1. The Special Data Dissemination Standard: Origin and Key Features

International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
July 2007
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Origin and Purpose

1.1 The International Monetary Fund’s work on data dissemination standards originated in the wake of the 1994–95 international financial crises, which underscored the role that information deficiencies could play in contributing to market turmoil.1

1.2 In response to these crises, the IMF’s ministerial-level Interim Committee (since renamed the International Monetary and Financial Committee, or IMFC) in April 1995 requested a set of standards to guide IMF member countries in providing economic and financial statistics to the public. In June 1995, the Group of Seven (G-7) Heads of State at their summit in Halifax, Canada, made a similar request to the IMF. The Interim Committee in October 1995 endorsed the establishment of standards to guide member countries in disseminating their economic and financial data to the public, and the creation of an electronic bulletin board on the IMF website.

1.3 Following consultations by the IMF with national statistical agencies on best practices in disseminating economic and financial data to the public and on the needs of various data users in the financial community, the IMF’s Executive Board in March 1996 approved the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) as the first of a two-tier data standards initiative.2 The Executive Board established the SDDS to guide member countries (in particular those that have or that might seek access to international capital markets) in providing economic and financial data to the public. The goal was to enhance the availability of timely and comprehensive statistics, thereby facilitating countries’ pursuit of sound macroeconomic policies and the improved functioning of financial markets. A related objective was to help prevent or mitigate financial crises by enhancing access to information critical to policymakers and participants in world capital markets. Subscription to the SDDS was opened to member countries in April 1996.

1.4 In the same year, the IMF established an electronic bulletin board, the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB), on the IMF website at, as part of the data standards initiative to support ready access by the public to information on countries’ data dissemination practices.

Key Aspects of Dissemination

1.5 The SDDS identifies four dimensions of data dissemination:

  • Data: coverage, periodicity (frequency), and timeliness;

  • Access by the public;

  • Integrity of the disseminated data; and

  • Quality of the disseminated data.

1.6 For each of these dimensions, the SDDS prescribes best practices that can be observed, or monitored, by the users of statistics. These practices are referred to as “monitorable elements.” Key dimensions and monitorable elements of the SDDS are summarized in Box 1.1.

1.7 In recognition of differences in economic structures and institutional arrangements among countries, and in the interest of flexibility, the SDDS designates some prescribed practices “as relevant.” It also indicates practices that are “encouraged” (that is, desirable), as opposed to “prescribed” (see Chapter 2 for more details).

Box 1.1.Key Dimensions and Elements of the SDDS

The four dimensions of the SDDS are shown in bold, with corresponding monitorable elements in italics.

The data: coverage, periodicity, and timeliness. Comprehensive economic and financial data, disseminated on a timely basis, are essential to the transparency of macroeconomic performance and policy. Countries subscribing to the SDDS are to:

  • Disseminate the prescribed categories of data with the specified periodicity and timeliness.

Access by the public. Dissemination of official statistics is an essential feature of statistics as a public good. The SDDS calls for providing the public, including market participants, ready and equal access to the data. Countries subscribing to the SDDS are to:

  • Disseminate advance release calendars for the data.

  • Release the data to all interested parties simultaneously.

Integrity. To fulfill the purpose of providing the public with information, official statistics must have the confidence of their users. In turn, confidence in the statistics ultimately becomes a matter of confidence in the objectivity and professionalism of the agency producing the statistics. Transparency of its practices and procedures is a key factor in creating this confidence. The SDDS requires subscribing countries to:

  • Disseminate the terms and conditions under which official statistics are produced, including those relating to the confidentiality of individually identifiable information.

  • Identify internal government access to data before release.

  • Identify ministerial commentary on the occasion of statistical releases.

  • Provide information about revision and advance notice of major changes in methodology.

Quality. A set of standards that deals with the coverage, periodicity, and timeliness of data must also address the quality of statistics. Although quality is difficult to judge, monitorable proxies, designed to focus on information the user needs to judge quality, can be useful. The SDDS requires subscribing countries to:

  • Disseminate documentation on methodology and sources used in preparing statistics.

  • Disseminate component detail, reconciliations with related data, and statistical frameworks that support statistical cross-checks and provide assurance of reasonableness.

Data Dimension

1.8 Under the dimension of data coverage, periodicity (or frequency), and timeliness, the SDDS focuses on disseminating the data considered most important for assessing macroeconomic performance and policy. It prescribes categories of data in four key sectors of the economy (real sector, fiscal sector, financial sector, and external sector). Box 1.2 describes the main updates to the SDDS from 1997–2006.

1.9 Under the real sector, data categories that are prescribed for dissemination are national accounts, production index, employment (as relevant), unemployment (as relevant), wages/earnings (as relevant), consumer price index (CPI), and producer price index (PPI). Dissemination of forward-looking indicators (FLIs), such as leading indicators of business cycles, is encouraged.

1.10 Under the fiscal sector, the prescribed data categories are general government operations (GGO) or public sector operations (PSO), central government operations (CGO), and central government debt (CGD).

1.11 Under the financial sector, the data categories to be disseminated are depository corporations survey (DCS), central bank survey (CBS),3 interest rates, and share price index of the stock market.

1.12 For the external sector, categories of data prescribed for dissemination are balance of payments, official reserve assets, international reserves and foreign currency liquidity, merchandise trade, international investment position (IIP), external debt, and exchange rates.

1.13 Data on population are also prescribed for dissemination.

Box 1.2.Main Updates to the SDDS, 1997–2006

When the SDDS was established in March 1996, the IMF’s Executive Directors emphasized that its implementation should be flexible and that the Standard should evolve over time to incorporate best practices for data dissemination. The IMF’s Executive Board has undertaken six reviews (1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2003, and 2005), and in each instance decided to adapt it to changing circumstances.1 The main updates of the SDDS are:

  • Developed procedures for modifying the SDDS (First Review).

  • Prescribed hyperlinks from the DSBB to the National Summary Data Page (NSDP) (Second Review).

  • Prescribed the dissemination of the Data Template on International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity (Second Review).

  • Endorsed IMF staff’s systematic monitoring of subscribing countries’ observance of the SDDS (Third Review).

  • Adopted a three-year transition period (ending in March 2003) for prescribing a new SDDS data category on external debt with quarterly periodicity and timeliness; the data are to cover external debt of the general government, the monetary authorities, the banking sector, and all other sectors (Fourth Review).

  • Lengthened the lag for disseminating annual data on international investment position (IIP) from six months to nine months and introduced a timetable requiring subscribing countries to begin disseminating IIP data (Third Review).

  • Confirmed procedures to address instances of nonobservance of the SDDS (Fourth Review).

  • Endorsed the update of the SDDS following the publication of the IMF’s Monetary and Financial Statistics Manual 2000 (MFSM 2000), and the IMF’s Government Finance Statistics Manual 2001 (GFSM 2001). The MFSM 2000 provides a conceptual framework for presenting monetary and financial statistics for monetary policy formulation and monitoring and the assessment of financial sector stability. The GFSM 2001 recommends the reporting of government finance and related activities on an accrual basis and extending such reporting to cover the public sector, where applicable (Fourth Review).

  • Supported the use of a common transmission standard for disseminating and exchanging statistical information (including meta-data—that is, statistical methods and practices) on the Internet among international organizations and their member countries, as being developed under the Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange (SDMX) Initiative, to which the IMF contributes (Fourth Review).

  • Emphasized increased subscription to the SDDS by member countries (Fifth Review).

  • Introduced a targeted timeliness flexibility option for central government operations if quarterly accrual-based data (conforming with the GFSM 2001 or equivalent regional standards) on general government operations are disseminated with a lag of no more than one quarter (Fifth Review).

  • Made observance of automated reporting procedures an SDDS undertaking to enhance operational efficiency and effectiveness of monitoring, as well as sustain the credibility of the SDDS (Sixth Review).

  • Supported the posting of an annual assessment report covering each subscribing member’s SDDS observance, beginning in 2007 for the year 2006 (Second and Sixth Reviews).2

  • Endorsed the use of the Data Quality Assessment Framework (DQAF) to present SDDS metadata to integrate the SDDS with the IMF’s work on Data Modules on Reports on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSCs) and technical assistance in statistical areas (Sixth Review).

  • Encouraged subscribing countries to deepen their metadata on oil and gas activities and products (Sixth Review).

1 The IMF Executive Board’s reviews of the data standards initiatives are available on the Fund’s website: The first such report will be posted on the DSBB in 2007 for the year 2006.

1.14 For each data category, the SDDS prescribes the components, periodicity, and timeliness with which data are to be disseminated. Certain components are marked for dissemination on an “as relevant” basis. As relevant refers to data components that are specific to country structures and that therefore vary across countries. Some are identified as “encouraged.” The SDDS also provides some flexibility on timeliness and periodicity requirements. Chapters 36 elaborate on the SDDS’s data coverage, periodicity, and timeliness for the various sectors.

1.15 The prescribed data coverage is deemed to be the minimum required for the SDDS. Subscribing countries are encouraged to disseminate additional data that may increase the transparency of their economic performance and policies. In disseminating the additional data, subscribing countries are to follow practices consistent with those for the prescribed data categories.

Access, Integrity, and Quality Dimensions

1.16 For the dimensions of data access, integrity, and quality, the SDDS emphasizes transparency in the compilation and dissemination of data. Under these dimensions, as with the data dimension, in the interest of flexibility, some practices are prescribed and others are encouraged.

1.17 To promote ready and equal access, the SDDS prescribes (a) advance dissemination of release calendars and (b) simultaneous release to all interested parties.

1.18 To assist users in assessing the integrity of the data, the SDDS prescribes (a) the dissemination of the terms and conditions under which official statistics are produced and disseminated; (b) the identification of internal government access to data before release; (c) the identification of ministerial commentary on the occasion of statistical releases; and (d) the provision of information about revision and advance notice of major changes in methodology.

1.19 To assist users in assessing data quality, the SDDS prescribes (a) the dissemination of documentation on statistical methodology and (b) the dissemination of component detail, reconciliations with related data, and statistical frameworks allowing cross-checks and checks of reasonableness. (Chapter 7 provides additional information on these SDDS concepts with respect to ready access by the public, data integrity, and data quality.)

Dissemination Formats

1.20 Dissemination refers to the release of data to the public and includes electronic dissemination in addition to more traditional formats. A subscribing country is to establish a readily accessible webpage on its national website, referred to in the SDDS as the “national summary data page (NSDP),” on which it disseminates the data prescribed by the SDDS. The NSDP is to be hyperlinked to the IMF’s DSBB, facilitating ready access to the country data and meta-data (that is, statistical methods and practices) by the public. (The NSDP and the DSBB are discussed in greater detail in Chapters 8 and 9.)

Subscription to the SDDS

1.21 Member countries’ subscription to the SDDS is voluntary. Nonetheless, countries subscribing to the SDDS must undertake to observe the various dimensions and elements of the SDDS and to provide the necessary information to the IMF for dissemination on the DSBB. A basic tenet of the SDDS is that a subscribing country wants the public—in particular, the financial markets—to know that it subscribes to the Standard and, even more important, that it observes the Standard. Inclusion in the list of subscribers to the SDDS, which is posted on the DSBB, indicates that the country concerned meets a certain test of good statistical citizenship. Box 1.3 highlights some of the transparency and market efficiency effects of the SDDS subscription. (The terms “subscribing country” and “subscriber” and their respective plurals are used interchangeably in this Guide.)

1.22 A member country that wishes to subscribe to the SDDS should first communicate this intention to the staff of the IMF,4 and undertake to provide IMF staff with information on the country’s data dissemination practices (metadata).5

1.23 Upon receipt of the necessary metadata from a member, the IMF staff will work with the member to determine where its practices stand with respect to the SDDS as well as to identify any needed changes in practices. At this point, a member may make known publicly its intent to improve its data and dissemination practices and the goal of subscribing to the SDDS. If the IMF staff has determined that no changes are needed, the member may proceed to inform the Secretary of the IMF of its subscription to the SDDS. If changes to a member’s practices are required, the member may, after the necessary changes have been agreed upon with the IMF staff, and implemented, proceed to inform the Secretary of the IMF of its subscription to the SDDS.

Box 1.3.Transparency and Market Efficiency Effects of the SDDS

This box provides a short survey of the literature analyzing the effects of greater economic policy transparency, including empirical studies of the benefits of SDDS participation. A more detailed literature review, prepared for the IMF’s July 2005 Review of the Standards and Codes Initiative, is available at:

Greater economic policy transparency

A number of studies, such as Deutsche Bank (2004), Maher and Anderson (1999), and Yu (2005), present evidence that good corporate governance and accounting transparency are correlated with higher investment returns and lower spreads for corporate borrowers. The importance of good governance and transparency for capital market participants is emphasized by PricewaterhouseCoopers (2001) and Price (2002).

In an empirical study, Podpiera (2005) found that higher compliance with the Basel Core Principles for Banking Supervision is associated with improved banking sector performance. Hameed (2005) found that, after controlling for institutional and socioeconomic differences, countries with more transparent fiscal regimes tend to have better fiscal discipline and less corruption as well as more favorable credit ratings than their less transparent counterparts.

Market efficiency effects of the SDDS

In studies of sovereign borrowing costs for emerging market and developing countries Cady (2005) and Cady and Pellechio (2006) found that subscription to the SDDS reduces launch spreads by about 20 percent (50 basis points), while participation in the GDDS reduces spreads by about 9 percent (20 basis points).

Cady and Gonzalez-Garcia (2006) examined the effects of the adoption of the IMF’s Template Guidelines (International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity: Guidelines for a Data Template) on nominal exchange rate volatility for 48 countries. After controlling for macroeconomic developments and policies, they found evidence that nominal exchange rate volatility decreases by about 20 percent following dissemination of reserve template data, and that the effects of reserve adequacy and solvency on volatility are amplified.


1.24 In all cases, the IMF publicly identifies a member’s subscription to the SDDS by posting the member’s metadata on the DSBB. Within three months of the posting of the member’s metadata on the DSBB, the member is to provide the IMF staff with the summary descriptions of methodology called for under the SDDS.6

The Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board

1.25 Each SDDS subscribing country is to provide to the IMF for posting on the DSBB information about the availability of the prescribed data and related compilation and dissemination practices (that is, the metadata). Since establishing the DSBB, the IMF has posted subscribers’ metadata on the electronic bulletin board.

1.26 Each country’s metadata should describe the practice for each of the monitorable elements of the SDDS. The metadata are to be submitted in formats provided by the IMF staff to facilitate the presentation of the metadata on the DSBB. The IMF staff reviews subscribers’ metadata for comprehensiveness and international comparability. The responsibility for the accuracy of the metadata, including their timely updates and the accuracy of the underlying economic and financial data, rests with subscribing countries.

1.27 The DSBB provides a webpage for each subscribing country. On the country page, the DSBB presents the country’s metadata for each prescribed data category, including its SDDS coverage, periodicity, and timeliness (shown in the “base page”); formats in which country data are disseminated (under the “dissemination format page”); and concepts and methods used to compile the data (under the “summary methodology” page). In addition, the DSBB displays the country’s advance release calendars (ARCs) for the various prescribed categories and components of data. It also provides a summary of the country’s observance (SOO) of the SDDS. The presentation of metadata on the DSBB allows users to assess the usefulness and limitations of countries’ data. It also facilitates the IMF’s monitoring of countries’ observance of the SDDS (see also Chapters 810).

1.28 The DSBB provides hyperlinks to countries’ NSDPs, facilitating user access to subscribers’ data. The DSBB also incorporates a querying facility that allows users to retrieve metadata by selected topics across subscribing countries (for example, countries’ practices in compiling and disseminating data on oil and gas activities and products).

Commitment to Observance

1.29 Specifically, by subscribing to the SDDS, a country commits to:

  • Compile all data categories and related components required by the Standard;

  • Disseminate data with the prescribed periodicity and timeliness on a readily accessible webpage on its national website, the NSDP,7 hyperlinked to the DSBB;

  • Provide the IMF with an ARC containing release dates for each prescribed category of data for posting on the country page on the DSBB; the ARC provides release dates for the current month and at least the following three months;

  • Provide metadata for dissemination on the DSBB in English using the predetermined electronic format the IMF provides, to facilitate cross-country comparison;8

  • Certify the accuracy of the metadata on a quarterly basis and undertake to update them (see also Chapters 9 and 10); and

  • Appoint an SDDS coordinator9 to work with the IMF on various operational aspects of the SDDS.

1.30 The SDDS coordinator is the main contact person the subscribing country designates to work with the IMF on SDDS issues. For example, after subscription, compiling agencies’ correspondence with the IMF on SDDS matters is to be channeled through the SDDS coordinator or the alternate. To be effective, the coordinator must have sufficient authority to obtain the full cooperation of all national agencies involved in the compilation and dissemination of the data covered by the SDDS. The SDDS coordinator oversees the posting of national data on the NSDP on a regular and timely basis. The coordinator is responsible for quarterly certification of the national metadata, as well as for sending to the IMF all metadata updates. In addition, the coordinator oversees the transmission of ARCs to the IMF for posting on the IMF’s DSBB. (See also Appendix I.)

1.31 The above SDDS requirements will be addressed in greater detail in later chapters.

Monitoring Observance

1.32 To maintain the credibility of the SDDS, the IMF verifies whether data posted on a subscribing country’s NSDP are consistent with the release dates indicated in the ARC, as provided by the country to the IMF, and with the subscribing country’s metadata posted on the DSBB. The IMF also verifies whether the data accord with the coverage, periodicity, and timeliness prescribed in the SDDS.10 In addition to monthly reports sent to individual subscribing countries about their observance, the IMF posts on the DSBB an annual assessment report covering each of the subscribing countries’ observance of the SDDS.11 These assessments distinguish major and minor deviations from observance guidelines. (See Chapter 10.)

1.33 The IMF also raises with country authorities SDDS observance issues that are central to effective surveillance in the context of the IMF’s Article IV consultation.

1.34 To facilitate the IMF’s monitoring of observance of the SDDS, subscribers are required to adopt the standardized electronic procedures established by the IMF for reporting the ARCs, presenting information on the NSDP, and certifying the accuracy of the metadata and their updates. The IMF aims to design procedures with a view to keeping reporting burden, cost of observance for subscribing countries, and efficiency of SDDS operations in balance.

1.35 The DSBB posts the list of SDDS subscribing countries at Countries’ inclusion in the list of subscribers indicates that they subscribe to, and intend to observe, the substantive and operational aspects of the Standard. Serious and persistent nonobservance of the SDDS is cause for removal from the DSBB.

Contact Information

1.36 The Data Dissemination Standards Division of the IMF Statistics Department is the contact point in the IMF for the SDDS. The contact addresses for the Division are as follows: Chief, Data Dissemination Standards Division, Statistics Department, International Monetary Fund, 700 19th Street N.W., Washington, D.C., 20431, U.S.A. Telephone: (202) 623-4415, Telefax: (202) 623-6165 (or 6460); e-mail address:

The Special Data Dissemination Standard: Guide for Subscribers and Users

1.37 This SDDS Guide elaborates on the Standard and provides guidance on the observance of its various requirements. Observance of the Standard underpins its public credibility. This Guide incorporates updates to the SDDS by the IMF Executive Board in its reviews of the Standard since 1996. It replaces the May 1996 provisional document entitled Guide to the Data Dissemination Standards (Module 1: The Special Data Dissemination Standard). It includes the concepts and methods to be used in the compilation and dissemination of the “data template on international reserves and foreign currency liquidity” and those on external debt, as set forth in two IMF publications: International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity: Guidelines for a Data Template (2001; henceforward, Template Guidelines) and the External Debt Statistics: Guide for Compilers and Users (2003; henceforward, Debt Guide) .

1.38 The Guide also elaborates on good compilation and dissemination practices as set forth in recent IMF statistical manuals, including the Monetary and Financial Statistics Manual (2000; MFSM 2000) and the Government Finance Statistics Manual 2001 (GFSM 2001). In addition, this Guide clarifies and, where appropriate, amplifies on guidelines contained in the 1996 provisional document, facilitating the consistent application of the SDDS among countries. Subscribers should be aware that the 1993 edition of the System of National Accounts (1993 SNA) and the fifth edition of the IMF’s Balance of Payments Manual (BPM5) are presently being revised, with completion dates of end-2007 (first volume of the SNA) and end-2008 (BPM and the second volume of SNA).12 Any impact of these forthcoming manuals on the coverage specification of relevant SDDS data categories will be taken into account in due course.

Organization of the SDDS Guide

1.39Chapter 2 of this Guide presents general concepts used in the SDDS for data coverage, periodicity, and timeliness. Chapters 36 explore the SDDS-prescribed coverage, periodicity, and timeliness for data covered under the real sector, the fiscal sector, the financial sector, and the external sector, respectively. Chapter 7 elaborates on SDDS requirements for ensuring equal and ready access by the public to the data, the integrity of data, and data quality. Chapter 8 discusses steps in preparing ARCs, metadata, and the NSDP. Chapter 9 shows how the DSBB posts SDDS countries’ ARCs and metadata and links with subscribing countries’ NSDPs to provide users with easy access to data. Chapter 10 discusses IMF monitoring of observance of the SDDS. This Guide also contains several appendices with useful reference materials.

In the wake of the 1994 crisis in Mexico, the international financial community recognized the essential role of data transparency for meeting the challenges and risks of globalization and reducing the likelihood of financial crises. The need was widely recognized for more timely dissemination of reliable macroeconomic and financial data and an improved early warning system to permit a swifter response to financial shocks.

The General Data Dissemination System (GDDS) was established in December 1997 as the second tier of the IMF’s data standards initiative. As of March 2007, there are 88 participants. Countries may use the GDDS as a development tool to prepare for SDDS subscription and six countries have “graduated” to the SDDS. GDDS participation is expected to continue to grow at a modest pace. However, countries can only be members in either GDDS or SDDS. Additional information on the GDDS is available at

Formerly these were known as the “analytical accounts of the banking sector” (AAB) and the “analytical accounts of the central bank” (AAC), respectively.

The communication should be sent to the Director of the Statistics Department, International Monetary Fund, 700 19th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20431, U.S.A.

Other than the summary descriptions of methodology, which can be provided at a later date.

A member may withdraw its subscription to the SDDS at any time by sending notification to the Managing Director of the IMF. The relevant metadata would then be promptly removed from the DSBB.

The NSDP would contain, at a minimum, the most recent observation for the prescribed data category and the next most recent observation, and could also contain additional information. Responsibility for the data on the NSDP rests with individual subscribers (see Chapter 8).

Subscribers are required to observe guidelines set by the IMF, in consultation with subscribers, for automating the monitoring process. This includes, but is not limited to, observing formatting guidelines for NSDPs that permit electronic scanning, and using templates to report ARC and metadata updates. These guidelines and procedures may evolve as technology changes.

An alternate coordinator may also be appointed. The SDDS coordinator is important because for most subscribing countries observance of the Standard and the provision of information to the IMF involves at least three agencies: the central bank, the ministry of finance, and the national statistical office.

Monitoring is carried out by the staff of the Data Dissemination Standards Division of the IMF Statistics Department.

The first such report will be posted on the DSBB in 2007 for the year 2006. See Box 1.2.

Information on these updates is available at for the update of the 1993 SNA and at for the revision to the BPM5.

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