Riyadh program to improve balance of payments statistics
As part of its technical assistance program, the IMF also conducts regional training programs for the Middle East and North Africa region in cooperation with the Arab Monetary Fund in Abu Dhabi. The most recent course on balance of payments methodology was held in September 2000.
Focus on practical training
Working with Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Hamidy, Director General of SAMA’s Research and Statistics Department, the IMF structured the course to address statistical issues of concern to the GCC countries, with emphasis on practical training and the particular data needs of the region.
Dr. Muhammad Al-Jasser, the Vice Governor of SAMA, opened the course and stressed the importance of timely, accurate, and comprehensive balance of payments statistics both for domestic policy formulation as well as in the global context. He emphasized that in the wake of the financial crises of the late 1990s, the need for international surveillance had assumed greater importance, necessitating the compilation of balance of payments statistics by all countries, in accordance with—as far as possible—the concepts, methodology, and format embodied in the fifth edition of the IMF’s Balance of Payments Manual (BPM5), to enhance transparency and international comparability.
Staff and experts from the IMF’s Statistics Department provided an overview of the methodology of the BPM5. As an aid to understanding the material covered in the presentations, the course included six workshops devoted to balance of payments compilation. Six other sessions were devoted to the sharing of country experiences, based on the statistical practices followed in the countries of the GCC. The workshops and country experiences, which were conducted in small groups, proved to be especially popular with participants.
One of the difficulties of compiling balance of payments data that emerged from the discussions of country experiences was the absence in several GCC countries of a tradition of collecting information through surveys, particularly information on financial transactions of private nonfinancial institutions. In this regard, IMF staff referred to the international banking statistics compiled by the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) as a potential source of data on private capital flows—namely, deposits abroad of the nonbank sector and borrowing from banks abroad. The BIS international banking statistics represent creditor-source data provided to the BIS each quarter by 28 countries making up the BIS reporting area. Other related topics in this session included survey methods and follow-up procedures to improve response rates to enterprise surveys.
To facilitate interaction during the course, participants had submitted questions in advance of the sessions to the IMF’s Statistics Department about estimation methods. These questions were formulated in light of specific challenges faced by GCC countries, particularly in the area of data sources and the difficulties encountered in collecting information by conducting surveys. In addition, participants requested clarifications about the classification of some transactions according to the BPM5.
IMF staff reviewed the methodology and data sources employed in the GCC countries and helped identify procedures for converting the existing balance of payments statistics to the format of the BPM5 on the basis of the available data. These discussions also helped identify gaps in the data that had to be closed to bring the compilation of balance of payments statistics into accordance with BPM5. Discussion among the participants in the case studies also helped identify issues relevant to the compilation of balance of payments statistics in the GCC countries as well as appropriate data compilation strategies.
Overall, the course was well received by compilers. In the closing session, Dr. Al-Jasser expressed his appreciation for the IMF Statistics Department’s cooperation in conducting the course and complimented the instructors and the participants for their devotion and hard work. He hoped that the participants would be able to use the knowledge and expertise they had gained in the course to improve the balance of payments statistics in their respective countries.
For more information on the international banking statistics compiled by BIS, see its website at www.bis.org/publ/
Copies of the Balance of Payments Manual, Fifth Edition are available for $27.50 each from IMF Publication Services. See page 131 for ordering information.
Ian S. McDonald
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