19. Provision of Technical Assistance in External Debt Statistics

International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
June 2003
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19.1 This chapter provides an introduction to the technical assistance in external debt statistics, and related macroeconomic statistics, provided by the international agencies involved in the production of the Guide. This chapter is not comprehensive of all the technical assistance provided in external debt statistics and is accurate as of the time of writing.

Commonwealth Secretariat

19.2 In addition to supporting the CS-DRMS1 debt system in user countries, the Commonwealth Secretariat provides technical assistance to ministries of finance and central banks in various aspects of debt management related to data compilation, loan operations and analysis, capacity building, and policy advice. In the field of debt statistics, targeted assistance is available for:

  • Compiling debt data extracted from various sources: Local staff are exposed to the techniques of making an inventory of loans through the interpretation of loan documents (loan agreements, creditor statements, general conditions and other creditor practices, etc.) so that all relevant debt information can be compiled/retrieved.

  • Recording loan instruments using appropriate methodologies: Training is provided on the CS-DRMS system, which has taken into account different creditor practices and the agreed norms on compilation of debt statistics. The system allows user countries to record debt information (details, terms, and transactions) on a loan-by-loan basis. Subsequent developments, such as debt restructuring resulting from Paris Club agreements, can also be captured in the system.

  • Validating and reconciling stocks, flows, and other details on a loan-by-loan basis, including with creditor records: Once a database is created, local staff are trained to validate the data and reconcile debt stock and debt-service levels with other sources (creditors or other agencies, including the World Bank). Any inconsistencies in classifying the data are addressed during this exercise.

  • Disseminating debt data in the various formats required by different users: In recent years, dissemination of external debt data to various users, and in the format the information is required, has been a focal point of assistance. Users of CS-DRMS are trained in the various facilities that can provide data to users, both within and outside the country. These facilities include the 100 reports that are available in CS-DRMS; the facility to export information into spreadsheet for further manipulation; and the add-on facilities and built-in electronic links with other systems.

19.3 Also, as part of its capacity-building efforts, the Commonwealth Secretariat has developed a comprehensive training program in debt management aimed at enhancing the skills and knowledge of local staff with different levels of responsibilities, so that they are able to carry our their debt-management functions in an effective manner. These training modules, which can be customized to meet specific country needs, can be grouped under the following broad categories:

  • Basic training programs such as the interpretation of loan/credit agreements (external and domestic debt); debt-restructuring operations, including for Paris Club and London Club; and debt data validation techniques;

  • Basic and advanced courses in the use of CS-DRMS (and add-on software) for loan recording and administration; for timely reporting of debt statistics, including data extraction to other systems; and for supporting debt analysis such as portfolio analysis or debt-sustainability analysis;

  • Specialized courses and workshops on debt-management techniques and strategies, new debt initiatives, and new practices and standards; these are aimed at different audiences ranging from senior officials in governments to those involved in actual debt operations; and

  • Seminars and consensus-building meetings on issues with wider implication for debt management—for example, the HIPC Initiative and debt sustainability in a liberalizing economic environment.

19.4 In delivering its advisory services to countries, the Commonwealth Secretariat has actively collaborated with various institutions—regional and international—especially in undertaking joint activities in specific countries (for instance, data validation) and in regional training programs.

European Central Bank

19.5 The Eurosystem,2 under the coordination of the ECB, provides technical assistance to the central banks of the countries that are candidates to join the European Union (EU), the so-called accession countries,3 with a view to preparing for their future integration into the European System of Central Banks (ESCB), and later into the Eurosystem. The ECB’s technical assistance is primarily intended to help these countries implement data collection and compilation systems that will allow them in due course to meet the ECB’s statistical requirements, and to contribute to properly articulated (aggregated and consolidated) statistics for the euro area. The assistance takes the form of seminars organized at the ECB or in different countries, and country visits conducted by ECB staff. The seminars may call on experts in national central banks of the EU and are targeted essentially at economists-statisticians and/or managerial staff of central banks and of national statistical institutes, where relevant. In cooperation with other institutions—notably, the European Commission (Eurostat) and the IMF—the ECB seeks to promote the adoption of current international statistical standards, in particular 1993 SNA, ESA95, and BPM5.

19.6 The assistance provided by the ECB covers the various statistical areas of its competence within the EU: money and banking statistics, securities issues, interest rates, balance of payments and the IIP, and related issues—Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS), international reserves, external debt, etc. Within the EU, the ECB is solely responsible for money and banking and related statistics. Where competence is shared—which is the case for balance of payments statistics, with the European Commission (Eurostat) having responsibility within the EU for the current and capital accounts (and for compiling EU aggregates), and the ECB being responsible for the financial account (and for compiling euro-area aggregates)—the assistance is organized in close cooperation between the two institutions; close cooperation is also sought with other international organizations.

19.7 The ECB will also cooperate with the accession countries in the field of financial accounts, including time series for the rest-of-the-world account as specified in the 1993 SNA and ESA95; compilation of financial accounts helps to promote consistency across statistical areas. External debt data are embedded in this framework on an instrument, rather than a functional, approach.

19.8 In addition to the assistance to accession countries, the ECB participates in seminars and workshops organized by regional institutions and forums (for example, Mercosur, West African Economic and Monetary Union, South African Customs Union) to share the experience gained in compiling aggregates for a group of countries.

International Monetary Fund

19.9 The IMF offers technical assistance for statistics including balance of payments, IIP and external debt, government finance, money and banking, and national accounts and price statistics. This work is reinforced by training courses and seminars for member country officials on statistical methodologies and their applications, including external debt and international reserves and related information. In addition, the IMF provides information on statistical topics via its public website, at

19.10 In all areas, technical assistance is designed to improve the collection, compilation, and dissemination of official statistics. In addition to providing assessments with respect to accuracy, coverage, and timeliness, technical assistance missions in each area often deliver on-the-job training, help design reporting forms and spreadsheets to facilitate correct classification, and lay out short- and medium-term action plans for the improvement of statistical procedures. Missions may pay particular attention to assisting countries in their efforts to comply with the requirements of the SDDS or participate in the General Data Dissemination System (GDDS). Technical assistance missions generally discuss a draft report with country authorities while in the field, which is later finalized with the benefit of the authorities’ comments.

19.11 The main vehicle for the delivery of technical assistance is short-term single-topic missions, which are conducted by IMF staff and externally recruited experts. A Panel of Experts is established to recognize those experts who have, by virtue of their experience and qualifications, demonstrated their capacity to contribute to the technical assistance program of the Statistics Department in one or more areas of macroeconomic statistics. The IMF also undertakes multisectoral statistical missions, which provide overall assessments and recommendations for strengthening institutional arrangements, methodology, collection, and compilation practices in the major areas of macroeconomic statistics. These missions not only address the issues related to each sector, but also consider the consistent treatment of data and coordination arrangements across sectors, and provide short- and medium-term action plans for improving statistics, including follow-up missions in the topical areas.

19.12 Technical assistance is provided only when requested by a country’s authorities. Since the demand for such assistance normally exceeds the resources available from the IMF, a number of considerations are taken into account in prioritizing country requests for technical assistance, including the extent to which (1) the country’s authorities are strongly supportive of obtaining the assistance and committed to ensuring its implementation; (2) the technical assistance addresses those weaknesses in a country’s institutional capacity for macroeconomic policy implementation that have been identified in the course of the IMF’s surveillance and other work; (3) the assistance contributes to strengthening a country’s capacity to design and implement an IMF-supported program; and (4) the assistance supports a country’s efforts to comply with internationally agreed standards and codes of transparency. The IMF recognizes that at times the systemic or regional importance of the requesting country and/or the emergence of a need as a result of a post-crisis situation may influence a decision to provide technical assistance.

19.13 The IMF also offers training courses in statistical methodology at the IMF Institute in Washington, D.C., the Joint Vienna Institute, the IMF-Singapore Regional Training Institute, the Joint Africa Institute in Abidjan, the Regional Training Program in the United Arab Emirates, and at several other regional sites. These seminars are up to six weeks in length and generally include a series of lectures, discussions, practical exercises, and case studies. During the lectures, participants are afforded an opportunity to discuss problems that they have actually encountered in the course of their work in their respective countries.

19.14 For further information on the IMF’s technical assistance and training courses, please contact:


Statistics Department

International Monetary Fund

Washington, D.C. 20431, U.S.A.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

19.15 There is no formal program of technical assistance by the division responsible for the Creditor Reporting System (CRS) of the OECD. However, Secretariat staff provide technical support to member country creditor reporters, both in Paris and through missions to capitals of reporting countries. In addition, non-OECD members occasionally visit Paris to discuss reporting problems, and differences between debtor and creditor reporting. For example, staff from the Indian Ministry of Finance and from the Federal Reserve Bank in Mumbai are regular visitors to the OECD.

19.16 The OECD hosts PARIS21—the Partnerships in Statistics for development in the 21st Century. Created in 1999, PARIS21 is a global consortium of statisticians, policymakers, and other users of statistics that supports the development of statistics in developing and transition countries. Not a new agency, it works through existing global, regional, and national structures. Its members share an interest in strengthening national statistical capacity as the foundation for effective policymaking. PARIS21 promotes dialogue between users and producers of statistics, initially in subregional workshops. This dialogue leads to country action plans—known as Strategic Statistical Development Plans—for the development of sustainable statistical capacity for a wide range of data—economic (including external debt statistics), social, and environmental. The production of such plans, and their implementation, usually requires technical assistance. By working with the DAC, which brings together the bilateral donors and the European Commission, the IMF, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the World Bank, PARIS21 emphasizes the importance of statistics in attaining and monitoring development goals, and promotes closer coordination among donor programs of statistical capacity building assistance. For more details see the PARIS21 website,

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development

19.17 UNCTAD’s training program in debt management consists of a number of individual predefined training modules that are organized according to orientations, “blocks,” and level of management. This module approach allows a great deal of flexibility in the design of training programs and is used by UNCTAD to communicate with DMFAS4 users in order to design programs customized for individual countries, debt offices, and/or groups of users.

19.18 The UNCTAD training framework has three orientations:

  • Internal capacity building within the national debt-management framework;

  • Software and computer (including DMFAS training); and

  • General debt management.

19.19 These orientations are organized within two different categories of training blocks:

  • Block 1 is what may be described as the general knowledge base, which is the minimum knowledge any participant should have on each one of the orientations. General knowledge base training comprises all basic knowledge and is of general applicability for all those working in the field of public debt.

  • Block 2 is what may be described as the specialized knowledge base, which is the targeted training given to different officers so that they can exercise their specific mandated functions or tasks. Specialized knowledge base training has specific applicability for those working in the field of public debt.

19.20 Within each component and block, the training activities are designed for three levels of management: senior management, middle management, and operational staff. The delivery of the different training modules will, in general, follow a progressive approach within each level and will evolve from general knowledge to specialized knowledge base training over time. In all cases, the training is always based on the latest version of DMFAS and the different information it can produce.

World Bank

19.21 The World Bank offers technical assistance in statistical capacity building to its client countries so as to facilitate the production and wide dissemination of key economic, social, and environmental statistics. Such data support economic management and poverty-reduction strategies.

19.22 Technical assistance is provided through institutional capacity-building projects, advisory functions, training, and related activities. Whatever the modality through which technical assistance is delivered, these programs are essentially country-oriented, although regional programs are sponsored when similar issues are encountered within regional groups and where a common approach can be effective. In all areas, technical assistance draws on international statistical standards and methodologies, good practices in statistical capacity building, and recent technological developments.

19.23 Technical assistance activities are usually demand driven and are in response to needs and priorities identified by member countries, in collaboration with Bank staff in the course of their country economic and sectoral work, or other international organizations. The goal of coordination among stake-holders—between donors and between entities in the national statistical system—is, most importantly, to avoid duplication of effort and improve harmonization of procedures, thereby reducing transaction costs. As a mechanism for donor and recipient coordination, the World Bank has supported the creation of a consortium, PARIS21, which provides a forum for policymakers and statisticians from around the world to discuss issues of statistical capacity building and to agree on modalities for delivering assistance to strengthen statistical capacity.

19.24 The thrust of the Bank’s technical assistance work has increasingly been on promoting coordinated, demand-led, and knowledge-based technical assistance for building sustainable statistical capacity and covering both comprehensive (or integrated) statistical capacity building as well as programs relating to specific aspects of the national statistical system.

19.25 A comprehensive approach to statistical capacity building covers all dimensions of the national statistical system (see Figure 19.1). The objective here is to:

  • Strengthen statistical infrastructure by establishing sound legal and institutional frameworks for the collection, processing, and compilation of statistics;

  • Enhance organizational arrangements through improved organizational structure and better coordination among statistical agencies and through managerial reforms involving emphasis on strategic management and corporate planning;

  • Improve staffing methods through better human resource management and development;

  • Upgrade technical and physical resources through newer data collection techniques, application of newer statistical methodologies, and modern information management systems (with appropriate customization on a country-specific basis); and

  • Provide training in new data concepts and in international standards for reliable and consistent data compilation, quality control, and widespread dissemination.

Figure 19.1.World Bank Technical Assistance (TA) in Institutional Capacity Building in Statistics

19.26 By contrast, specific programs address gaps in segments of a country’s statistical system such as national income accounts, environmental statistics, or debt data systems. But like comprehensive programs, specific programs also address organizational and functional issues.

19.27 Bank-sponsored technical assistance activities are financed by grants or loans. Grant financing is through World Bank grants5 and grants from Bank-administered trust funds.6

19.28 Small and medium-sized technical assistance programs may be part of a large World Bank project loan. For larger programs, stand-alone loans in the form of a Learning and Innovation Loan (LIL) or a Specific Investment Loan (SIL), often with cofinancing through partnership arrangements with bilateral donors and other international agencies, are also possible. The country technical assistance program preparation is normally financed through grants and the implementation and monitoring through a combination of grants, and loans with appropriate burden sharing by the client country (often in-kind). For some middle- and high-income countries, technical assistance participation is encouraged on a reimbursable basis.7

19.29 Technical assistance in improving the coverage and quality of debt statistics has been an essential component of Bank technical assistance programs in public debt management in several countries—for example, as a component of a public debt-management LIL, a Technical Assistance Loan (TAL), or a Public Sector Reform Loan (PSRL). Technical assistance activity in debt statistics is likely to cover a wide range of items, including organizational structure of the national debt office, data collection methods, database management systems, data needs for strategic debt management, dissemination practices, and training of debt office staff.

The main features of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Debt Recording and Monitoring System (CS-DRMS) are described in Chapter 18.

The Eurosystem comprises the ECB plus the National Central Banks (NCBs) of the 12 EU countries that had adopted the euro as of January 1, 2001. The ESCB comprises the Eurosystem and the central banks of the three other EU countries (Denmark, Sweden, and the United Kingdom).

The term refers exclusively to countries that have started such negotiations with the EU, which at the time of writing the Guide were: Bulgaria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, and the Slovak Republic. Turkey is also a candidate country, but negotiations have not yet started.

The DMFAS (Debt Management and Financial Analysis System) is a computer system designed for use in the management of public debt. It was described in detail in Chapter 18.

The World Bank’s Institutional Development Fund (IDF) was established in FY1993 to provide technical assistance grants for “upstream” institutional development not directly linked to the lending operations of the Bank. The IDF is used for funding small, action-oriented schemes identified in the course of country economic and sectoral work and policy dialogue.

Includes trust funds that finance advisory services and technical assistance. These trust funds cover a wide range of activities, including project preparation and preinvestment studies, economic and sectoral work, institution building, pilot projects, training, and conferences. The advisory services may support recipient activities directly or support Bank activities and may be provided through trust fund programs or through free-standing trust funds. In FY2000, bilateral donors established a new global technical assistance facility to promote statistical capacity building. The Bank on behalf of donors manages the Trust Fund for Statistical Capacity Building.

Under “reimbursable arrangements,” Bank services are specifically requested, and their costs are fully reimbursed. Such arrangements are undertaken with member countries that are no longer active Bank borrowers but still require technical assistance, and with partner development institutions that contract with the Bank to provide assistance for loan preparation, appraisal, or supervision services.

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