I. General Comments
The Government of Mauritius appreciates the initiatives of the IMF for the production of the data Report on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC). The Report on Mauritius gives a fair view of the practices and standards for the compilation, production and dissemination of statistics in the country. The Report has helped the Mauritian Authorities to take stock of their strengths and weaknesses in this area. The initiative of the Fund in the preparation of a uniform framework for assessing data quality and the statistical system is also highly appreciated. Government intends to use the Data Quality Assessment Framework (DQAF), which is based on internationally agreed best practices for official statistics as a reference to improve the quality of its statistical products.
Following the ROSC document, some measures have already been taken to address the weaknesses. Additional measures are envisaged to be taken in the short and medium term to improve statistical production and dissemination practices in order to bring them in line with international standards. Some of the measures that have been taken or planned since the receipt of the ROSC as well as some specific comments are given below.
II. Specific Comments
Government has taken measures to reduce duplication by the Ministry of Finance and the Central Statistics Office in regard to collection of data from extra budgetary units. Recently the number of staff positions for production and analysis of GFS data has also been increased at the Ministry. Furthermore data produced on GFS basis are cross-checked with other methods of deriving budgetary aggregates and are thoroughly scrutinized before publication in the budget documents. A follow-up IMF Technical Assistance Mission on GFS took place in January 2002
2.2 The IMF Users’Survey
The suggestions made by users in the survey conducted on behalf of the IMF in June 2001, given as appendix to the report, have been noted and will be taken into consideration in data collection strategies.
2.3 Setting up a Committee on “International Commitments with emphasis on adherence to IMF standards”
It is worth mentioning that the new Statistics Act 2000 contains several clauses to consolidate the statistical system and to ensure the quality and integrity of official statistics. Following the promulgation of the Act, a Statistics Advisory Council (SAC) was set up. Among other things, it has the function of advising the Minister of Economic Development, Financial Services and Corporate Affairs on the coordination and harmonisation of statistical activities in the country, on the perceived integrity of, and public confidence and trust in statistics and also on the maintenance of independence and professional standard of statistical information produced.
To ensure that Mauritius graduates smoothly from the GDDS to the SDDS, the Council took the decision to set up a Committee on “International Commitments with emphasis on adherence to IMF standards”. The committee will identify constraints and recommend reforms in the legal and administrative framework that are needed to enable the compiling agencies to fulfill the data requirements. A time frame for graduation from the GDDS to the SDDS will also be established.
The following actions have been taken to improve data accessibility:
a) The “Guide to the CSO” has been posted on the CSO website pending its availability in hard copy. The aim is to inform the public of the activities and statistical products available at the CSO. A description of the activities undertaken by the different units and information on all publications together with contact persons’ name and phone number is also given.
b) The Statistics Advisory Council has set up a Committee on “Public Understanding of Statistics”. The aim is to increase accessibility of official statistics to a wider audience and to promote public understanding of statistical information.
c) As from October 2000, the name and phone number of contact persons are given in all CSO publications
d) The Economic and Social Indicators as well the 2000 Housing and Population Census reports are already on the CSO’s website. All other publications will be posted in due course.
e) Following the recommendation of the Fund, it has been decided to attach a “User Survey Questionnaire” in selected issues of the Economic and Social Indicators, starting with one on National Accounts to be released in March 2002.
2.5 Quality Assurance
Quality monitoring is implicit in CSO work processes although special quality assurance teams are not in place. The IMF has been approached with a proposal for providing CSO with examples of quality indicators, processing improvement studies, and assisting in implementation.
2.6 National Accounts
2.6.1 Maintenance of the Central Business Register
With a view to improving and expanding the coverage of the Central Business Register, work is underway on the development of a data base management system to maintain the register and to allow quick search and retrieval of information on business units.
2.6.2 Conduct of a cost of production survey in the agricultural sector
It is planned to conduct a cost of production survey during 2002- 2003, in the agricultural sector to update the input structure of activities related to the cultivation of sugarcane, the major food crops, fruits and flowers, as well as fishing.
2.6.3 Development of Quarterly National Accounts
Development of Quarterly National Accounts is underway. The availability of data on expenses incurred by the central budgetary government on an accrual basis would greatly help in the preparation of quarterly accounts for the general government sector. A paper describing the methodology for the compilation of QNA together with pilot estimates of quarterly value added by industry groups for the years 1999 and 2000 has been circulated among the main data users and suppliers. The paper is designed to inform them of developments and to collect their views and comments in order to ensure the success of this data-intensive project.
2.6.4 Data on the Freeport trade
As from January 2002, data on trade activities in the Freeport will be integrated with those of the Customs’ Department. This procedure will help to improve consistency between balance of payments and national account statistics.
2.6.5 Estimates at constant prices
Regarding the estimates at constant prices and the use of the single indicator method instead of double deflation, this procedure requires the availability of an import price index as the majority of inputs are imported. Currently, only the aggregate unit value of imports is available. The use of import unit values to deflate imported intermediate consumption yields incorrect and unrealistic volume measures. Preparatory work on the construction of an import price index has been started.
2.6.6 Preparation of financial accounts and balance sheets
The CSO is currently working on a framework for the development of financial statistics that will include the preparation of financial accounts and balance sheets for all sectors of the economy in the context of the national accounts. The CSO has requested technical assistance from the IMF in this area and the mission in monetary and financial statistics That visited Port-Louis in March/April 2002 also provided advice on the procedures and surveys that are needed for the non-bank financial sector to meet the data requirements of the Bank of Mauritius and the Financial Services Division of the Ministry of Economic Development, Financial Services and Corporate Affairs. In addition, the survey considered in the fourth paragraph of section 2.9 may generate financial data.
2.7 Consumer Price Index (CPI)
Recommendations regarding dissemination have already been implemented. The monthly CPI is now available on the website five working days after the reference month. Footnotes have been added to the CPI table in the Government Gazette and the CSO is listed as the source.
The recommendations regarding compilation techniques will be implemented at the next revision of the CPI in August 2002.
2.8 Monetary Statistics
Steps will be taken to ensure that it is clearly specified in the new Bank of Mauritius Act that the Bank is responsible for the collection, compilation and dissemination of monetary statistics from domestic and offshore banks as well as from non-bank depository financial institutions.
On the issue of integrity, the Bank of Mauritius informs users of monetary statistics about revisions to data by way of footnotes to the tables that appear in the Monthly Statistical Bulletin. The Bank will ensure that the users of monetary statistics are kept informed of any major changes in the methodology, as appropriate, in the compilation of such statistics.
Currently, monetary statistics are compiled on the basis of concepts and definitions of the IMF’s draft Guide to Money and Banking Statistics in International Financial Statistics. However, following the publication by the IMF of the new Monetary and Financial Statistics Manual, the Bank has made a request for Technical Assistance from the IMF for the implementation of the recommendations of the new manual. A Working Group has also been set up in the Research Department of the Bank and has been assigned the responsibility of providing a comprehensive plan outlining the procedures that would be followed and the deadlines set for the implementation of all the recommendations made in the context of the ROSC report.
Currently, monetary statistics are made available to the public on the 20th of each month with the publication of the Monthly Statistical Bulletin. The Bank will follow the recommendation made for the dissemination of data on the Bank’s website as and when available in order to meet the timeliness requirements of the SDDS.
There is a Standing Committee, chaired by the Director-Research and comprising representatives of all the departments of the Bank and representatives of commercial banks, which meets on a quarterly basis to review the quality of all monetary, balance of payments and financial data submitted to the Bank.
2.9 Balance of Payments
For the Balance of Payments, efforts will continue to be made with a view to improving the quality, periodicity and timeliness of the statistical data. It is also envisaged that the new Bank of Mauritius Act will strengthen the legal underpinnings and make more explicit the Bank’s responsibility for the collection and compilation of balance of payments statistics.
Efforts are already under way to provide more detailed data on the balance of payments. The Bank will aim to achieve greater disaggregation, in line with the methodology set out in the Fifth Edition of the IMF’s Balance of Payments Manual (BPM5), particularly for items in the services and financial accounts. The Bank will also consider releasing on its website the more detailed classification of the balance of payments.
Efforts are also under way for adjusting data on reserve assets in order to remove changes in prices and exchange rates.
In the medium-term, the Bank will, in co-operation with the Central Statistics Office and the Financial Services Commission (FSC), explore the possibility of carrying out a survey of enterprises, banks and other financial institutions, both onshore and offshore, with a view to assessing the financial claims on and liabilities to non-residents. The expertise of the CSO in conducting surveys will be drawn upon.