France: Report on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC)—Data Module

The report on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC) data module provides a review of France’s data dissemination practices against the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS), complemented by an in-depth assessment of the quality of six sets of macroeconomic statistics: national accounts, consumer price and producer price indices, government finance statistics, monetary statistics, and balance of payments statistics. Then, it presents recommendations to achieve improvements in the framework. Serviceability focuses on aspects of datasets, and accessibility deals with the availability of information to users.


The report on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC) data module provides a review of France’s data dissemination practices against the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS), complemented by an in-depth assessment of the quality of six sets of macroeconomic statistics: national accounts, consumer price and producer price indices, government finance statistics, monetary statistics, and balance of payments statistics. Then, it presents recommendations to achieve improvements in the framework. Serviceability focuses on aspects of datasets, and accessibility deals with the availability of information to users.

Reactions concerning balance of payments and monetary statistics have been written by the Banque de France. Other reactions come from INSEE.

General Recommendations

Offer a statistical map to help users identify the available statistical outputs; in this regard, actively pursue the idea of a statistics portal. In a decentralized statistical system, coordination is just as important for data dissemination as for data collection.

INSEE intends to facilitate users’ search for statistics on the web. In order to reach this objective, a project of web portal for official statistics will be launched at the beginning of 2004. A first version of this portal is scheduled to be accessible to users by the end of 2004.

Promote a broader understanding of statistical revisions by publishing revision studies, to familiarize users with the workings of the statistical process.

INSEE regularly conducts revision studies, some of which being published. A further step will be taken in the direction of publishing revision studies.

The Banque de France which already informs the users in its publications for the major revisions will take steps to increase its communication in this respect.

Inform the public that the government has access to statistics prior to their publication, specifying the precise time at which the government gains access thereto.

INSEE already gives a precise description of Government’s access to statistics prior to their publication, including the exact timing and identity of the relevant members of Government, in the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board of the IMF. In order to improve transparency vis-à-vis the general public, INSEE will also provide this information in its own web site.

Concerning the Balance of Payments statistics, The Banque de France and the Treasury will keep on endeavoring to reduce to the minimum needed the time frame between the availability of information and its public disclosure.

Increase the coordination for all agencies dealing with the SDDS.

INSEE takes all possible steps to improve the coordination for all agencies dealing with the SDDS. From now on, INSEE will inform the IMF of all updates of the release calendar and the SDDS data web page. A network between all agencies dealing with the SDDS will be activated for an instantaneous sharing of information.


Ensure that the status of statistics (whether preliminary, semi-final, or final) is clearly identified in publications.

This recommendation has already been taken into consideration. Indeed, publications on price indices already mention the status of the data. As regards national accounts, a clarification has been recently made, as part of a new communication policy towards users (see below the response to the third priority among the national accounts recommendations).

Ensure that the data-producing unit is identified in publications (at the foot of tables, for example) including a telephone number and e-mail address.

Providing users access to telephone numbers and e-mail addresses would undoubtedly entail unnumbered basic requests. These basic requests would be more efficiently replied by specialized units (whether the users ask for data or for standard metadata). This centralized management of user’s requests is more cost effective. Availability of the mere name of the data-producing units is insufficient in ensuring that the user finds the right contact person. Such an intermediary solution would mislead users and cause many dissatisfactions among them.

In order to succeed in this centralized management of users’ requests, INSEE has recently implemented a new service called “INSEE Contact” which:

  • collects all requests of information,

  • answers them directly if they are standard basic ones,

  • is responsible for the transmission of non standard or basic requests to the right contact persons among the data-producing units. Then, INSEE Contact tracks the whole answering process.

It will be possible to assess the efficiency of this new service by the end of 2004.

Post on the Internet more documentation on the methodologies for macroeconomic series.

As regards this recommendation, INSEE has already planned necessary action in the national accounts work program. However, the existing methodological documentation, aimed exclusively at internal use, has to be adapted before being made available to a larger audience. Therefore, summaries of some of these methodological documents are being prepared. Such an adaptation is very costly. New methodological information will be available on the Internet by the end of 2003. A decisive progress will be achieved and noticeable in 2004.

National Accounts


Allocate greater resources for implementing a new computer system for annual accounts.

Among the priorities, our attention has been particularly held on the resources necessary to implement the new computer system for annual accounts. New developments have already been achieved and part of the new system is already implemented. Moreover, a temporary high level statistician function has been budgeted by INSEE in order to go further and reorganize a more consistent and integrated system.

Make greater use of survey data on stocks to measure changes in stocks, instead of calculating them residually, in the annual and the quarterly accounts.

This priority meets our plans although we do not believe much in the possibility of improvements. French national accountants have been concerned by improving the measurement of change in stocks for a long time and a specific survey has been conducted for many years. But the results proved to be weak and very volatile. A quality assessment was achieved by checking with annual data from the highly developed business statistics system. The regular use of these annual business accounting data led to a first progress. However, since quarterly data are obviously necessary, a new test of the possible use of the quarterly survey will be completed as soon as it is renovated (second semester of 2003).

Align the period of revision of the quarterly accounts on that of the annual accounts and make the revision policy known to the public.

The periods of revision of the quarterly and annual accounts are aligned in the sense that the sum of the unadjusted data of the four quarters of a year are maintained equal to the corresponding annual data. The IMF seems to recommend in addition that quarterly profiles should not be revised after the annual data are made definitive. INSEE will not follow this recommendation because it would entail a major modification of the compilation methods of these quarterly accounts. Indeed, keeping the old quarterly profiles unchanged would damage the quality of the recent years, since quarterly accounts are calculated each quarter over a long historical period.

Anyway regular users of quarterly accounts download the data from a database and no inconvenience due to these revisions were ever expressed by them until now. However, INSEE recognizes that the revision policy should be made clearer to the public. Following this recommendation, the communication towards users in this respect has already been improved. Information on the revisions and the dissemination policy (including delays and contents) has indeed already been added in the CD-Rom published in June 2003. Furthermore, shorter explanations on the revisions have been included in the quarterly press releases since the end of September 2003 and will be added in the next annual press release (April 2004).

Other recommendations

Expedite the production of explicit price indices for exports and imports of goods.

INSEE has started implementing explicit indices for exports of goods from September 2001, and the whole industry should be covered within 3 to 4 years. Work on indices for imports will start in the beginning of 2004, that is to say before the adoption of the revised European regulation in this matter. It is a very costly program, thus difficult to expedite.

Improve the breakdown of intermediate consumption by product.

French national accountants are progressively improving this breakdown by using different sources on specific products. Although it exists in some countries, a general survey in this matter is not appropriate in France, where statistical burden is a great concern.

Explore the possibility of making quarterly accounts more consistent with annual accounts with respect to volume measurement.

The implementation of this recommendation has already been taken into consideration in INSEE’s work program for 2004.

Review the deflation of exports and imports of services, making better use of balance of payments source data.

INSEE will not be able to follow this recommendation because there exist no appropriate data in the balance of payments source.

Adopt a more structured approach toward consultations with users.

This recommendation has already been taken into consideration. As underlined in the report national accountants are used to inform various users of national accounts on specific occasions, mainly at the moment of important changes of the base year. But INSEE is currently implementing a permanent organized forum devoted to consulting users of national accounts, in addition to the already existing discussions taking place within the CNIS which are more devoted to statistical sources. This forum will be organized through electronic discussions in between annual meetings. The first meeting is to be organized by the end of 2003.

Consumer Price Index


Update the methodological guide on the consumer price index in hard-copy form and on the INSEE website.

INSEE recognizes that the information available to users in this matter is insufficient. Therefore, INSEE added in its mid term work program a complete review of the documentation disseminated, including in particular a broader use of Internet.

Disseminate longer time series on the INSEE website.

This was already a preoccupation of INSEE, and led to the recent inauguration of the “” website, which offers for the moment access to all CPI series back to three years ago. These back data will be completed in April 2004. Furthermore, the overall consumer price index is already available at “” website. The series begins in 1970.

Disseminate information on anticipated major changes in advance.

Efforts will be made in this direction in close future.

Envisage publicly identifying more details in the commodities selected (known as variety).

INSEE understands the IMF’s view, but would like to remind here that disclosure rules applying to CPI have been justified by the need both to comply to statistical confidentiality obligations and to prevent any attempt of external intervention on prices that may result in index modifications. However, taking into account the evolution of economic and social environment, INSEE intends to reassess the justification of these rules.

In the methodology available to the public, explain the method used to calculate utility prices, using notional examples.

The already published methodological reference manual will be available on INSEE’s website in 2004.

Producer Price Index


Establish a computerized method for evaluating potential measurement errors in the procedures for the PPI, to be used systematically.

At present, businesses’ answers to questionnaires are manually checked by sector statisticians. When facing an anomaly or unusual evolutions, they systematically get in touch with the businesses to obtain a confirmation or invalidation from them.

Introducing a computerized check of the likelihood of questionnaires can only be considered in the context of a full redesign of the computer software package : only then will the appropriate controls be introduced in the programs.

In the meantime, the new data collection system via Internet scheduled to be implemented in 2004, will incorporate an automatic data validation module to be used by the sector statisticians. In particular, it will allow for automatic checks of price changes. In short, this recommendation will be progressively followed from 2004 on.

Other recommendations

Regard the index as being final three months after the reference date, instead of six months, given the negligible differences between the two versions.

At present, production price indices are subject to change during a six month period, due to the integration of late answers and changes of weights in the context of the continuous renovation of indices. Taking into consideration the very minor revisions of the recent months, INSEE plans to reduce this period of revision down to three months, as suggested by the recommendation.

Explore the possibility of developing a module for detecting anomalous price shifts in the new automatic price collection system.

As stated above, the 2004 new data collection system via Internet is to incorporate an automatic data validation module. It will in particular include an automatic check of price shifts. This module will be at the disposal of sector statisticians and help them checking the businesses’ answers. It is designed exclusively for sector statisticians, not for respondents themselves, in order to avoid any possible bias.

Consumer and Producer Price Indices


Introduce closer cooperation between the two price divisions. Although their source data and part of their methodologies differ significantly, there are fairly substantial similarities in other aspects of these indices, leading to synergies that could benefit both divisions and also other units working on price indices.

INSEE shares the IMF’s view on the need for a closer cooperation between the two price divisions. Efforts will be made to take a step further.

At present, these divisions already participate actively in the monthly meetings of the Indices Workshop. During these sessions, methodological work is presented by CPI or PPI division experts, among others. Cooperation between the two price divisions, which already tackles the energy sectors issues, will move forward in close future. For instance the two divisions will cooperate in Econometric work in order to calculate hedonic estimations of computers prices. As regards PPIs, cooperation on prices in business services and agriculture sectors will intensify.

Government Finance Statistics


Produce a publication focusing on government finance, comprising such as the following:

  • tables of flows and stocks according to a “government finance” framework similar to the one in the Government Finance Statistics Manual 2001;

  • more detailed revenue and expenditure tables;

  • a table on cash-based revenues, expenditures, and financial flows;

  • bridge tables for the main aggregates between government accounting data and the account of the central government (“État”) subsector; and

  • a bridge table between tax and budget nomenclatures, and ESA 95 classifications.

INSEE acknowledges that this recommendation is very relevant, and therefore has decided to work in this direction, that is producing more publications focusing on government finance. Some specialized press releases do exist, but this practice will be extended in 2004 by creating a specific domain devoted to general government accounts on INSEE’s website. This domain will contain metadata already available but not broadly enough disseminated as underlined by the IMF. It will also contain bridge tables on main annual data on budget revenues and expenditures (as produced by the public accounting system). However, INSEE will probably not go as far as suggested by the IMF in putting together as many fiscally oriented data as suggested. Indeed, the lack of consistency of these data (due to differences in periodicity and dissemination delays) would result in too much confusion to users.

Complete and disseminate statistics on general governments on a quarterly basis.

This recommendation has already been part of INSEE’s plans for two years, as enforcement of the European regulation. As soon as quality is ensured, quarterly accounts on general government will be disseminated. These data are currently being tested for the first time.

Identify in a clearer manner assistance to users.

INSEE will cautiously follow this recommendation, in compliance with the general policy in this matter (see above the response to the second general recommendation regarding INSEE). The name and phone number of a contact person will only be indicated on the CD-Rom publication.

Monetary Statistics


Extend the general principle of market valuation for items in the balance sheet, preparing a detailed summary table of deviations from MFSM methodology.

To stay coherent with financial institutions’ accounting standards, the DESM has only used book-keeping sources and related data.

With a look to the implementation of the International Accounting Standards in Europe, we will extend the valuation at market value where appropriate, regularly updating the detailed summary table of deviation from MFSM methodology.

Record all financial derivatives in the balance sheet.

In connection with ongoing work within the Eurosystem, we are planning to extend the scope of the financial derivatives included in the balance sheet statistics.

In the survey for the BdF and in the aggregate survey for other resident MFIs, refine the sectorization of claims on and liabilities to all MFIs to distinguish between the central government, central bank, other components of the ESCB, and other MFIs.

This distinction is available for quarterly data and will soon be published.

Balance of Payments


Identify the BdF as the producer of the statistics in the statistical tables published by the MINEFI.

As indicated in a footnote this recommendation has been implemented since end March 2003.

Revise the adjustments for accrued coupons (“coupons courus”) on transactions in bonds to better measure investment income.

This recommendation will be implemented on the basis of the recent conclusions of a joint ECB-Eurostat task force. Investment income will be recorded on a full accrual basis from the first quarter 2004 b.o.p release and it will be integrated in our information system from 2005 onwards.

Pursue the efforts of the joint DBDP-INSEE task force to achieve greater coherence between the balance of payments current account and the rest of the world account in the national accounts.

The consistency between the two statistics, which is considered by INSEE (DCN) and the Banque de France (DBDP) as a top priority, is also an European objective in order to elaborate the quarterly national accounts on a sectoral basis. A joint DBDP-INSEE task force has been set up to fulfill this goal, in a first step on transportation, where the bias is the most significant, and on bringing together the production time tables.

Other recommendations

Pursue the integration of the balance of payments production process into the French statistical system, notably through exchanges of source data.

Such exchanges, which already exist for instance with the Tourism Directorate or with INSEE (DCN), will be intensified.

Publish revision studies and analyses regularly.

The DBDP publishes several versions of its data, with a clear identification of their status (provisional, semi-definitive or definitive), but has not so far regularly communicated on the reasons of such revisions, except when are implemented important methodological changes. It intends to enhance the quality of its communication in this respect, not only in the annual report, but also on a monthly basis when the revisions are deemed significant for the interpretation of the data.

Final Comment regarding the ROSC

When preparing for this French ROSC-data module, the IMF staff invited the French authorities to express their views on the ROSC and to make proposals for improving the framework. In this context, the following comment is presented:

Taking into account the importance in Europe of the general government debt (calculated according to the Maastricht treaty definition), the IMF should consider its inclusion in the SDDS set of data on general government operations.