The IMF's Statistical Systems in Context of Revision of the United Nations' A System of National Accounts
Chapter

17 An Example of Progress in Delineating Relationships Between Government Finance Statistics and National Accounts Concepts

Author(s):
Vicente Galbis
Published Date:
September 1991
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Author(s)
Jonathan Levin and Jan van Tongeren 

Harmonization of government finance statistics, which are compiled as a guide to the conduct and analysis of the sector itself, and the government account in the national accounts, which are compiled as an indispensable component of a statistical system analyzing the economy as a whole, should produce two kinds of benefits. It should eliminate unnecessary duplication of effort by compilers, and it should reduce confusion among users regarding the relationships between concepts in the two data systems. To reap these benefits, harmonization should delineate existing relationships between concepts in the two data systems, examine the feasibility of compiling data to measure both sets of concepts, and consider adjusting concepts to meet the essential needs of both data systems within the framework of coordinated compilation efforts.

Efforts to define the exact relations between concepts in the government accounts of the United Nations' A System of National Accounts (SNA) and in the IMF's system of government finance statistics (GFS) began soon after circulation of the draft of the Fund's Manual on Government Finance Statistics (draft GFSM) to governments and international organizations for comment in 1974. Interest in defining the relationship was expressed at the six regional seminars convened to discuss the draft GFSM, and joint efforts by the staffs of the Fund's Bureau of Statistics and the United Nations Statistical Office (UNSO) resulted in the issuance of the first “bridge tables” between the two data systems in 1976.

The draft GFSM, codifying Fund practice in the measurement of government operations, was developed over the previous two decades and was followed, beginning in 1977, by publication of the Fund's Government Finance Statistics Yearbook (GFS Yearbook). This publication presents detailed statistics, together with lists of institutions included in the government sector, of nonfinancial public enterprises and of public financial institutions. Until the 1989 issue, derivation tables were included that showed the national sources and adjustments utilized by correspondents within each finance ministry or central bank to compile the principal aggregates in accordance with the GFSM, which was published in 1986. The institutional tables have now been limited to show changes occurring after publication of the previous issue of the GFS Yearbook. Data on derivation and adjustments remain available, however, on request. Correspondents receive training in the application of the GFSM in annual eight-week courses held at the IMF Institute and in brief seminars thus far conducted in more than 50 countries. The 1989 GFS Yearbook presented statistics for 124 countries, with greater detail for central government than for state, local, and, consequently, general government.

To make use of the detailed, comparable government statistics contained in the GFS Yearbook, the GFS-SNA bridge tables have been applied so as to arrive at broad, albeit approximate, SNA categories covering central government operations in over 100 countries, published beginning in 1981 in the UN Statistical Yearbook.

In June 1983, following emphasis on harmonization of the SNA and related statistical systems by the United Nations Statistical Commission and by a March 1982 Expert Group Meeting on Review and Development of the SNA, the United Nations and the Fund undertook joint case studies in selected countries on the feasibility of linking SNA and GFS concepts on the basis of detailed data. Questionnaires were sent to compilers in Colombia, Finland, India, Kenya, Mexico, the Netherlands, Thailand, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Venezuela, and Zambia. In early 1985, visits to several countries in the sample were carried out by UN and Fund staff members as a basis for further harmonization of the two data systems. The lessons from this joint work were instrumental in the preparation of the main discussion paper for the Expert Group Meeting on Public Sector Accounts in January 1988 (Chapter 16 of this volume).

Note: This chapter is extracted and updated from a paper first presented by the authors at the Nineteenth General Conference of the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth, Noordevijkerhout, Netherlands, August 25–31, 1985.

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