the use of splicing and other techniques. IMF staff estimates continue to serve as proxies for historical series when complete information is unavailable.

The data published in the Statistics Department's International Financial Statistics (IFS) are gathered as part of an ongoing data collection effort in which member country statistical agencies provide public statistics to the IMF.

Data from the country source are updated on their own schedule. Each publication takes into account the most recent revisions available, prior to publication. The data provided in the WEO might have more (estimated) or less time coverage than what is provided by the authorities but that decision is at the discretion of the IMF country desk officers. For a specific country-series pair, the date (month and year) of the last update is indicated in the notes option you may choose to append to the report at the end of a query.

Because of differences in data collection techniques, methodological issues, focus, and timing, the data in the IFS, specified source and the World Economic Outlook may differ. Check our statement on revisions to the data and deviations from other official sources, such as IFS, here: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/disclaim.htm.


Q. What is the methodology used to produce the forecasts?

A. The IMF’s World Economic Outlook uses a “bottom-up” approach in producing its forecasts; that is, country teams within the IMF generate projections for individual countries. These are then aggregated, and through a series of iterations where the aggregates feed back into individual countries’ forecasts, forecasts converge to the projections reported in the WEO.

Because forecasts are made by the individual country teams, the methodology can vary from country to country and series to series depending on many factors. To get more information on a specific country and series forecast, you may contact the country teams directly; from the Country Info tab on the IMF website, click on a country and you will see a ”Contact Us” link on the left side.


Q. I am getting an error when I click on the option to use a comma instead of a period to separate whole numbers from decimals. In this instance, the thousands separator remains a comma and there is no way for me to know the difference between a thousands separator and a decimal separator. Is there a way to resolve this?

A. The problem is not due to the way the data is downloaded but in the way your spreadsheet program reads in the data. The query file you download is a tab separated file (tsv). If you click the option to use a comma as the decimal separator, the number 12,123.54 is saved as 12123,54 in this tsv file. However, when you bring it into your spreadsheet program, say Excel, it reads this comma as a digit separator and not a decimal separator, which results in the error you identified. To correct this, please check to make sure that in Excel > Excel Options > Advanced > Editing Options you have the following specified:

Excel

Q. Where can I send questions about other IMF publications/databases referenced in the WEO?

A. Below are e-mail addresses for other IMF publications/databases:
Commodity Prices – commodities@imf.org
Fiscal Monitor - fiscalmonitor@imf.org
Global Financial Stability Report (GFSR) – GFSRquery@imf.org
International Financial Statistics (IFS), Balance of Payments Statistics (BOPS), Direction of Trade Statistics (DOTS), Government Finance Statistics (GFS) – statistics@imf.org
All others – publications@imf.org

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2) Data Availability and Coverage


Q. How do I know if data are actual, preliminary, or projected?

A. In the table report at the end of a query, the shaded cells indicate IMF staff estimates. Non-shaded cells are therefore actual data. This information is also provided in the Country/Series-specific data notes option you may choose to append to the report. Finally, the downloadable tab-delimited file at the end of a query will always include a column specifying the year of the latest actual data (or a zero, if the entire series is estimated). Note that even if the data are marked as “actual”, these data can still be revised in the future. Check our statement on revisions to the data here: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/weo/disclaim.htm.

We do not provide this information for WEO country groups' data. At the country group level, the year of the publication is assumed to be the start of the forecast period. Note that the shaded/forecast years in the World Economic Outlook report do not match the shaded/forecast years in the online database because the purpose of the shading in the report is to emphasize the forecast period common to all countries.


Q. Do you have higher frequency data such as quarterly or monthly data?

A. We do not publish monthly or quarterly data in the online WEO.


Q. Do you have data prior to 1980?

A. No. We do not provide data prior to 1980 due to difficulties in verifying the accuracy of the historical data. However, you may find more historical coverage in the IMF e-library which contains data from other IMF publications (Balance of Payments, Direction of Trade, Government Finance Statistics, and International Financial Statistics). A subscription is required to access the data but the e-library does offer a Free Trial period.


Q. Do you have long- and/or medium-term forecasts?

A. We publish 5 year forecasts for many but not all indicators and country groups in the database. For some indicators and country groups, we only publish 2 years of forecast data.


Q. Are there any other data available besides what is downloadable from the WEO database?

A. No. The historical data and projections appearing in the WEO are based on information gathered by the IMF country desk officers in the context of their missions to IMF member countries and ongoing analysis of the evolving situation in each country. The data provided might have more (estimated) or less time coverage than what is provided by the authorities but that decision is at the discretion of the IMF country desk officers. All of the data that can be released to the public are already incorporated into the WEO online database. Missing data in the table downloads and CSV files are indeed unavailable and not a result of a technical issue. Data underlying charts/figures in the WEO publication can be found on the publication’s webpage. We do have more indicators but access to the full database is only for internal IMF staff for research purposes (IMF working papers, IMF staff reports, etc.).

For more IMF data, see the "Data and Statistics" section of the IMF website (http://www.imf.org/external/np/ds/matrix.htm). You may also find suggestions to other possible sources from the WEO Data Forum.

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3) Specific Data Series


Q. What is the constant price base year for GDP? Is it constant across all countries?

A. The information on base years for national accounts at constant prices is gathered from IMF country desk officers and is country-specific. This information is provided in the Country Information summary page, Country/Series-specific data notes option you may choose to append to the report at the end of a query, or Table F of the most recent WEO publication’s Statistical Appendix.


Q. Why do the GDP deflator (NGDP_D) and/or the Consumer Price Index (PCPI) not equal 100 in the specified base year?

A. There are various reasons why the data for a price series may not equal 100 in the base year (original data in fiscal years, or set equal to 100 in a specific month/quarter, etc.). See the country/series-specific data notes option you may choose to append to the report at the end of a query for explanations. For the GDP deflator, see the base year notes attached to either the GDP in current prices or GDP in constant prices.


Q. Is there a real global GDP dollar series that can be used to compare economy size across countries?

A. We do not report the value of constant price GDP in a common currency (say U.S. dollars) for the world.

One way to convert an individual country's real GDP series to U.S. dollars is to do the following:

1) Take the current GDP level for that country in terms of U.S. dollars in the year specified as that country's base year (see Country Information).

  • Series: Gross domestic product, current prices
  • U.S. dollars
2) Extend the series from the base year value forwards and backwards by applying the growth rates of real GDP in local currency.
  • Series: Gross domestic product, constant prices
  • Annual percent change

By following this procedure, a country's real GDP is in terms of U.S. dollars but maintains the growth rates of the real GDP series.


Q. How often are estimates revised?

A. The number of revisions to each country's data is country-specific. We collect historical data and forecasts from each IMF country desk officer, and in turn, the national authorities provide the country desk officer with their most current updates. The data provided in the WEO might have more (estimated) or less time coverage than what is provided by the authorities but that decision is at the discretion of the IMF country desk officers. Although there may be several iterations, each publication takes into account the most recent revisions available, prior to publication. For a specific country-series pair, the date (month and year) of the last update is indicated in the notes option you may choose to append to the report at the end of a query.


Q. What is the difference between "Gross domestic product, current prices" and "Gross domestic product corresponding to fiscal year, current prices?"

A. "Gross domestic product corresponding to fiscal year, current prices" is the country's GDP based on the same period during the year as their fiscal data. In the case of countries whose fiscal data are based on a fiscal calendar (e.g., July to June), this series would be the country's GDP over that same period. For countries whose fiscal data are based on a calendar year (i.e., January to December), this series will be the same as "Gross domestic product, current prices." The "Gross domestic product corresponding to fiscal year, current prices" series is only used to express fiscal data as a percent of GDP.


Q. For the countries that adopted the euro, how did you convert the series expressed in national currency?

A. The WEO used the fixed conversion rates between the euro and the currencies of the member states adopting the euro to transform the data prior to 1999. The following are the irrevocable euro conversion rates as adopted by the Council of the European Union on January 1, 1999 unless otherwise noted:

1 euro = 13.7603 Austrian schillings
  = 40.3399 Belgian francs
  = 0.585274 Cyprus pound (established on January 1, 2008)
  = 1.95583 Deutsche mark
  = 15.6466 Estonian krooni (established on January 1, 2011)
  = 5.94573 Finnish markkaa
  = 6.55957 French francs
  = 340.750 Greek drachma (established on January 1, 2001)
  = 0.787564 Irish pound
  = 1,936.27 Italian lire
  = 0.702804 Latvian lats (established on January 1, 2014)
  = 40.3399 Luxembourg francs
  = 0.42930 Maltese lira (established on January 1, 2008)
  = 2.20371 Netherlands guilders
  = 200.482 Portuguese escudos
  = 30.1260 Slovak koruna (established on January 1, 2009)
  = 239.640 Slovenian tolars (established on January 1, 2007)
  = 166.386 Spanish pesetas


Q. What is the difference between General Government Gross and Net Debt?

A. General government gross debt consists of all liabilities that require payment or payments of interest and/or principal by the debtor to the creditor at a date or dates in the future. This includes debt liabilities in the form of SDRs, currency and deposits, debt securities, loans, insurance, pensions and standardized guarantee schemes, and other accounts payable. Thus, all liabilities in the GFSM 2001 system are debt, except for equity and investment fund shares and financial derivatives and employee stock options. On the other hand, general government net debt refers to gross debt of the general government minus its financial assets in the form of debt instruments. Examples of financial assets in the form of debt instruments include currency and deposits, debt securities, loans, insurance, pension, and standardized guarantee schemes, and other accounts receivable. For more information, see the Country/Series-specific notes at the end of your query. To avoid double counting, the data are based on a consolidated account (eliminating liabilities and assets between components of the government, such as budgetary units and social security funds).


Q. Why does the world current account balance not equal to zero?

A. In principle, since one country's export is another country's import, current account balances across the world should sum to zero. In practice, however, this is not the case. While a discrepancy is difficult to analyze by its very nature, there is broad agreement that the global current account discrepancy likely reflects in part the following economic factors:

  • transportation lags, if exports are recorded in one year, while the corresponding imports are not recorded until the next;
  • underreporting of investment income, partly related to tax evasion and the growth of offshore centers;
  • asymmetric valuation, where the export and import of the same good are valued at different prices; and
  • data quality issues, especially for transportation services and workers' remittances.


Q. Does the WEO publish exchange rate data?

A. The WEO does not provide exchange rates data. You can download official exchange rates data for selected currencies from IMF's "Data and Statistics" section (http://www.imf.org/external/data.htm#data) under the heading "Exchange Rates Data." Finally, the IMF e-library which contains data from other IMF publications (Balance of Payments, Direction of Trade, Government Finance Statistics, and International Financial Statistics) provides this data as well. A subscription is required to access the data but the e-library does offer a Free Trial period.


Q. Is there a list of WEO countries that are chain-weighted?

A. You may find the list of chain-weighted countries on the Assumptions and Data Conventions page and in the Country Information page. In addition, this information is included in the Country/Series-specific notes that you can choose to append to your download report at the end of a query. At this time, this only applies to the "Gross Domestic Product, constant prices" series.


Q. Where can I find more information on the IMF Commodity Prices?

A. The IMF Commodity Prices are provided by the Commodities team of the Research Department. For more information, see http://www.imf.org/external/np/res/commod/index.asp. You may also e-mail them at commodities@imf.org.

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4) WEO Country Groups and Purchasing Power Parity (PPP)


Q. Is there a reference page available listing which countries are included in the aggregates—for example, advanced economies, ASEAN-5, etc.?

A. The list of Country Groups can be found on the Groups and Aggregates page. In addition, the countries/territories included in the different WEO Country Groups are available from Step 1 of the "By Country Groups" query. Hover your mouse on the iconicon beside the Country Group you are interested in or click on the Country Group name to view its country composition.


Q. How does the WEO categorize advanced versus emerging market and developing economies?

A. The main criteria used by the WEO to classify the world into advanced economies and emerging market and developing economies are (1) per capita income level, (2) export diversification—so oil exporters that have high per capita GDP would not make the advanced classification because around 70% of its exports are oil, and (3) degree of integration into the global financial system. In the first criteria, we look at an average over a number of years given that volatility (due to say oil production) can have a marked year-to-year effect. Note, however, that these are not the only factors considered in deciding the classification of countries. As it says in the WEO Statistical Appendix, "This classification is not based on strict criteria, economic or otherwise, and it has evolved over time. The objective is to facilitate analysis by providing a reasonably meaningful method of organizing data." Reclassification only happens when something marked changes or the case for change becomes overwhelming. For example, Malta joining the euro area was a significant change in circumstances that warranted a reclassification from an emerging market and developing economy to an advanced economy.


Q. Which countries are included in the aggregated European Union data series?

A. The historical aggregated data for the European Union (EU) are updated to include all current EU member countries at the time of publication. For example, when the EU-25 became EU-27 in 2007, all historical and projected data were recalculated to reflect 27 member countries. This methodology ensures that the time series reflect changes in economic conditions and not changes in the country group composition. The same concept applies to the "euro area" aggregate and all other WEO economic, analytical, and regional country groups.


Q. What is a "purchasing-power-parity (PPP)" exchange rate?

A. The Purchasing-power-parity (PPP) between two countries is the rate at which the currency of one country needs to be converted into that of a second country to ensure that a given amount of the first country's currency will purchase the same volume of goods and services in the second country as it does in the first. In the WEO online database, the implied PPP conversion rate is expressed as national currency per current international dollar. The advantages and disadvantages of using PPP-based exchange rates rather than market exchange rates are discussed in the Finance & Development article "PPP Versus the Market, Which Weight Matters?" (March 2007) and Box 1.2 of the September 2003 World Economic Outlook (WEO). For the latest PPP weights revision, please see Figure 1.16 from Chapter 1 of the April 2008 WEO. For 2003 PPP weights revision, please see Box A2 from the April 2004 WEO. For the 2000 PPP weights revision, please see Box A1 from the May 2000 WEO.

The International Comparisons Program (ICP) is a global statistical initiative that produces internationally comparable Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) estimates. The PPP exchange rate estimates, maintained and published by the World Bank, the OECD, and other international organizations, are used by WEO to calculate its own PPP weight time series. Currently, WEO PPP exchange rates are based on the ICP’s 2005 round but these will be updated upon the release of the 2011 round of estimates. For more information, you can go to the World Bank’s ICP page at http://www.worldbank.org/data/icp.


Q. What is "Gross domestic product based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) valuation of country GDP"?

A. It is calculated by dividing a country's nominal GDP in its own currency by the PPP exchange rate. The PPP exchange rate comes from a calculation that starts with the PPP exchange reported by the ICP for years 2003–05, which is then extended backwards and forwards by the growth in relative GDP deflators (the deflator of a country divided by the deflator of the United States). Differences in PPP exchange rate estimates with other organizations must be confirmed from the providers of those estimates.


Q. How often does the WEO update the PPP implied conversion rate and the GDP based on PPP valuation of country GDP series?

A. The WEO updates the PPP implied conversion rate when the ICP releases its estimates for the most recent survey year. The PPP implied conversion rates in 2003–05 come from the PPP exchange rates reported in the ICP 2005 report. The next ICP report is scheduled to be released in 2014 for the 2011 survey year. However, the PPP implied conversion rate for non-survey years are updated at every WEO release using the most recent nominal GDP and relative GDP deflators per the methodology described in the previous question. Similarly, the GDP based on PPP valuation of country GDP series is updated using the data in the most recent WEO.


Q. How is GDP at PPP exchange rates used to calculate WEO country group data? Will I be able to calculate aggregated data based on a different country grouping using PPP exchange rates?

A. Country Group data or aggregates relating to the domestic economy, whether growth rates or ratios, are weighted by GDP valued at purchasing-power-parities (PPPs) as a share of world total or country group GDP. The country group composites will only be calculated when 90 percent or more of the weighted group data is represented, unless noted otherwise.

Annual inflation rates are simple percent change from the previous year ((CPIt/CPIt-1)-1), except for emerging market and developing economies where the rates are based on logarithmic differences (log(CPIt)-log(CPIt-1)). This exception to the methodology only applies for the inflation series and only whenever a group comprises of countries belonging to the emerging market and developing economies group. Therefore, for the advanced economies, the conventional methodology for aggregating is used.

For example, the consumer price index for all advanced economies is calculated by multiplying each country's CPI inflation times its share (PPP-weight) of the group's total "gross domestic product based on purchasing-power-parity (PPP) valuation of country GDP." A country's share (or weight) is its nominal GDP at PPP exchange rates divided by the sum of nominal GDP at PPP exchange rates for all countries in the group. Summing the product of each country's inflation rate and PPP-weight produces a weighted average growth rate of consumer prices for one year. After the weighted average growth rates for all years have been calculated, they are transformed into an index. You can follow this example to create your own aggregated data based on your own country groups. Below is the formula for creating a growth rate weighted average:

Growth Rate Weighted Average

For further detail on the PPP-based weights, follow this link: http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/wefs/1993/eng/studies/pdf/93WEOss3.pdf.


Q. What other methodologies are used to calculate WEO country group (aggregated) data?

A. See the WEO Aggregates section of the Groups and Aggregates page for more information.

The country group composites will only be calculated when 90 percent or more of the weighted group data is represented, unless noted otherwise.


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For all other questions and comments, post them in the WEO Data Forum.