A new season of technical workshops organized for the biennium 2000-2001 was inaugurated with the ADB/ESCAP Inception Workshop on Rebasing and Linking National Accounts Series, Bangkok, 21-24 March 2000. A concise description with excerpts from the Workshop report is presented here. Of course, the Newsletter cannot provide all the useful reading materials which were distributed at the Workshop. Readers may browse our Web site for a better coverage of that event.
Despite the fact that the full report of the thirty-first session of the Statistical Commission was not available at the time of printing, we introduce here some of the highlights and issues discussed at this global statistical forum. We advise interested readers to visit the web site with the documentation of the session, which will provide the full report of the meeting when it becomes available.
Our web search continues this quarter with the theme of Gender Statistics. Various links, certainly useful, are included. However, some of you might be aware of many other resources that were not found and that could be helpful to the statistical community of the region, thus we invite our readers to share their knowledge through this information vehicle: please write to us about those web resources you think could be of interest to Asian and Pacific official statisticians.
Some news from two national statistical offices in the region with a coverage of our latest activities complete this issue. As always, we wish you good reading.
ADB/ESCAP Inception Workshop on Rebasing and Linking National Accounts Series, Bangkok, 21-24 March 2000
The Inception Workshop on Rebasing and Linking National Accounts Series was organized jointly by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and ESCAP from 21 to 24 March 2000 in Bangkok, Thailand. The workshop was attended by 34 participants from 17 countries. In addition, there were 10 officials from the National Economic and Social Development Board (NESDB), Government of Thailand and two officials from the Bank of Thailand who attended the workshop as observers. Also participating were two international experts, Mr. Derek Blades from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Mr. Charles Aspden from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The ADB was represented by Mr. Isidoro David and Mr. Biswanath Bhattacharyay from the Statistics and Data Systems Division and Mr A.C. Kulshreshtha, consultant.
National accounts aggregates at constant prices provide important indicators for measuring growth in the activity or economy. Most countries are compiling national accounts aggregates at current and constant prices. They also update the base year periodically. However, in the Asian region several countries have breaks in their national accounts series resulting from the changes in base year.
Objectives of the Workshop
The objectives of the workshop were to:
apprise the participants of the current status of national accounts series in selected ADB/ESCAP countries;
familiarize participants with basic principles in compiling national accounts at constant prices and various methodologies used in linking constant prices series;
discuss problems of compilers on producing a continuous and comparable national accounts series; and in the more frequent rebasing of series;
explore the possibilities of proposing a common method for linking national accounts estimates based on good practices of participating countries;
for countries with breaks in their national accounts, formulate a work programme of linking the series; and
discuss the advantages and approaches towards more frequent rebasing of the national accounts.
Conduct of the workshop
After introductory statements from ESCAP and ADB, the workshop proper started with country presentations on the current status of national accounts compilation
All the countries made presentations on the current status of their national accounts statistics: compilation of current price estimates and in particular their practices for compiling constant price estimates of value added and other national accounts aggregates. It was noted that most countries have up-to-date national income estimates at current and constant prices and that their base year is a quite recent one. Some countries, however, had a base year that is quite old, but they are planning to revise their base year to a more recent one. The main problems noted in the presentations related to data gaps including time lag of data, lag time of rebasing, and frequency of rebasing. Countries expressed their concerns/problems pertaining to timeliness, accuracy and relevance of some of the important data that they require for compiling the estimates on a regular basis.
The issue was also raised that in some countries the statistics office and central banks both produce data on GDP, sometimes with inconsistent results.
Following the country presentations, participants heard lectures and presentations and engaged in discussions on several topics, including:
Basic Principles of Compilation at Constant Prices;
Measuring Real Value Added in Service Activities: Experiences in OECD Countries;
Price and Volume Measures used for Constant Price Estimation (with a review of recent developments in the area of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and on the issues relating to seasonal items in the CPI sample and quality adjustments);
Maintaining Consistent Time Series of National Accounts: Experience of OECD Countries;
Chain Volume Measures in the Australian National Accounts;
Compiling, rebasing and linking quarterly GDP estimates;
Compiling, rebasing and linking subnational (at regional, state, provincial, and district level) GDP estimates.
As a move towards achieving the goal of the workshop, the participants were put into three separate groups to write down their Work Plan on Rebasing and Linking of GDP series. The questions related to demand for constant price series, practices on rebasing/linking, future technical cooperation, and consensus/recommendations on frequency of rebasing, selection of base year and reducing the time lag in the release of rebased/linked series.
The final session was on the presentation of individual country work plans. Most countries indicated in their work plan that by the end of November 2000 they would be able to come out with a linked series of their GDP at the latest base year prices.
The workshop also issued some recommendations, which follow below:
As regards the choice of the base year, the individual countries may decide that by themselves based on the availability of required data. It is not necessary to choose a "normal" year for the rebasing exercise.
The rebasing exercise should be done at the most disaggregated level as possible as this will reduce formula error (on account of using Laspeyres price index for deflation instead of Paasche index) in compiling the constant price estimates.
Depending upon the availability of the required data and the situation of the specific sector the countries may adopt one of the appropriate methods (revaluation, deflation, or volume extrapolation) for obtaining the constant price estimates. Theoretically the price deflation technique is preferred.
Rebasing and benchmarking exercises may be undertaken separately in their own right. The two exercises need however to be coordinated to avoid confusion among users.
Rebasing can be done more frequently. A minimum five-year interval is advisable for rebasing. If rebasing is done separately from the benchmarking exercise, it would be possible for countries to undertake more frequent rebasing without demanding detailed data or substantial resources. Ideally speaking, countries will plan on using annual rebasing and chain volume indices as recommended by the 1993 SNA.
Countries may plan their next base year as a common one for the region; the year 2000 is recommended as the new base year.
Like the rebasing exercise, it is advisable that the linking exercise is also undertaken at the most disaggregated level possible. For the benefit of the users, it was suggested that the series be linked backwards for 10 years.
When benchmarking is done, the countries undertake back casting of the estimates for some years which may result in change of growth rates. To link the series, the workshop groups' consensus was to apply splicing, that is, maintaining the growth rates of GDP and its components to backtrack estimates and allow for residuals or balancing items.
The workshop recommended the timely release of rebased national accounts series, preferably within 1-3 years after the reference base year. For the combined or benchmarking exercise, the time lag of rebased and linked series should not exceed 4-6 years.
The workshop strongly recommended that countries explore chain based volume series at their earliest convenience.
Besides making recommendations on good practices mentioned above, the workshop considered other related issues like better coordination mechanisms among agencies responsible for compiling various statistics required for the compilation of national accounts in the countries, more timely release of national accounts statistics, the maintenance of designated statistics including a calendar of statistics, the development of necessary software to facilitate compilation process, and strengthened linkages with users.
The workshop also recommended more regional forums of exchange among countries, and improvements to other modes of exchange of ideas among countries.
Apart from having stimulating theoretical and methodological discussions, participants at the workshop also agreed on practical follow-up activities.
According to preliminary plans drafted by the participants at the workshop, most countries would complete the linking exercise by December 2000. Work to be done by countries as indicated should ensure a more uniform and up-to-date economic aggregates valuation at constant prices. The participating countries current base year ranged from 1980 to 1995, while the exercise should bring the base for the same group of countries to years from 1995 to 2000.
This short presentation of the workshop cannot give full details of the discussions held in each of the Workshop sessions. The full report, together, with the country and resource persons presentations will be made available for further reading at: http://www.unescap.org/stat/meet/rebase/rebase.htm
Highlights from the thirty-first session of the Statistical Commission,
New York, 29 February - 3 March 2000
The thirty-first session of the United Nations Statistical Commission, the most important global legislative body in official statistics, was held in New York from 29 February to 3 March 2000.
This was the first session of the Commission held with annual frequency, and the duration of four working days proved perhaps a little short for the discussion of a few items.
Although we cannot provide the full report of the session in the newsletter, one or two highlights are noted below.
The substantive items discussed at the session, following the same numbering as approved by the Commission, included:
International trade statistics;
International Comparison Programme;
SDDS and GDDS of the International Monetary Fund;
Other economic statistics.
Tourism satellite accounts.
Demographic, social and migration statistics:
Gender issues in measurement of paid and unpaid work;
Statistics of HIV/AIDS.
Coordination of development indicators in the context of follow-up to United Nations conferences and summits, including capacity-building.
International economic and social classifications.
Revised Handbook of Statistical Organization.
Review of other major developments in the work programme of the United Nations Statistics Division (UNSD).
Coordination and integration of international statistical programmes.
Follow-up to the agreed conclusions of the Economic and Social Council's high-level and coordination segments, and to its resolutions.
Programme questions and related matters.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report.
This article, however, concentrates on three items: national accounts, the International Comparison Programme (ICP) and the UNDP's Human Development Report.
On national accounts, attention was focussed on the apparent lack of progress in implementing the 1993 System of National Accounts (SNA) as measured by the "milestone" assessment defined by the Commission. There was a further concern about whether the current definition of implementation of the 1993 SNA is suitable for all countries. Thus, a group of agencies and countries was assigned to reconsider the assessment of the 1993 SNA implementation mechanism. Organizations, including ESCAP, were asked to continue to pay special attention to countries at the earliest stages of national accounts development (milestone levels 0 and 1).
As with the previous session of the Statistical Commission, the ICP was still under discussion. Despite continuing reservations about quality, timeliness and credibility as well as management and funding issues for a global ICP comparison, there was an increased acceptance that purchasing power parities data were in demand and that work on ICP should include country capability-building as an integral component. The Commission recommended that the start of the next round of the global ICP be postponed until a suitable implementation plan is in place. Meanwhile the World Bank is expected to make a presentation at the Committee on Statistics in November 2000, when countries will decide whether a regional comparison should go forward.
The discussion on the UNDP's Human Development Report (HDR) highlighted criticisms, not least from ESCAP members, already raised at the Working Group of Statistical Experts in November 1999. In particular, concerns were voiced about perceived shortcomings in the accuracy and interpretation of the statistics in the HDR. These issues were to be discussed together with UNDP after the Commission session. UNDP was also invited to join the discussions at the Subcommittee on Statistical Activities of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC).
Methodology on Gender Statistics: what's on the Web
Gender statistics is not a new topic for statisticians. By gender statistics we imply a framework of statistical tools and methodologies aiming at a better and fairer picture of the gender dimension in the new or "classic" statistical indicators disseminated by national or supra-national agencies.
However, with gender statistics we also have to consider the collection and dissemination of indicators, time series, databases and so forth, where the gender dimension is present.
The impetus toward the general improvement in this field in statistics comes mostly from the global conferences of the '90s, particularly the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.
One first consideration about what resources on gender statistics are available on the World Wide Web is that resources from international organizations constitute a very important contribution. Of course, some national statistical offices offer detailed and accurate information, but it is most likely that if a researcher used a search engine to find links with a generic "gender statistics" string, then most of the results would come from international rather than national agencies.
That's why we will illustrate mainly these sources of information within this article. Readers interested in specific regional or national information can either search within national statistical offices' web sites or type the appropriate search string into their favourite search engine.
Let us begin with United Nations related agencies, and particularly with the United Nations Statistics Division's Statistics and Indicators on the World's Women at: http://www.un.org/Depts/unsd/gender/
Several tables on topics such as population, health, and education present sex-disaggregated statistics for many country members.
A real web "portal" on gender-related resources is certainly the United Nations Womenwatch at http://www.un.org/womenwatch/. It has abundant references on gender issues, including the Statistics and Indicators home page: a number of links to data provided by UN-related statistical units, including the UNSD pages (see above) but also resources from ILO, UNESCO, Population Division and other organizations.
To visit the statistical page of the UNDP's Gender in Development web site, connect first at the page http://sdnhq.undp.org/gender/links/ where other non-statistical information is also available and then follow the link to "Statistics and Indicators", which offers a number of links to various resources from data to methodology, including an internal search facility.
An interesting, agricultural-focussed web site is FAO's Filling the Data Gap, a guide to gender-sensitive statistics for agricultural development. It was produced as a result of the High-Level Consultation on Rural Women and Information held in Rome, 4-6 October 1999, and can be found at http://www.fao.org/docrep/X2785e/X2785e00.htm
Some useful links to national web sites feature good coverage of data and often of methodology too. You may see what is available for instance at the web site of Statistics South Africa, http://www.statssa.gov.za/women&men/Contents.htm, where the report "Women & men in South Africa" 1998, provides data and explanations on the status of women and men in that country. The report offers statistics on topics such as population, family and households, living conditions and work, education, health and other issues.
At http://www.nscb.gov.ph/projects/gender.htm you will see current programmes of the Philippines National Statistical Coordination Board on gender statistics. From that page a link is available to a gender factsheet featuring sex-disaggregated data on gender issues. However, other statistical data of interest concerning gender issues are here and there around the web site.
New Zealand's "StatNews" newsletter announces the first national Time Use Survey.
The first national Time Use Survey in New Zealand was completed in August 1999, according to the March issue of StatNews, Statistics New Zealand's newsletter.
The survey involved a total of 8,500 individuals over the age of 12. All individuals in the sample recorded how they spent their time in a special 48-hour diary.
Results are made available in Statistics New Zealand's web site: look for the link on "Time use survey" at the main page http://www.stats.govt.nz and follow the various links.
There are 48 Time Use tables available free for consultation at the web site, and customized data are available on request. Tables in Excel format, including data and calculation of sampling errors, are available for download together with a user guide in Acrobat format.
Why not tri-modal? Positive outcomes from Singapore's census strategy says the Statistics Singapore Newsletter.
The Singapore Department of Statistics launched the Population Census 2000 on 23 March 2000. This is the fourth census after Singapore's independence and the thirteenth in the series of census taking in Singapore. With basic information of the population available from its databases, only 20% of households are being asked to provide additional information. They can do so via internet, telephone or face-to-face interviews.
Data collected via Internet and CATI were captured in the Census database directly without the need for data entry. However, additional processing had to be undertaken for data obtained from fieldwork.
Census questionnaires were first scanned and captured in images before being sorted. Data items in the questionnaires were then captured by the system using the Optical Mark Recognition (OMR), Optical Character Recognition (OCR) and Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) technology. For data items where OMR/OCR/ICR cannot be applied, data entry was employed.
Once data had been collected and captured in the Census database, coding was done with the help of software known as the Advanced Coding Environment (ACE). ACE comprises two distinct modules, namely the auto-coder and the coding wizard software. The auto-coder performs a direct string match with a dictionary of codes. All records with distinct and non-ambiguous industrial and job titles are automatically coded in this way.
A trial run was conducted some months before where the procedures for Internet submission and CATI were tested and reviewd by respondents. An interesting feature was discovering that evening face-to-face interviews were more productive than day-time vists, this allowed an optimal allocation of human resources for fieldwork.
The process will be concluded by data verification and editing. Singapore's high tech approach to census operations is applicable owing to its highly developed IT infrastructure, however the experimentation with these technologies and the unconventional but very efficient approach to census taking might be partially exploited by other countries of the Asia and Pacific region. To read more on Singapore's census or other news, consult the Statistics Singapore Newsletter on line, available through the web site at http://www.singstat.gov.sg/.
Publications released by the Statistics Division
Statistical Indicators for Asia and the Pacific, Volume XXIX, No.4, December 1999
Asia-Pacific in Figures, 1999
Statistical Newsletter, No. 115
Missions of ESCAP Statistics Division Staff
Mr. Andrew J. Flatt, Director, Statistics Division, undertook a mission to:
New York (28 February-3 March): To represent ESCAP at the thirty-first session of the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC); to attend meetings of the Paris21 Consortium; and to hold consultations with numerous country and agency officials on statistical matters.
Ms Heidi Arboleda, Regional Adviser on National Accounts, visited the following countries:
Pakistan (16-29 January): To provide advisory services on the implementation of the 1993 SNA; and to formulate activities on the compilation of quarterly and regional GDP and of satellite accounts;
Kazakhstan (26 February-11 March): To provide advisory services on commodity flows, financial account and recalculation of dynamic series in connection with conversion to the new classification of economic activities.
Ms Carmelita N. Ericta, Consultant, visited the following countries to meet with key officials of the national statistical office and other agencies to discuss country level activities on improving statistics on gender issues.
Mongolia (16-21 January),
Cambodia (31 January-4 February) and
Nepal (14-19 February).
Mr M.N. Ozsever, ESCAP Adviser on Population Data Processing and Database Management with the UNFPA/CST in Bangkok, undertook a mission to:
Maldives (3-23 March): To organize and conduct a workshop on IMPS for the staff of Statistics Section of the Ministry of Planning and National Development.
Ms Luisa T. Engracia, ESCAP Adviser on Population Statistics with the UNFPA/CST in Kathmandu, undertook a mission to :
Maldives (4-25 March): To conduct training on the use of IMPS and formulation of edit and table specifications for the data processing of the 2000 census of population and housing; and to provide guidance in the planning of various activities releted to the census.
Visitors to the Statistics Division
Mr. Keng He, Deputy Director-General, National Bureau of Statistics, Beijing
Mr. Huang Jianhua, Director, Division of Bilateral Relations, Department of International Cooperation, National Bureau of Statistics
Mr. Wen Jianwu, Senior Statistician, Research Institute of Social Science, National Bureau of Statistics, Beijing
Mr. Chen Zuogui, Provincial Chief of Statistics, Hunan Province
Ms Sulafa Al Bassam, Chief, Regional Commissions New York Office, New York