141. BOP statistics are arranged within a coherent structure to facilitate analysis, which is undertaken for many reasons—including policy formulation, policy monitoring, projections, studies of the behavior of real and financial markets, and bilateral and multilateral comparisons. The list of standard components contained in the BPM provides an international standard for the structural system within which BOP statistics are compiled. This chapter focuses on classifying international transactions according to the system of standard components.

141. BOP statistics are arranged within a coherent structure to facilitate analysis, which is undertaken for many reasons—including policy formulation, policy monitoring, projections, studies of the behavior of real and financial markets, and bilateral and multilateral comparisons. The list of standard components contained in the BPM provides an international standard for the structural system within which BOP statistics are compiled. This chapter focuses on classifying international transactions according to the system of standard components.

142. The list of BOP standard components, which appears at the end of this chapter, reflects conceptual and practical considerations. The opinions of national BOP experts, generally accepted views of BOP analysis, and structures and classifications used in other international statistical systems (such as the national accounts) influenced the development of the list.

143. The selection of standard components was based on a number of considerations. Those given the greatest weight were:

Components should separately identify transactions that show distinctive economic behavior. For example, financial transactions are separated from transactions in real assets as the two types of transactions are generally undertaken for fundamentally different economic purposes. Conversely, transactions in bonds and transactions in debentures are grouped together in the same component as these two types of financial instruments are very similar.

Each standard component should be significant—in terms of the absolute size of transactions or because the transactions exhibit unusual variability—for a number of countries. For example, travel is a significant element of the balance of payments of many countries and, accordingly, travel is one of the standard components. On the other hand, international transactions in life insurance are insignificant for most countries; therefore, these transactions are recorded under the broader insurance services item.

Information about a standard component should be obtainable without undue difficulty. The desirability, in terms of other considerations, of collecting statistics for an item should not be the sole reason for its inclusion.

The item should be required for other purposes (such as incorporation into, or reconciliation with, the national accounts). For example, sectoral classifications applied in the financial account are necessary to satisfy national accounts requirements for financial accounts for each domestic sector.

The list of standard components should not be unduly long. While some countries would be capable of providing BOP information for a more extensive list of standard components, countries that are less statistically advanced would find it difficult to meet IMF reporting requirements if the list were expanded.

To the extent practicable, standard components should be in concordance with other international statistical systems. For example, the standard components in the current account of the balance of payments are designed to harmonize as fully as possible with the structure of the production and income accounts of the national accounts.

144. The list of BOP standard components should not constrain countries from compiling and publishing additional information of national importance. Most countries, for example, publish data on international trade in goods in addition to that required in the standard components.

Structural Overview of the Standard Components

145. The standard components are grouped under two major headings: the current account and the capital and financial account. The current account is further subdivided into three broad categories: goods and services (which is subdivided into goods and servies), income, and current transfers. The capital and financial account includes, in the capital account, capital transfers and transactions (purchases/sales) in an economy’s non-produced, nonfinancial assets (such as patents and copyrights) and, in the financial account, transactions in an economy’s external financial assets and liabilities.

146. The BPM describes transactions to be recorded as specific items under major BOP standard components and subcomponents. In this Textbook, BPM definitions are examined and illustrated.

Goods, Services, and Income

147. The standard components covering goods, services, and income are designed to reflect the provision or acquisition of real resources by the reporting economy to or from the rest of the world. Flows recorded as credits measure that portion of the reporting economy’s domestic product provided to other economies (exports of goods and services) as well as the reporting economy’s factors of production (compensation of employees and investment income) used in the productive process in the rest of the world. Flows recorded as debits measure acquisition of the rest of the world’s domestic product (imports of goods and services in the reporting economy’s balance of payments) and the reporting economy’s use of nonresident factors of production. According to the BPM, transactions in goods, services, and income should be presented on a gross basis; that is, debit entries are shown separately from credit entries.

148. Effective compilation of data on goods, services, and income for the balance of payments requires classification as well as definition. While it is usually important to know the total value of an economy’s exports, any meaningful analysis of year-to-year changes in the export total will require disaggregation. Total goods, services, and income represent an aggregate of many different elements responding to widely varying economic influences, and analysis of the separate movements of the major elements is obviously necessary. However, the balance of payments would become most unwieldy if every commodity traded, every service performed, and every type of income receivable were listed as separate components. Goods, services, and income must therefore be classified—that is, grouped into categories containing items that behave similarly in response to a particular stimulus. Also, it may be necessary to combine elements that are not entirely similar to prevent the creation of an unwieldy BOP statement. For this reason, flows of goods, services, and income that behave with only a certain degree of similarity may be classified in the same standard component or subgroup. Furthermore, classification on the basis of economic criteria must often be modified for statistical convenience. Transactions typically recorded together in source data may have to be classified in the same standard component.

149. The goods and services and income components cover three types of transactions: (1) changes in ownership—which can be legal or imputed—of goods, (2) performance of services, and (3) accrual of income. In spite of the clear theoretical distinction between commodities and services, it is sometimes difficult in practice to make the classification. For example, how should the sale of electricity be treated? Are Swiss generating plants that transmit power to France providing goods or services? Electricity may be considered a service because no physical commodity changes hands. However, gas, which has physical characteristics and is generally considered a commodity, is included in goods. Should electric power, by analogy, be included in goods? (In fact, electric power is classified under goods in the BOP standard components.)

150. The general merchandise item, which—for most countries—represents the majority of transactions in goods, is a prime example of the grouping of transactions that are not all similar. Some goods are less durable than others. Some goods are so perishable that they must be sold immediately or be lost; other goods may be stored to await stronger demand. Exports and imports of foodstuffs follow patterns of production and demand that differ greatly from those of capital goods.

151. The classification of all general merchandise in one item is purely the result of practical considerations. In the first place, almost every country is able to provide—as part of its international trade statistics—a detailed commodity breakdown, and these data will generally meet the requirements of those wishing to analyze trade movements on a commodity-by-commodity basis. To facilitate studies that take into account both international trade statistics and the goods component of the balance of payments, the Balance of Payments Statistics Yearbook published by the IMF customarily contains, for each country, a reconciliation of the BOP trade component with international trade statistics. In the second place, a standardized analysis of goods is almost an impossibility. To facilitate international comparability, the standard components of the balance of payments were selected on the basis of relevance in most, rather than a few, countries. Thus, while rice may be an important export and warrant separate mention in the BOP statement of Thailand, rice would not be prominent in the BOP statement of Iceland. Only at the level of total exports can the trade in goods of the two countries be meaningfully compared.

152. For reasons such as these, the general merchandise item covers most of an economy’s exports and imports of goods. However, some of an economy’s transactions in goods should be separately identified (for example, transactions in nonmonetary gold and goods for processing). The rationale for separate identification (which enhances the analytic usefulness of the standard components) of these items is explained in chapter 4.

153. Transactions in services are similar to transactions in goods in the sense that both are outputs from the process of production and both are consumed—on an intermediate (input for further production) or final basis. However, a close—if not immediate—relationship generally exists between the production and consumption of services. Once produced, services generally cannot be stored for future consumption. The BOP standard components classification of services groups transactions in services by nature of production rather than by type of consumer. For example, a financial service provided to the insurance industry is classified as a financial, rather than an insurance, service. However, services and goods acquired by travelers are classified under services-travel rather than the produced form of the services or goods. For example, if a traveler acquires educational services while he is in an economy other than the one in which he is a resident, the transaction is classified as a travel, rather than an educational, service.

154. Whereas goods and services are outputs of the process of production, transactions involving use of the factors of production can only be inputs for the production process. For this reason, in the national accounts, a fundamental distinction is made between (1) the production of goods and services and (2) the use of the factors of production (income). This distinction is important in the BOP standard components in which income transactions are separately identified.

Current Transfers

155. The BOP current account includes current transfers as well as transactions in real resources. Transfers are offsetting entries to the provision, without a quid pro quo, of real or financial resources. Transfers are classified as current or capital. Current transfers offset the provision of real or financial resources that are immediately consumed or those that are consumed shortly after the transfer is made. For example, a cash grant from a nonresident is used to buy wheat for immediate consumption. The grant is a current transfer as the provision of cash and the consumption of wheat are closely related.

156. The relationship between current transfers and consumption is the basis for including them in the current account. Current transfers, along with transactions in real resources, have a direct and immediate impact on an economy’s opportunities for consumption in any specific period.

157. Credit entries recorded under current transfers reflect offsetting entries to the compiling economy’s receipt, without a quid pro quo, of real or financial resources. Debit entries are offsets to the compiling economy’s provision, without a quid pro quo, of real or financial resources. As with transactions in goods and services and in income, gross credit and debit entries are separately shown for current transfers in the standard components of the balance of payments.

Capital Account

158. The capital account, which is a subdivision of the capital and financial account, includes an economy’s transactions with nonresidents in non-produced, nonfinancial assets (such as patents, copyrights, and licenses) and in capital transfers. These transactions are separated from transactions recorded in the current account because capital account transactions are not directly related to the processes of production and consumption. The capital account of the balance of payments is synonymous with the capital account of the national accounts. Gross credit and gross debit entries should be shown separately for capital account transactions.

159. There is an important distinction between (1) non-produced, nonfinancial assets and (2) services produced from these assets. These services, which are generically called royalties and licensing fees, are recorded (along with all other transactions in services involving residents and nonresidents) in the services component of the current account. For example, the copyright to Beatles songs is a non-produced, nonfinancial asset, and transactions in this asset are recorded in the capital account. However, royalty payments made to the owner of the copyright reflect productive output from the use of the asset. In other words, the royalties are payment for a service provided by the owner of the copyright to the user of the songs.

160. Offsets to transactions in capital transfers can be recorded in the current account or in the capital or financial components of the capital and financial account. A transfer is classified as capital if the transfer involves the provision of a capital asset or if the transfer involves the provision of a financial asset and that financial asset is linked to the acquisition or disposal of a capital asset. A capital asset is any nonfinancial asset that can produce a stream of services over time. For example, aircraft are capital assets because aircraft can provide passenger services for many years.

Financial Account

161. Transactions in the compiling economy’s financial assets and liabilities are recorded in the financial account, which is a subdivision of the capital and financial account. The financial account shows how an economy’s BOP transactions are financed. If an economy’s savings exceed its investment, the surplus must be reflected in net financial outflow or net financial investment in the rest of the world. This financial outflow finances, in turn, the acquisition of nonfinancial resources by other economies. If an economy’s savings are less than its investment, the economy will be a net importer of nonfinancial assets from the rest of the world. These net imports must be financed by a net financial inflow from the rest of the world.

162. Financial account transactions are classified by (1) functional type of investment (direct investment, portfolio investment, other investment, and reserve assets); (2) assets and liabilities or, in the case of direct investment, direction of investment; (3) type of instrument (for example, equity, debt securities, and loans); and, in some cases, by (4) domestic sector and (5) original contractual maturity. The similarity of this classification to the one used for the investment income component of the current account permits consistency of analysis between these closely related BOP components.

163. Users of BOP statistics are generally interested in net, rather than gross, financial account transactions. For this reason, it is recommended in the BPM that—for the most part—financial account items be shown as net credit (financial inflow) or net debit (financial outflow) entries.

International Investment Position

164. The classification scheme presented in the BPM for the IIP statement, which shows an economy’s stock of external financial assets and liabilities at a particular point in time, is similar to the classification scheme used for the financial account and the investment income portion of the current account. This similarity of classification reflects the close relationship between the IIP statement and these two components of the balance of payments.

165. It is suggested in the BPM that the IIP statement be presented in the form of a reconciliation between positions existing at two points in time. Changes occurring over time in an economy’s international investment position can be the result of (1) transactions that are recorded in the financial account of the balance of payments or (2) other changes, such as changes in prices of assets and liabilities or changes in the exchange rate of the unit of account vis-à-vis the currency in which the assets and liabilities are denominated. Unilateral actions (such as the monetization of gold and debt write-offs) that create or destroy financial assets are another cause of non-transaction changes in stocks of financial assets and liabilities. Further information on the reconciliation between the balance of payments and the international investment position can be found in paragraphs 690–702 of chapter 13.

Standard Components of the Balance of Payments

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See Supplementary Information table on page 00 for components.

Memorandum items: 5.1 Gross premiums

5.2 Gross claims

If distributed branch profits are not identified, all branch profits are considered to be distributed.

Selected Supplementary Information

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Specify sector involved and standard component in which the item is included.

Standard Components of the International Investment Position

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Because direct investment is classified primarily on a directional basis—abroad under the heading Assets and in the reporting economy under the heading Liabilities—claim/liability breakdowns are shown for the components of each, although these sub-items do not strictly conform to the asset and liability headings.