Journal Issue

Meeting at IMF headquarters: Committee discusses means of improving countries’ balance of payments statistics

International Monetary Fund. External Relations Dept.
Published Date:
January 2000
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The thirteenth meeting of the IMF Committee on Balance of Payments Statistics was held at IMF headquarters in Washington, October 23–27.


The Committee was established in 1992 to oversee the implementation of the recommendations of two IMF working parties that investigated the principal sources of discrepancy in the global balance of payments statistics; to advise the IMF on methodological and compilation issues in balance of payments and international investment position statistics; and to foster greater coordination of data collection among countries. The Committee is chaired by the IMF, and in 2000 included 15 national experts in balance of payments statistics from a range of countries. In addition, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the European Central Bank, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the Statistical Office of the European Communities are invited to send representatives to the meetings.

Reflecting the growth of international financial markets, many of the major achievements of the Committee have been in the area of the financial account of the balance of payments. In 1993, the Committee began work on a Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey (CPIS). This survey, which had a reference date of end-December 1997, measured the cross-border, long-term security holdings of major investing countries. Data were collected on holdings of equities and debt securities with an original maturity date of one year or more and issued by nonresidents, with a full geographic attribution of these securities by the country of issue. Twenty-nine countries participated in this CPIS, and in 1999 the IMF published the Results of the 1997 Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey. The Committee and participating countries found the survey helped improve the quality of both asset and liability portfolio positions, and related flows.

IMF BOP Committee on the Web

The IMF’s website ( contains information on the activities of the Committee, including recent annual reports, many of the research papers that have been discussed at recent committee meetings; information about the 1997 CPIS and the 1997 SIMSDI; and the Balance of Payments Newsletter from 1995.

Analysis of the 1997 Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey Results and Plans for the 2001 Survey, a companion document to Results, was released in September 2000. A second CPIS, with broader coverage, will be conducted with a reference date of end-December 2001. So far, 71 countries have indicated their intention to participate, including 18 offshore financial centers. At its 2000 meeting, the Committee recommended that, after the 2001 CPIS, the survey should be undertaken annually. The data will provide a useful time series to complement the international banking statistics produced by the BIS on bank creditor positions vis-à-vis debtor countries.

Committee activities

In 1994, the Committee began work on issues concerning the statistical measurement of transactions and positions in financial derivatives. Discussions on this topic, which also involved the Inter-Secretariat Working Group on National Accounts and extensive international consultation with compilers, resulted in the publication in 2000 of Financial Derivatives: A Supplement to the Fifth Edition (1993) of the Balance of Payments Manual. These new standards are now being implemented worldwide.

The Committee has also worked with the BIS to improve coverage of the international banking statistics, which have been found to be particularly useful for compiling and/or evaluating the coverage of balance of payments and external debt statistics.

The Committee has also been involved in improving the quality of balance of payments statistics through the Survey of Implementation of Methodological Standards for Direct Investment (SIMSDI), carried out in 1997 jointly by the IMF’s Statistics Department and the OECD Working Party on Financial Statistics. The survey is a comprehensive study of country data sources, collection methods, and dissemination and methodological practices for foreign direct investment (FDI) statistics, providing information on the extent to which countries compile FDI statistics in conformity with international statistical guidelines. A total of 114 countries replied to the 1997 survey. In March 2000, the IMF and the OECD jointly published the metadata (information on data) collected from the survey in the Report on the Survey of Implementation of Methodological Standards for Direct Investment. (This report may be found on the IMF’s website at

Since its inception, the Committee has discussed and made recommendations on a wide range of other balance of payments statistics issues, including the estimation of barter trade, shuttle trade, and travel; data availability for current transfers; measurement of insurance services, accrued interest, and reinvested earnings on direct investment; and the statistical treatment of repurchase agreements and securities lending. The Committee also reviews and comments on the work of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Statistics of International Trade in Services in its work in developing the Manual on Statistics of International Trade in Services and the Inter-Agency Task Force on Finance Statistics in developing a guide for external debt statistics—External Debt Statistics: Guide for Compilers and Users.

Recent activities

At this year’s meeting, the Committee devoted one day to a discussion of the data quality assessment framework for balance of payments statistics being developed by the IMF’s Statistics Department. This work responds to a number of needs; in particular, it complements the quality dimension of the IMF’s Special Data Dissemination Standard and the General Data Dissemination System, focuses more closely on the quality of data provided to the IMF for surveillance purposes, and assesses evenhandedly the quality of the information provided as background for the IMF’s Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes.

Other items on the agenda included the 2001 CPIS; development of an international securities database to assist compilers in conducting portfolio investment surveys; the statistical treatment of repurchase agreements, accruals of interest on debt securities and loans that have been traded; estimation of international travel transactions; the policy uses of balance of payments statistics; and the process of updating of the fifth edition of the IMF’s Balance of Payments Manual.

The Committee’s next meeting, to be hosted by the Japanese government in Tokyo, will be held on October 24–26, 2001.

Photo Credits: Denio Zara, Padraic Hughes, Pedro Márquez, and Michael Spilotro for the IMF, pages 369, 372–73, 375–79, 381, and 384.

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