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

Panama has a well-developed macroeconomic statistical system, and the government recognizes the importance of good statistics for policy and investment decisions. All statistical agencies are committed to further statistical progress by promoting implementation of the National Strategy for Statistical Development (NSSD). Executive Directors recommend that Panama should proceed with the amendment to the Law of the Controller General aimed at creating the National Institute of Statistics, and implement the annual supply and use framework to investigate discrepancies and improve consistency.


Panama has a well-developed macroeconomic statistical system, and the government recognizes the importance of good statistics for policy and investment decisions. All statistical agencies are committed to further statistical progress by promoting implementation of the National Strategy for Statistical Development (NSSD). Executive Directors recommend that Panama should proceed with the amendment to the Law of the Controller General aimed at creating the National Institute of Statistics, and implement the annual supply and use framework to investigate discrepancies and improve consistency.

I. Overall Assessment

1. The data module of the Report on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC) describes a statistical system established by a legal framework that generally provides the necessary authority for the collection and compilation of statistics. Panama has a well-developed macroeconomic statistical system and the government recognizes the importance of good statistics for policy and investment decisions. Although the legal framework assigns responsibility for providing socio-economic statistics to the Controller General of the Republic of Panama (CG), the scope of these statistics is not specified. In practice, the CG compiles and disseminates national accounts, consumer price index (CPI), fiscal, and external statistics. The MEF compiles and disseminates fiscal statistics. Given Panama’s long history of dollarization and absence of a central bank, there is no assignment of responsibility for compiling and disseminating a complete set of monetary statistics. Instead, the Superintendency of Banks of Panama (SBP) provides banking sector statistics in line with its functions. Consequently, statistical practices for some elements of the DQAF do not apply to this sector (Box 1). Opportunities exist for improving the methodological basis and source data for most datasets. The CG faces resource limitations that at times compromise the standards of the statistics they compile. All statistical agencies are committed to further statistical progress by promoting implementation of the National Strategy for Statistical Development (NSSD).

Panama: DQAF Assessment in the Absence of a Central Bank

Panama has a long history as a fully dollarized economy without a central bank. The Superintendency of Banks is the official agency designated by law, in its supervisory role for banks, to compile and disseminate banking sector statistics. These statistics do not conform to the methodology in the Monetary and Financial Statistics Manual (MFSM). Panamanian law does not assign responsibility to any agency to disseminate monetary statistics, which have a broader coverage and different analytical approach than banking sector statistics1. In Panama’s case, it is not possible to apply the following elements of the DQAF for monetary statistics:

  • internationally accepted concepts and definitions for monetary statistics, such as net foreign assets, net credit to the government, broad money, etc.;

  • classification of financial instruments and sectorization by counterparty; and

  • reconciliation by users with other statistical methodologies and data sources, although banking sector data are broadly consistent.

2. Panama has participated in the GDDS since December 2000. Its metadata are regularly updated on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB). Panama’s metadata are compared to the GDDS coverage, periodicity, and timeliness of data (Appendix). Panama meets GDDS standards for all core real sector categories, except for recommended extensions such as the producer price index (PPI). Panama exceeds GDDS recommendations in regard to: GDP estimates and the CPI, in that quarterly GDP estimates at constant prices are compiled and the timeliness of the CPI is only 15 days; public debt data, which are disseminated on a monthly basis; and balance of payments (BOP) and international investment position (IIP), which are disseminated on a quarterly basis.

3. The remainder of this section presents the mission’s main conclusions, applying the IMF’s Data Quality Assessment Framework (DQAF), July 2003 version. The presentation is in the context of the DQAF’s quality dimensions, by agency for the first two dimensions and across datasets for the remaining four. Section II provides a summary assessment by dataset based on a four-point scale and by agency and dataset in a tabular format based on the DQAF. Staff recommendations follow in Section III. The authorities’ response to this report and detailed assessments by sectors are presented in separate documents.

4. Prerequisites of quality and assurances of integrity

  • The CG operates under a legal framework assigning clear responsibility for compiling and disseminating socio-economic statistics, without specifying scope. The law includes provisions for ensuring timely submission from data reporters, but the nominal amounts of penalties are outdated. The confidentiality of reporters’ responses is established by law. The CG has achieved de facto independence based on its long tradition of professionalism and has fostered adherence to ethical standards. Staff are well trained and highly professional. While computing equipment and software in some areas are adequate, staff, transportation resources and office facilities are not. Salaries are not competitive in the public administration. Staff performance is evaluated, with criteria for salary increases and bonuses that are difficult to meet. In some areas of the Directory of Statistics and Census (DSC), under the umbrella of the CG, almost half of the staff works on a contractual basis, which presents the risk of loss of experience in collecting, processing, and compiling statistics, potentially affecting quality. Budget resources are not fully sufficient for conducting surveys, most seriously for the CPI and BOP. Subject to resource limitations, data sources and methodologies are selected based on statistical considerations. The CG is committed to open communication with users and providing service, meeting their needs by responding to requests for data and metadata. In the framework of the NSSD, five seminars with users and two surveys, one for data producers and another for users, were conducted in 2005 for consulting them and identifying new data requirements, as well as establish relationships among data producers. Users’ committees are usually established when a new survey is conducted. An inter-institutional committee on national accounts meets periodically. As international best practice recommends, government agencies do not have any privileges over the public in access to data. Appropriate quality management processes are in place, but the monitoring of financial needs is not done regularly.

  • The MEF has authority to manage information related to its legal responsibility for managing public finances and public debt. The MEF collaborates with the CG and shares data as needed to produce consistent fiscal statistics. The confidentiality of data sources is protected by various legal provisions, including the statistics laws. Staff size is adequate, with compensation above the salary level of other public entities. Staff are trained throughout their employment and oriented to meet professional standards and produce quality work, but programs for evaluating staff performance and measuring and improving the quality of work are lacking. Computing and office resources are of very high quality. While there is no established procedure for identifying the needs of users, their suggestions on the format for disseminating relevant fiscal statistics are incorporated. Production of statistics is legally protected from political interference.

  • The SBP is the official agency compiling and disseminating banking sector statistics. The SBP collaborates with the CG and MEF, and international agencies, including the Fund, in providing analytically useful data for macroeconomic analysis. Staff size is adequate and salaries are competitive. Staff are expected to meet high standards for professional and ethical behavior, and have guidelines outlining correct behavior when confronted with potential conflict of interest. Computing equipment and software are up to date and appropriate. The SBP does not have regular formal consultation with private users on data needs. SBP’s independence is supported by law. Information is provided transparently and free of charge, without prior access for government agencies.

5. Methodologies for compiling macroeconomic statistics broadly conform with internationally accepted standards, specifically, the System of National Accounts 1993 (1993 SNA), Consumer Price Index Manual, 2004 (CPI 2004), and the fifth edition of the Balance of Payments Manual (BPM5). However, some shortcomings exist. Quarterly GDP estimates, introduced in 2005 at constant prices beginning in 1996, apply outdated input/output ratios from 1996. CPI coverage falls short of international standard practices, for example, by excluding certain types of households (rural, one-person, lowest and highest deciles of the income distribution). Some methodological issues exist regarding the treatment of missing prices and quality adjustments. The MEF follows A Manual on Government Finance Statistics, 1986 (GFSM 1986). The CG adjusts data provided by MEF to present fiscal statistics on a mixed cash and accrual basis. There is no official commitment to implement a plan to migrate to Government Finance Statistics Manual 2001 (GFSM 2001). Nonfinancial public sector (NFPS) statistics are disseminated excluding the Panama Canal Authority (PCA) and using only financing data for institutions not in the sample of non-budgetary institutions. The concepts and definition for monetary statistics are not applicable to banking sector statistics disseminated by the SBP, although the scope and basis for recording are broadly consistent with the MFSM. Methodological shortcomings in BOP statistics include recording on a cash basis of interest on external public debt and not excluding resident holdings, and not compiling FDI abroad. The basis for recording in all datasets could come closer to internationally accepted methodological guidelines.

6. Accuracy and reliability are broadly adequate, with improvement needed in most datasets. Banking sector statistics were rated the highest in this dimension. Statistical surveys in the main sectors are conducted on a timely basis. Shortcomings in national accounts, the CPI, and balance of payments statistics are partly attributable to insufficient budget resources for conducting surveys. As a result of periodic shortfalls, price data are not always collected on the same date every month. The base year of 1996 for constant price estimates of GDP is outdated. The 2001 business register for conducting national accounts surveys is updated only with new enterprises, but does not exclude enterprises that have gone out of business. The household income and expenditure survey is conducted every 10 years. Discrepancies between GDP estimates based on the production and expenditure approaches can not be investigated as some expenditure components are not derived independently. Surveys for BOP statistics are incomplete, not providing data on some private sector services and financial transactions, such as direct investment abroad. Problems with source data from the free trade zones compromise the adequacy of trade statistics. Processes for assessment and validation of source data are needed. With the exception of major revisions for the national accounts and CPI, regular revision studies are not conducted.

7. Serviceability of published macroeconomic statistics is satisfactory. The GDDS recommendations for periodicity and timeliness are met and, as mentioned, exceeded for GDP, the CPI, public debt, BOP, and IIP statistics. The timeliness of disseminated banking sector statistics should be improved owing to early availability of source data. Statistics within datasets are consistent, but some discrepancies exist across datasets, for which explanatory notes are not always provided. Revision studies when conducted are not made public, except for the CPI.

8. Accessibility of macroeconomic statistics is good, as they are released to all users on a preannounced schedule, except for GFS flows disseminated by the MEF and banking sector statistics. Summary metadata for all sectors are available in the GDDS, but detailed methodology is only available for national accounts, CPI, and BOP. Prompt and knowledgeable service and support are provided to users. Unpublished non-confidential data are generally made available on request from users, but such availability is not publicized.

9. To expand the basis for the assessment, the mission conducted a user survey and held meetings with users to ascertain their views. Overall, users found macroeconomic statistics accurate and reliable, and statistics agencies professional and helpful in providing data. They were satisfied with access to statistics, making about equal use of official websites, printed copies, and e-mail correspondence. Generally users, especially in private industry and the financial sector, would appreciate greater periodicity and timeliness in dissemination of data. Some noted a need for improvement in the consistency of statistics, including adjustment of historical fiscal series when methodological changes are introduced. Users noted areas for improvement in all datasets. Specifically, they indicated a need for better adherence to calendars for the release and revision of data, with a need for improvement in revision policy for fiscal statistics. Despite this shortcoming, they gave credit to statistical agencies, especially the CG, for providing additional breakdowns and explaining revisions on request.

II. Assessment by Agency and Dataset

10. Assessment of the quality of five macroeconomic datasets—national accounts, consumer price index, government finance, monetary, and balance of payments statistics—was conducted using the DQAF, July 2003. In this section, the results are presented at the level of the DQAF elements and using a four-level rating scale (Table 1). Assessments of the prerequisites of data quality and the assurances of integrity (Dimensions “0” and “1” of the DQAF) for the CG, MEF, and SBP are presented in Tables 2ac, respectively. For each dataset, the assessments of methodological soundness, accuracy and reliability, serviceability, and accessibility (Dimensions “2” to “5” of the DQAF) are shown in Tables 3ae.

Table 1.

Panama: Data Quality Assessment Framework2—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.

Panama: Assessment of Data Quality—Dimensions 0 and 1—Controller General of the Republic of Panama

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Table 2b.

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

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Table 2c.

Panama: Assessment of Data Quality—Dimensions 0 and 1—Superintendency of Banks of Panama

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Table 3a.

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

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Table 3b.

Panama: Assessment of Data Quality—Dimensions 2 to 5—Consumer Price Index

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Table 3c.

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

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Table 3d.

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

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Table 3e.

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

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III. Staff’s Recommendations

11. The staff has recommendations based on the review of Panama’s statistical practices, discussions with the data producing agencies, and responses from data users. The broad aim is to increase further Panama’s adherence to internationally accepted statistical practices and, in the staff’s view, enhance the analytical usefulness of Panama’s statistics. In each category below, recommendations are listed from higher to lower priority. Some additional technical suggestions are included in the detailed assessments volume.

Cross-cutting Recommendations

  • Proceed with the amendment to the Law of the CG aimed at creating the National Institute of Statistics, strengthening institutional and financial independence of the DSC, reinforcing the legal basis for the compilation and dissemination of macroeconomic data, and increasing sanctions for non-response to surveys. These sanctions should be adjusted annually using the inflation rate.

  • Provide sufficient budgetary, human, and information technology resources to the DSC to ensure the production of essential source data and improve quality in all areas of macroeconomic statistics.

  • Publish the main articles of the legal framework on obligatory reporting, confidentiality, and sanctions for noncompliance on the CG website.

  • Assign to a government agency responsibility for compiling and disseminating monetary and financial statistics, with a macroeconomic approach and comprehensive coverage, that is, including all relevant institutions in the Panamanian financial sector, on at least an annual basis.

  • Make widely available an explicit statistical revisions policy, identifying which data have been revised significantly and describing the data revision procedures employed. Give advance notice of changes in methodology, source data, and statistical techniques employed to produce macroeconomic statistics and meet with potential users of the statistics and conduct users’ surveys regularly.

  • Improve the efficiency of institutional mechanisms of coordination among agencies producing statistics in the context of the NSSD. Conduct periodic reviews of staff in the MEF and SBP.

National Accounts

  • Implement annual supply and use framework to investigate discrepancies and improve consistency.

  • Update the base year and establish a schedule for regular updating, preferably every five years.

  • Adjust prices in the valuation of the sales in censuses and surveys for the tax on the transference of goods and services (TTGS) and other relevant taxes and subsidies. Use purchasers’ prices adjusted for the TTGS in the valuation of purchases of inputs and nonfinancial assets.

  • Taxes and subsidies on products at constant prices should be estimated by applying base year tax and subsidy rates or by extrapolating base year taxes and subsidies.

  • Record in national accounts the produced assets transferred by the rest of the world to the Inter-Oceanic Region of Panama as fixed capital formation, imports, and a capital transfer in the period of transfer.

  • Conduct a quarterly household survey with national coverage regularly.

Consumer Price Indices

  • Allocate needed human resources and computer and transportation equipment to the Price and Standard of Living Section (PSLS) and the regional offices of the CG for conducting price investigations and CPI compilation.

  • Collect price data during all four weeks of the month and on the same date for each item and informant. For items’ prices that are collected quarterly, distribute the sample across the quarter.

  • Apply the standard COICOP to classify the CPI, especially in the case of tobacco, alcoholic beverages, communications, restaurants, and hotels. Include net purchases of vehicles and second-hand durable goods in the CPI weights. Apply the price geometric mean to all items in the CPI.

  • Closely monitor markets to identify the need to incorporate new products and quality changes in the CPI and improve price imputation methods for missing prices. Use results from the standard of living survey to update CPI weights.

  • Provide publications on the CPI methodology and series and on the 1997–98 HIES’s methodology. Include notes on data adjustments in the CPI data base.

  • Study the inclusion of estimated rentals of owner-occupied dwellings and goods produced for own final consumption in CPI weights, using information on these items available in the 1997–98 HIES. Study the gains in accuracy that could be derived from information on rural household consumption expenditure in the 2007–08 HIES.

  • Conduct the 2007–08 HIES as planned to update CPI weights and include expenditures of all households in the income distribution. This survey and update should be conducted every five years.

Government Finance Statistics

  • Implement recommendations of the 2004 GFS technical assistance mission, which included adoption of a GFSM 2001 migration plan, expansion of the institutional sample, full cash flow compilation for all institutions, and review of procedures for data collection improvement.

  • Exclude two financial institutions from general government and classify them as public financial corporations.

  • Adapt the functional expenditure classification format to GFSM 1986.

  • Prepare and publish documents on methodology that explain the criteria and techniques for collection and compilation of government finance statistics. Produce detailed consolidated revenue and expenditure statistics to the extent data are available to the MEF. Adjust historical fiscal series to the extent practicable when methodological changes are introduced.

  • Release a calendar of publications for government finance statistics prepared by the MEF.

  • Increase the sample of institutions, ideally compiling full information on income, expenditure, and financing for all decentralized institutions, municipalities, and non-financial public enterprises.

  • Improve coordination between the MEF and CG regarding the production of government finance statistics and avoid duplication of effort.

Monetary Statistics

  • Although meeting the GDDS standard, the timeliness of disseminated banking sector statistics (aggregated data) should be improved from two months to one month given the very early availability of source data and users’ request for more timely data.

  • Make available to users historical series on banking sector statistics from 1970.

  • Establish formal mechanisms for consulting private sector users to identify new data requirements.

  • Avoid the release, under any circumstance, of unpublished data to users before official dissemination on the SBP webpage.

  • Prepare and disseminate methodological notes describing the characteristics of the financial sector in Panama and disseminated data, particularly when concepts and definitions differ from international accounting standards.

  • Revise the reporting requirements and chart of accounts for banks to include the identification and sectorization of financial derivatives and insurance reserves, and distinguish depository corporations and other financial corporations in the sectorization of the accounts (currently banks and other).

Balance of Payments Statistics

  • Improve the scope of data sources for compiling construction, communication, professional and merchanting services, as well as compensation of employees and direct investment abroad.

  • Improve quality and timeliness of transactions data from the free trade zone, including goods procured in ports.

  • Compile public external debt data on an accrual basis.

  • Develop a methodology to include unrecorded trade in the balance of payments.

  • Standardize metadata in both electronic and hard-copy publications and make them available on a continuous basis.


Table 4.

Panama: Practices Compared to the GDDS Coverage, Periodicity, and Timeliness of Data

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Italics indicate encouraged categories.

Assessment of labor market indicators is not included in the scope of a ROSC mission.

The WPI for agriculture and manufacturing are included in a WPI disseminated on a quarterly basis.

The WPI for manufacturing is compiled monthly, but disseminated quarterly.

Dissemination as part of a high-frequency (e.g., monthly) publication.


Monetary statistics focus on defining measures of liquidity, such as broad money, and credit and debt aggregates by institutional sectors of an economy while banking sector statistics focus on financial supervision.


July 2003 version.