- International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office
- Published Date:
- April 2016
Independent Evaluation Office
of the International Monetary Fund
Behind the Scenes with Data at the IMF An IEO Evaluation
© 2016 International Monetary Fund
Joint Bank-Fund Library
Names: Wagner, Nancy L. (Nancy Louise) | International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office.
Title: Behind the scenes with data at the IMF : an IEO evaluation / this report was prepared by an IEO team led by Nancy Wagner.
Description: Washington, DC : Independent Evaluation Office, International Monetary Fund, 2016. | Includes bibliographical references
Identifiers: ISBN 978-1-49838-598-5 (paper)
Subjects: LCSH: Economics, Mathematical. | Finance—Statistics. | Economic indicators. | International Monetary Fund.
Classification: LCC HB137.B44 2016
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Tel. (202) 623-7430 Fax: (202) 623-7201
The following Background Papers and Background Document are available on the IEO website at www.ieo-imf.org.
BP/16/01. The Rules of the Game: Data-Related Mandate, Obligations, and Practices at the IMF
BP/16/02. Progress Through Crises: The Evolution of the IMF’s Statistical Arsenal
BP/16/03. Old Acquaintances: Past Views on Data Problems in the IMF
BP/16/04. Inadequate Statistics and Faulty Analysis
BP/16/05. On the Effect of IMF Data Standards Initiatives: Do They Affect Foreign Direct Investment, Exchange Rate Volatility, and Sovereign Borrowing Costs?
BP/16/06. Data and Statistics at the IMF: Quality Assurances for Low-Income Countries
BD/16/01. How Well Is the IMF Doing on Data? Evidence from Surveys
The following conventions are used in this publication:
An en dash (–) between years or months (for example, 2015–16 or January–June) indicates the years or months covered, including the beginning and ending years or months; a slash or virgule (/) between years or months (for example, 2015/16) indicates a fiscal or financial year, as does the abbreviation FY (for example, FY2016).
“Billion” means a thousand million; “trillion” means a thousand billion.
As used in this publication, the term “country” does not in all cases refer to a territorial entity that is a state as understood by international law and practice. As used here, the term also covers some territorial entities that are not states but for which statistical data are maintained on a separate and independent basis.
Some of the documents cited and referenced in this report were not available to the public at the time of publication of this report. Under the current policy on public access to the IMF’s archives, some of these documents will become available 3 or 5 years after their issuance. They may be referenced as EBS/YY/NN and SM/YY/NN, where EBS and SM indicate the series and YY indicates the year of issue. Certain other types of documents may become available 20 years after their issuance. For further information, see www.imf.org/external/np/arc/eng/archive.htm.
Data issues have long been a source of concern for the IMF. Since the 1980s, IMF staff has presented more than 150 papers on data issues for the Executive Board’s consideration. However, many of the problems raised in the earlier papers remain largely unresolved. Moreover, each of those earlier papers tended to look at just a small slice of the picture regarding data—that is, a piecemeal approach. This report tries to look at data in a holistic manner.
In particular, we try to look at data from the perspective of the Fund’s role as a global macroeconomic risk manager, that is, its role in (i) crisis prevention/mitigation (surveillance) and (ii) crisis response (lending). Data are essential in discharging these responsibilities, leading to a seemingly simple, yet complex question: “Are data adequate for surveillance and lending?”
Indeed, problems with data or data practices—missing data, misleading data, or ignoring available data—have at times hampered the Fund’s ability to respond effectively to imminent challenges. As a result, for a time after each crisis, data issues are front and center, resulting in major changes in the Fund’s statistical arsenal. But this attention to data tends to wane after a while, as data become, once again, an afterthought.
The roots of these problems are diverse, ranging from external (e.g., member country capacity constraints) to internal (e.g., lack of appropriate staff incentives, entrenched work practices). While most of these have been recognized for decades, they are now cast in a different light due to the proliferation of data sources, technological advances, and a surge in demand for multilateral and financial surveillance and cross-country analyses. This presents greater challenges for the Fund, but also greater opportunities for change.
This evaluation found that noteworthy progress has been made—particularly with external data provision and internal data management—but important obstacles to reform have yet to be tackled. The report thus advocates, first and foremost, that the IMF should design and implement a long-term overarching data strategy, one that goes well beyond data management and recognizes data as a strategic institutional asset. Our other recommendations are important elements of such a strategy, but their implementation could begin in parallel: define and prioritize the IMF’s data needs; reconsider the role and mandate of the IMF’s Statistics Department; reexamine staff incentives; and make clear the IMF’s responsibility regarding the quality of the data it disseminates.
I am encouraged by the broad agreement, expressed by the Managing Director and the Executive Board, with the findings and recommendations of this report. It is our hope that this report will help catalyze the efforts to address remaining data problems and thereby better support the Fund in delivering on its evolving and more challenging role in today’s increasingly interconnected global economy.
Moises J. Schwartz
Independent Evaluation Office
Behind the Scenes with Data at the IMF: An IEO Evaluation
This report was prepared by an IEO team led by Nancy Wagner. The IEO team included Miguel de Las Casas, Chris Monasterski, Roxana Pedraglio, and Thomas Reichmann. The evaluation was informed by background studies prepared by Carlos de Resende, Morten Jerven, Franz Loyola, Tam Nguyen, and members of the evaluation team. The evaluation benefited from discussions with participants—William Alexander, John Boorman, Eduard Brau, Carol Carson, Philip Cross, Donal Donovan, John Hicklin, Russell Kincaid, Anne Krueger, Jin Liqun, Meg Lundsager, David Robinson, Marko Škreb, Hector Torres, Edwin Truman, and Onno Wijnholds—at two workshops that took place in Washington, D.C., and at a workshop in Berlin organized jointly with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the German Institute for Development Evaluation (DEval). It also benefited from comments by IMF staff. However, the final judgments are the responsibility of the IEO alone. Arun Bhatnagar, Annette Canizares, and Amy Gamulo provided administrative assistance. Rachel Weaving, Roxana Pedraglio, and Esha Ray provided editorial and production management assistance. The report was approved by Moises Schwartz.
African Department (IMF)APD
Asia and Pacific Department (IMF)BIS
Bank for International SettlementsBSA
balance sheet analysisCDIS
Coordinated Direct Investment SurveyCDS
credit default swapCGER
Consultative Group on Exchange Rate IssuesCOFER
Currency Composition of Official Foreign Exchange ReservesCPI
consumer price indexCPIS
Coordinated Portfolio Investment SurveyCSD
Common Surveillance DatabasesDGI
Data Gaps Initiative (G20)DMX
Data Management for ExcelDQAF
Data Quality Assessment FrameworkDSBB
Dissemination Standards Bulletin BoardEBA
External Balance AssessmentECB
European Central BankEcOS
Economic Outlook SuiteEDGG
Economic Data Governance GroupEDMI
Economic Data Management InitiativeEDSC
Economic Data Steering CommitteeEDT
Economic Data TeamEDW
Economic Data WarehouseE-GDDS
Enhanced General Data Dissemination SystemEIU
Economist Intelligence UnitELSTAT
Hellenic Statistical AuthorityEME
emerging market economyEU
European Department (IMF)EWE
Early Warning ExerciseFAD
Fiscal Affairs Department (IMF)FIN
Finance Department (IMF)FSA
Financial Stability AssessmentFSAP
Financial Sector Assessment ProgramFSB
Financial Stability BoardFSI
Financial Soundness IndicatorFSSA
Financial Sector Stability AssessmentFTE
Fiscal Transparency EvaluationG20
A grouping composed of major advanced economies and systemically important emerging market and developing countriesG-SIFIs
Globally Systemically Important Financial InstitutionsGDDS
General Data Dissemination SystemGDP
gross domestic productGFSR
Global Financial Stability ReportHRD
Human Resources Department (IMF)IAG
Inter-Agency Group on Economic and Financial StatisticsIFI
international financial institutionIFS
International Financial StatisticsIIP
International Investment PositionIMDs
Integrated Monetary DatabasesITD
Information Technology Department (IMF)INDEC
National Statistics and Census InstituteIT
Middle East and Central Asia Department (IMF)MCM
Monetary and Capital Markets Department (IMF)NBFIs
nonbank financial institutionsOECD
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and DevelopmentOIA
Office of Internal Audit and Inspection (IMF)OMD
Office of the Managing Director (IMF)PRGF
Poverty Reduction and Growth FacilityREO
Regional Economic OutlookRES
Research Department (IMF)ROSC
Report on the Observance of Standards and CodesSDDS
Special Data Dissemination StandardSDMX
Statistical Data and Metadata ExchangeSIA
Statistical Issues AppendixSNA
System of National AccountsSPR
Strategy, Policy, and Review Department (IMF)SRFs
standardized report formsSTA
Statistics Department (IMF)TA
Technology and General Services Department (IMF)TMU
Technical Memorandum of UnderstandingTSR
Triennial Surveillance ReviewUFR
use of Fund resourcesUN
World Economic OutlookWHD
Western Hemisphere Department (IMF)