1. That relevant and reliable statistics are
the basis for informed decision-making has been
widely accepted. At national level, statistical
services are charged with the responsibilities
for collecting and providing statistical information
to enable good governance, and to form the basis
for use in economic analysis, formulation, implementation
and monitoring of economic and financial policies.
Recognizing that official statistical information
is an essential basis for sustainable development
in the economic, demographic, social and environmental
fields and for mutual knowledge and trade among
states and people of the world, the United Nations
Statistical Commission in its special session
in April 1994 adopted the Fundamental Principles
of Official Statistics. The first three among
these ten Principles are:
- Official statistics provide
an indispensable element in the information
system of a democratic society, serving the
government, the economy and the public with
data about the economic, demographic, social
and environment situation. To this end, official
statistics that meet the test of practical
utility are to be compiled and made available
on an impartial basis by official statistical
agencies to honour citizens' entitlement to
- To retain trust in official
statistics, the statistical agencies need
to decide according to strictly professional
considerations, including scientific principles
and professional ethics, on the method and
procedures for the collection, processing,
storage and presentation of statistical data.
- To facilitate a correct
interpretation of the data, the statistical
agencies are to present information according
to scientific standards on the sources, methods,
and procedures of the statistics.
2. Arising from the international financial
crisis of late 1994 to early 1995, the IMF,
in pursuance of its surveillance role and the
provision in the Articles of Agreement entered
into between member countries and the Fund,
has worked intensively on the development of
standards for the dissemination of economic
and financial statistics to the public. The
objective was to provide a set of standards
to guide countries that have or may seek access
to international capital markets, in providing
economic and financial statistics to the public.
The standards are known as the Special Data
Dissemination Standard (SDDS).
3. In addition to providing the guidelines,
the Fund also sought to encourage countries
which have voluntarily subscribed to the SDDS
to ensure that their data meet with the prescribed
standard and that information on the statistical
data, known as metadata, is displayed on the
Internet on the Fund's Dissemination Standards
Bulletin Board (DSBB). The standards which provide
the basis for users' confidence in the data
provided are grouped into four dimensions as
- Data in terms of coverage,
periodicity and timeliness.
- Accessibility by the public.
- Integrity of the disseminated
- Quality of the disseminated
4. The SDDS as prescribed by the Fund is in
general agreement with the Fundamental Principles
of Official Statistics referred to in paragraph
1 above. However, while the latter points to
a desirable status of statistics to be achieved
without a specific time frame, the SDDS has
set the deadline for the transition period at
the end of 1998, during which time countries
can join and bring their practices into line
with the SDDS. Any country which will be unable
to attain the Standard by the end of 1998, and
thus will not have subscribed to it, will be
viewed as one which has failed to make it to
the "honour roll'. The national statistical
organizations in the countries concerned will
face direct pressure in that eventuality.
5. The SDDS covers the following areas.
- National accounts.
- Production indices.
- Labour market.
- Price indices
- Consumer prices
- Producer prices
- General government
or public sector operators.
- Central government
- Central government
- Analytical accounts
of the banking section.
- Analytical accounts
of the central bank.
- Interest rate.
- Stock market: Share
- Balance of payments.
- International reserves.
- Merchandise trade.
- International investment
- Exchange rates.
- Data by age and
Of these -- apart from the real sector and
merchandise trade under the external sector,
and population data -- statistical standards,
classification and concepts of all other areas
are based on the guidelines developed by the
Fund, which has also contributed substantially
to the development of national accounts under
the real sector.
6. IMF is in the process of developing the
General Data Dissemination System (GDDS). GDDS
is intended to be subscribed voluntarily by
countries which are not in a position to subscribe
to the SDDS in terms of "statistical maturity"
in the four areas listed. The GDDS has included
additionally a fifth data group entitled "social-demographic
data" for the purpose of monitoring and evaluating
long-term development process. The broad categories
of data suggested are population, health, education,
and poverty. The Minimum National Social Data
Set (MINSDS) recommended for implementation
by the United Nations Statistical Commission
has been suggested as a guideline for the fifth
7. Individual countries are clearly aware
of the direct benefits they would derive in
attaining the standards as prescribed in the
SDDS and GDDS. The secretariat is appreciative
and supportive of the efforts made by IMF and
consider it an impetus to general statistical
development in the region. Nevertheless, the
challenges in producing the required data of
accepted quality lie with national statistical
offices which may need external support. Countries,
especially those which seek international capital,
may do well to concentrate their resources on
subscribing to the SDDS, since that would have
imminent economic impact on the country. The
challenge may also provide an opportunity for
obtaining resources for statistical services.
8. The SDDS covers specialized statistical
domains which relate to the IMF's core functions,
as well as areas such as national accounts,
consumer prices, employment and merchandise
trade in which agencies such as the United Nations
and ILO have been active along with the Fund.
The ILO has in fact been working to amplify
the labour statistics module of the SDDS and
to develop draft dissemination standards on
labour statistics for submission to the sixteenth
International Conference of Labour Statisticians
in 1998. The GDDS extends the statistical domains
to the social and demographic fields Although
not to the environment in which several other
international agencies work and for which, under
the present division of statistical labour,
they are primarily responsible. The GDDS also
recognizes the importance of developing comprehensive
statistical frameworks and the underlying basic
statistical infrastructure, which has been a
key objective of (among other agencies) ESCAP's
statistical development work for over three
decades. The Working Group may therefore wish
to discuss whether there are any coordinational
issues involving the various agencies concerned
which could contribute to optimizing the efficiency
and effectiveness of overall statistical capability-building
work at the national level.
9. The Working Group may desire to discuss
the appropriate approaches which the national
statistical organizations should take to face
these challenges. It may wish to consider the
assistance, technical or otherwise, they may
require in that endeavour, and how this could
be delivered by the Fund and other international
organizations. The secretariat stands ready
to cooperate towards that end.