Report on the Observance of Standards and Codes: Data Module; Response by the Authorities; and Detailed Assessments Using the Data Quality Assessment Framework

The methodological soundness of statistics in Tunisia is consistent in several areas with outdated international statistical standards. The Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) is responsible for the collection, processing, and dissemination of monetary and balance of payments statistics. The accuracy and reliability of statistics in Tunisia are broadly adequate. Adequate national accounts data and some brief methodological notes are disseminated, albeit with no analyses accompanying the data. However, there is now a need to proceed quickly with the migration to the new standards.


The methodological soundness of statistics in Tunisia is consistent in several areas with outdated international statistical standards. The Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) is responsible for the collection, processing, and dissemination of monetary and balance of payments statistics. The accuracy and reliability of statistics in Tunisia are broadly adequate. Adequate national accounts data and some brief methodological notes are disseminated, albeit with no analyses accompanying the data. However, there is now a need to proceed quickly with the migration to the new standards.

I. Overall Assessment

1. The quality of macroeconomic statistics in Tunisia has improved over the past decade, and the statistics have been broadly adequate for macroeconomic analysis and policy design and monitoring. The Tunisian authorities have demonstrated their commitment to the quality of macroeconomic statistics by their subscription to the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) and the related significant steps they have taken, as well as their support to the preparation of this Report on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC). The authorities are currently creating the conditions for accelerating the development of the financial system and moving towards full capital account convertibility. At the same time, they are focusing on managing the domestic macroeconomic environment with a view to achieving sustainable growth and employment gains. In this context, there is a need to pursue plans to further improve the quality of the country’s statistics through, inter alia, a closer alignment with internationally accepted standards and good practices. Some of these plans have already been clearly articulated and are in the process of being implemented, while others need to be fleshed out in the period ahead. To achieve the above mentioned macroeconomic objectives, there is also a need to give greater weight to the accessibility of statistics.

2. Tunisia has a broadly effective legal and institutional framework, as well as a culture of good practices, that together support the quality of macroeconomic statistics. The staff resources available for statistical work in all areas are not fully adequate, and especially for government finance statistics (GFS). The work of all statistical agencies is based on professionalism, transparency, and adherence to ethical standards. Official statistics follow methodologies, which in most areas need to be updated. In particular, there is a need to complete the adoption of 1993 SNA for the national accounts, implement the plan to adopt the recommendations of the Monetary and Financial Statistics Manual (MFSM), and put forward a plan to adopt the methodology recommended in the Government Finance Statistics Manual 2001 (GFSM 2001). Tunisia’s macroeconomic statistics are, to a large extent, reconcilable within each dataset and with other datasets. There are opportunities to improve the dissemination of statistics as well as information on methodology and assistance available to users in most assessed areas, and particularly in GFS.

3. Tunisia subscribed to the SDDS on June 20, 2001 and started posting its metadata on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB) on the same date. Tunisia is in observance of the SDDS, meeting the specifications for coverage, periodicity, timeliness, as well as for the dissemination of advance release calendars. However, coverage of international reserves and foreign currency liquidity only partly meets SDDS requirements. Tunisia uses the flexibility options on the timeliness of the national accounts and on the periodicity and timeliness of employment and unemployment data. The metadata for these indicators do not specify any plans for improvement to meet the relevant SDDS requirements. While Tunisia has posted summary methodology pages for most data categories, preparatory work on several other data categories (employment, unemployment, interest rates, stock market share price index, exchange rate, and population) could be accelerated. Tunisia regularly updates its advance release calendar for all data categories, which is also posted on the DSBB. Appendix I provides an overview of Tunisia’s dissemination practices compared to the SDDS.

4. Section II of this ROSC—Data Module provides a summary assessment by agency and dataset based on a four-part scale. This is followed by staff recommendations in Section III. Practices compared to the SDDS are summarized in Appendix I. The authorities’ response to this report and a volume of detailed assessments are presented in separate documents.

5. In applying the IMF’s Data Quality Assessment Framework (DQAF July 2003), the remainder of this section presents the mission’s main conclusions. The presentation is done at the level of the DQAF’s quality dimensions, by agency for the first two dimensions and by dataset for the remaining four.

Prerequisites of Quality and Assurances of Integrity

6. Tunisia’s law on the National Statistical System (SNS) provides a proper environment for the production of official statistics at the national level, where the National Statistics Institute (INS) is the central body. The institutional coordination and planning of statistical activities is ensured by the National Council on Statistics (CNS), which is an advisory body whose membership comprises both producers and users of statistics. As the central executive body of the SNS, the INS ensures the technical coordination of statistical activities. There is an adequate practice of data exchange among the INS and the other government agencies. The law establishes the compulsory and confidential character of data reporting to the INS. Resources allocated to the INS for the conduct of surveys, as well as for equipment, are broadly sufficient, but staff resources are too limited. Users’ feedback is sought by the INS in a wide variety of ways. The INS strives to improve the quality of its statistics and to meet international standards—all in the framework of its work program that is part of a five-year national statistical plan. Legal framework and actual practices support the independence of the INS in its work and the professionalism of its staff, who are subject to the statute of civil servants. However, the terms and conditions under which statistics are collected, processed, and disseminated, as well as the relevant metadata, are not as fully available to the domestic public as they could be.

7. Tunisia’s legal framework clearly assigns the responsibility of collecting, processing, and disseminating GFS to the Ministry of Finance (MF). The MF compiles data on budget execution and debt in accordance with the Organic Budget Law. As mentioned above, there is firm legal basis for the coordination of agencies in the SNS by means of the CNS. Actual data-sharing and coordination between the MF and other agencies are satisfactory. The Directorate in charge of budget statistics is seriously understaffed but otherwise adequately equipped. The MF values the quality of its statistics, but improvements in GFS on the basis of consultation with users (including via MF’s participation in the CNS) could be sought more actively. MF staff are professional and generally well-trained, and subject to the statute of civil servants. The MF does not adequately disseminate methodological information or publicize the terms and conditions under which GFS are produced and disseminated, hampered inter alia by personnel shortages and the absence of a MF website.

8. The Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) is responsible for the collection, processing, and dissemination of monetary and balance of payments statistics. As noted above, the law provides for the coordination of BCT with other agencies, and actual data-sharing between the agencies is satisfactory. The compulsory aspect of data reporting to the BCT is provided for in the legal framework. The relevance of BCT’s statistics is safeguarded by consultations within the context of the CNS as well as with other data users. BCT closely monitors and assesses its own statistical work against standards. Staff—although well trained and professional—and computer software are not fully adequate. The central bank law contains provisions that ensure the overall independence of the BCT and thus of the statistical work of the institution. That work is found to follow strict technical criteria and to be free of any interference. Staff are subject to and aware of the staff code of conduct. Data are disseminated adequately to all interested parties through the BCT’s web site and publications. However, the terms and conditions under which statistics are collected, processed, and disseminated, as well as some of the metadata, could be made more accessible to the public. Moreover, no advance notice of major changes in methodology, source data, and statistical technique is provided.

9. The methodological soundness of statistics in Tunisia is consistent in several areas with outdated international statistical standards. However, there is now a need to proceed quickly with the migration to the new standards. In the national accounts, work is well advanced to implement fully the 1993 SNA, and it remains to finalize and schedule publication of the new series that have been compiled. Work has also begun in accordance with a plan to adopt the MFSM for compiling monetary statistics. As for the GFS, despite an expressed interest, Tunisia has not yet developed a transition plan to GFSM 2001. Balance of payments statistics (as provided in the DSBB) are already broadly consistent with the methodology of BPM5. However, the statistics of the data template on international reserves and international liquidity are not fully consistent with the requirements of the SDDS as they do not cover foreign currency deposits of resident banks with the BCT under “pre-determined short-term net drains on foreign currency assets.” In addition, the debt service of public companies is included under this heading, without this being specifically mentioned in the country notes, contrary to the recommendations of the International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity Guidelines for a Data Template. With regard to national accounts statistics, the classification and valuation of currently published data series do not conform to international standards; however, new, still unpublished, statistics are consistent with international standards. Regarding GFS, coverage of published data outside those reported in the DSBB is limited to budgetary central government. The operations of the numerous public administrative units (such as schools) have only begun to be included in the budget. Moreover, GFS classification, while very close to GFSM 1986 standards, could be improved. The coverage and scope of balance of payments statistics is good, but classification of the important item of workers’ remittances is inappropriate. There are also departures from the standard regarding recording on an accrual basis and, in national publications, regarding the breakdowns of the financial account. In monetary statistics, there are departures from the MFSM inter alia regarding disaggregation of credits by sector, valuation, and classification of assets and liabilities. For example, banks’ credit to the rest of the domestic sector (other than central government and financial corporations) is not disaggregated into subsectors; monetary gold is not valued at market price, as recommended in the MFSM.

10. The accuracy and reliability of statistics in Tunisia are broadly adequate. In the national accounts, source data are sufficient to compile reliable annual estimates, but could be further diversified to improve indicator coverage for quarterly GDP estimates. Data sources for compiling GFS are adequately detailed and suitable for deriving the published aggregates. However the scope of data sources is rather narrow. In the context of current strict foreign exchange regulations, the data sources for balance of payments statistics are fully adequate. While very comprehensive in coverage and timely, source data for monetary statistics do not contain sufficient detail for classification of assets and liabilities as recommended in the MFSM. In all areas of statistics assessed, there is careful processing and validation of source data (following up actively with reporting units) as well as of intermediate data. An outdated base year (1990) is used for the current series and there is a need to refine the statistical techniques of the quarterly national accounts estimates. Adequate statistical techniques are used in all assessed sectors. Explicit studies of—the otherwise well-thought-out—revisions are not undertaken, but experience gained in revisions is used to inform subsequent work.

11. Serviceability of the assessed macroeconomic statistics is broadly satisfactory, as confirmed by the results of the user survey conducted in the context of this assessment. Data in all assessed areas are compiled and disseminated with the periodicity and timeliness prescribed by the SDDS with the exception of the national accounts data (whose timeliness lags behind the SDDS requirement by one month for the first quarter). Statistics are largely reconcilable within each dataset and over time, as well as with other datasets. However, the reconciliation of fiscal and monetary data cannot be readily confirmed using solely published information, as budget domestic financing is not presented by debt holder. Moreover, monetary statistics data on transactions between the BCT and deposit money banks, as well as among the latter, cannot be reconciled from published data as presentations are not consistently classified. In all assessed areas, there are established revision practices that agencies follow—albeit do not publicize—and preliminary and revised data are clearly identified in most publications, except in the monthly GFS printed publication.

12. There is room to improve accessibility to statistics. Adequate national accounts data and some brief methodological notes are disseminated, albeit with no analyses accompanying the data. Regularly updated metadata are provided on the DSBB, but no link is provided from the INS’ website. National accounts statistics are released simultaneously to all users outside the government. Monthly GFS data are also disseminated without analysis or adequate publicizing of a preannounced release schedule, and their presentation could be improved. Moreover, the MF does not have a website. Methodological notes are only available on the DSBB website (in English). Monetary statistics and related methodological material are readily available to the public. However, information on how these statistics are compiled is not publicized. Accessibility of balance of payments statistics is also broadly adequate, but accessibility to metadata could be improved by posting them on the BCT website. Adequate assistance to users is provided for national accounts and monetary data. However much greater assistance can be provided to GFS users. It is also possible to further improve assistance to users of balance of payments statistics.

II. Assessment by Agency and Dataset

13. Assessment of the quality of four macroeconomic datasets—national accounts, government finance, monetary, and balance of payments statistics—were conducted using the DQAF July 2003. In this section, the results are presented at the level of the DQAF elements and using a four-point rating scale (Table 1). Assessments of the prerequisites of data quality and the assurances of integrity (Dimensions “0” and “1” of the DQAF) are presented in Tables 2ac. For each dataset, the assessment of methodological soundness, accuracy and reliability, serviceability, and accessibility (Dimensions “2” to “5” of the DQAF) are shown in Tables 3ad.

Table 1.

Tunisia: Data Quality Assessment Framework July 2003—Summary Results

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Practice observed: current practices generally in observance meet or achieve the objectives of DQAF internationally accepted statistical practices without any significant deficiencies. Practice largely observed: some departures, but these are not seen as sufficient to raise doubts about the authorities’ ability to observe the DQAF practices. Practice largely not observed: significant departures and the authorities will need to take significant action to achieve observance. Practice not observed: most DQAF practices are not met. Not applicable: used only exceptionally when statistical practices do not apply to a country’s circumstances.
Table 2a.

Tunisia: Assessment of Data Quality—Dimensions 0 and 1—National Statistics Institute

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Table 2b.

Tunisia: Assessment of Data Quality—Dimensions 0 and 1—Ministry of Finance

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Table 2c.

Tunisia: Assessment of Data Quality—Dimensions 0 and 1—Central Bank of Tunisia

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Table 3a.

Tunisia: Assessment of Data Quality—Dimensions 2 to 5—National Accounts

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Table 3b.

Tunisia: Assessment of Data Quality—Dimensions 2 to 5—Government Finance Statistics

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Table 3c.

Tunisia: Assessment of Data Quality—Dimensions 2 to 5—Monetary Statistics

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Table 3d.

Tunisia: Assessment of Data Quality—Dimensions 2 to 5—Balance of Payments Statistics

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14. To complement the Fund staff’s assessment of the quality of macroeconomic statistics produced in Tunisia, an informal survey of key users of such statistics was conducted. The authorities sent questionnaires to 14 users; responses were received from 12 of them. Respondents included international and domestic banks, international and regional organizations, the financial media, think tanks, employer and producer associations, the trade unions, and some users of data in the public administration. Users were asked to evaluate the coverage, periodicity, timeliness, dissemination practices, accessibility, and overall quality of the official statistics assessed in this report.

15. Users overall expressed satisfaction with the quality of the statistics produced in Tunisia. The results of the survey indicated that a majority of users are satisfied with the coverage, periodicity, level of detail, methodological soundness, and timeliness of official statistics. On a five point scale (1 meaning poor and 5 excellent), respondents’ average rating for the overall quality of the official statistics for all assessed sectors was a 3.8, with the lowest score (3.5) given to GFS and the highest (4.1) to monetary statistics. Most users regarded Tunisia’s official macroeconomic statistics as being of better quality than the statistics of countries at similar levels of development in the region.

16. The main uses of official statistics are, in order of importance, for general economic background, analysis of current developments, analysis of trends, comparisons with developments in other countries, and economic research. The macroeconomic statistics most frequently used are the monetary and balance of payments statistics, closely followed by national accounts statistics. GFS are used less frequently. The main source of official statistics is, according to most users, official publications and press releases. However, similar numbers of users indicated they rely on publications of international organizations about Tunisia. Over 40 percent of users do not consult official descriptions of the sources and methods used to compile the official statistics.

17. Several comments and suggestions for improving official statistics were provided in the responses to the questionnaires. These concern mostly the national accounts (diversification of dissemination means for quarterly national accounts; dissemination of data with greater level of detail, including information on the informal sector). Some respondents also commented that the timeliness of some statistics (national accounts, GFS, and balance of payments) could be improved.

III. Staff’s Recommendations

18. Based on the review of Tunisia’s statistical practices, discussions with the data producing agencies, and responses from data users (see Appendix III of the Detailed Assessments volume), the mission has a set of recommendations. They are designed to increase further Tunisia’s adherence to internationally accepted statistical practices and would, in the mission’s view, enhance the analytical usefulness of Tunisia’s statistics. Some additional technical suggestions are included in the Detailed Assessments volume.

Cross-cutting Recommendations

  • Pursue rigorously plans to further improve the quality of the country’s official statistics by increasing the alignment of the current practices with internationally accepted standards and good practices.

  • Promote in all data-producing agencies a culture of dissemination oriented toward the public at large.

  • Dissemination of information on the conditions of statistical production, as well as of data, metadata, and contact information should be made fully and consistently for all assessed areas of statistics and through all available media.

  • Provide more staff resources to statistical production in all the areas assessed in this report. This is particularly important in the area of GFS.

  • Ensure that the adoption of international standards is translated into changes of domestically available data, beyond the data made available through the IMF’s DSBB.

  • Undertake revision studies and disseminate them as well as the revision policies and practices.

National Accounts

High Priority

  • Complete work on the new series of annual accounts (starting with 1997), which is in line with the 1993 SNA and introduces a new base year, and disseminate it shortly. Revise backward the annual and quarterly account series to ensure consistency as far back as possible.

  • Develop new infra-annual source data or improve existing ones that are particularly needed for quarterly accounts (e.g., agriculture, construction, and certain services); make use of all available administrative data (e.g., balance sheets submitted at the MF) as information becomes transmissible.

  • Prepare and disseminate “source and methods” documents that would include detailed methodological notes on the new series of annual and quarterly accounts; update these documents regularly.


  • Provide a link from the INS website to the metadata posted on the DSBB.

  • Undertake basic analyses of data to accompany the dissemination of data.

Government Finance Statistics

High priority

  • Adopt a migration plan to GFSM 2001. Start implementation of the plan by producing, concurrently with the current GFSM 1986-based GFS data, the same cash data based on the GFSM 2001 classification.

  • Expand the coverage of government in published annual data to include all EPA, social security funds, and local governments. Ensure that the legal basis for the relevant reporting is in place.

  • Adapt fully the current presentation of the monthly/annual data to the GFSM 1986 framework by performing the appropriate changes in descriptors and classifications.

  • Publish a breakdown of domestic financing by type of debt holder (BCT, banking sector excluding BCT, and non-banking sector).

  • Improve the accessibility of GFS data and methodology: identify all primary data sources in the main GFS tables, prepare methodological notes on GFS compilation, and include their summaries in monthly publications (and the upcoming website). Identify contact persons and their telephone, fax, and email in all publications and in the upcoming website.


  • Accelerate the introduction of the MF’s own website; post on it all available detailed GFS data and expanded coverage data as they become available; provide a hyperlink to the DSBB.

  • The MF should engage in dialogue with current and prospective GFS users through its participation in the CNS.

  • Streamline the presentation of tables in the monthly publication, with those following the GFSM 1986 at the beginning of the publication, and those following the Organic Law presentation at the end.

  • Implement changes to the accounting system to move to double-entry accounting and identify and collect accrual data for the relevant main aggregates.

Monetary Statistics

High priority

  • Develop and implement a timetable of actions to adopt the recommendations of the MFSM in the following areas: (i) sectorization of the economy; (ii) classification of financial assets and liabilities (e.g., classification of domestic claims); (iii) valuation of financial assets and liabilities.

  • Improve the report forms and the accompanying instructions (Circular 93–08) used to collect data for the compilation of monetary statistics with emphasis on the detailed breakdowns as recommended in the MFSM.

  • Compile and disseminate the central bank survey, the other depository corporations survey, and the depository corporations survey according to the framework recommended in the MFSM.

  • Review and improve the classification of data on interbank transactions in the compilation of monetary statistics to ensure consistency in these data.

Balance of Payments Statistics

High priority

  • Reclassify workers’ remittances from income to current transfers.

  • Review the contents of the international reserves template to make it compliant with the SDDS’s Guidelines for a data template.

  • Move to the standard presentation of BPM5 for national publications of balance of payments and international investment position statistics and use the appropriate breakdowns in the financial account for instruments and sectors.

  • Implement an annual collection of data on stocks of foreign direct investment and record reinvested earnings in the balance of payments.

  • Post on the DSBB the summary methodology for exchange rates.

  • Ensure consistency between flows and stocks for short-term trade credits.


  • Study the possibility of recording interest on an accrual basis.

  • Review the recording of technical assistants’ remittances and of pensions.

  • Provide a link to the DSBB website on the BCT’s website page dedicated to external statistics.

  • Add reference in publications to the legal framework within which the BCT compiles and disseminates balance of payments, international investment position, and external debt statistics.


Table 1.

Tunisia: Practices Compared to the SDDS Coverage, Periodicity, and Timeliness of Data

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Notes: for periodicity and timeliness: (D) daily; (WD) working days or business days; (W) weekly or with a lag of ## week(s) from the reference date; (M) monthly or with a lag of ## month(s); (Q) quarterly or with a lag of ## quarter(s); (SA) semiannual; (A) annual; (NLT) not later than; and (…) not applicable.

Does not cover foreign currency deposits of resident banks with the BCT under “pre-determined short-term net drains on foreign currency assets,” but covers debt service of public companies, without it being flagged.

Given that the data are broadly disseminated by private means, the timeliness with which official data are disseminated is not time critical.