International Monetary Fund. Independent Evaluation Office
This report examines whether the IMF has effectively leveraged an important asset: data. It finds that in general, the IMF has been able to rely on a large amount of data of acceptable quality, and that data provision from member countries has improved markedly over time. Nonetheless, problems with data or data practices have, at times, adversely affected the IMF’s surveillance and lending activities. The roots of data problems are diverse, ranging from problems due to member countries’ capacity constraints or reluctance to share sensitive data to internal issues such as lack of appropriate staff incentives, institutional rigidities, and long-standing work practices. Efforts to tackle these problems are piecemeal, the report finds, without a clear comprehensive strategy that recognizes data as an institutional strategic asset, not just a consumption good for economists. The report makes a number of recommendations that could promote greater progress in this regard.
The Data Standards Initiatives, the SDDS and the GDDS, have achieved the goals the Executive Board set in its Fifth Review of July 2003. The staff sees the next three years as a period of consolidating these gains by maintaining the credibility of the SDDS through improved monitoring of countries’ observance of its requirements, and further integrating both the SDDS and GDDS under the Fund’s Data Quality Program (DQP) by aligning their structure with the Fund’s Data Quality Assessment Framework (DQAF). The staff proposes to include no new data categories in the SDDS and GDDS. Instead, the staff proposes to deepen descriptive information on how countries cover oil and gas activities and products in selected existing data categories.
The International Monetary Fund’s Executive Board regularly reviews progress and developments under the Data Standards Initiatives. The last review—Eighth Review—undertaken in February 2012 introduced the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) Plus.
In light of the long experience under the Data Standards Initiatives established in the mid-1990s, this review takes a longer term retrospective on what has been achieved so far, and highlights some of the lessons learned. What is evident is the contrast between the progress of countries with more advanced dissemination practices (SDDS and SDDS Plus), and the slow pace of improvement under the General Data Dissemination System (GDDS).