IFS: International Financial Statistics

“International Financial Statistics”—known wherever international monetary affairs are studied as IFS—is a compendium of information, issued monthly by the Fund. It is a major tool for understanding the international monetary system and the economic situation of individual countries.


“International Financial Statistics”—known wherever international monetary affairs are studied as IFS—is a compendium of information, issued monthly by the Fund. It is a major tool for understanding the international monetary system and the economic situation of individual countries.

José C. Sónchiz

The importance of statistics in the work of the International Monetary Fund derives from the very nature of the institution as set out in its Articles of Agreement.1 Article I declares the Fund to be “a permanent institution which provides the machinery for consultation and collaboration on international monetary problems.” This major function of the Fund is further spelled out in Section 5(c) of Article VIII where it is stated that “the Fund … shall act as a centre for the collection and exchange of information on monetary and financial problems, thus facilitating the preparation of studies designed to assist members in developing policies which further the purposes of the Fund.”

It is in the nature of the Fund, therefore, to concern itself with the problems of inflation and deflation and the balance of payments. Once the Fund was established there was an immediate need to collect, compile, publish, and disseminate statistics useful to the analysis of the foregoing problems. International Financial Statistics, or IFS for short, has its origin in this need.

IFS is intended to be used by economists, officials, and others professionally concerned with the operation of the international monetary system. For such people it is a very important tool. Its use, however, extends beyond the immediate professional circle into the wider circle of banking, business, and journalism. Indeed anyone who is interested either in the working of the international monetary system, or in the recent economic history or current position of a particular country, may learn a great deal from it. It is in the hope of making IFS still more widely useful that this explanatory article has been written.

Early History

IFS work has gone through two major stages. The first, which began early in 1947 and lasted through December 1954, was directed primarily to the collection of country source material and the publication of internationally comparable historical time scries for specific aggregates concerning a small number of topics on country pages.

It was during this first stage of IFS that the Fund enlisted the help and cooperation of member countries, and of certain nonmembers. who were asked to nominate statistical correspondents to provide the Fund with cabled information, a supply of current bank balance sheets, and other essential source material, and most importantly, to help solve conceptual data problems. A close relationship with IFS correspondents has developed over the years and their help has contributed greatly to the improvement of IFS statistics.

The second stage in the development of IFS began in January 1955 with the appearance for the first time of the monetary survey section for 12 countries; this added an analytical dimension to hitherto published monetary data.


Because problems of inflation, deflation, and the balance of payments are country problems, IFS was designed to consist primarily of country pages.

A standard country page contains historical time series for the following sections:

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The Financial Survey, which is a partial consolidation of the Monetary Survey and the accounts of Other Financial Institutions, appears for only a few countries. This is due mainly to the unavailability of monthly data for some of the Other Financial Institutions.

The growth of Fund membership, the size of IFS, and the number of country pages published is given in the table below.

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Combined page for Syria and Lebanon.

Combined page for Belgium and Luxembourg.


Including consolidated pages for East, Equatorial, and West Africa.

Including consolidated pages for Equatorial and West Africa.

The 14 countries for which no data appear as yet in IFS are: Barbados, Botswana, Equatorial Guinea, Fiji, Guinea, the Khmer Republic, Laos, Lesotho, Liberia, Mauritius, Oman, Western Samoa, Swaziland, and the Yeman Arab Republic.


  • IFS has been been published monthly since 1948.

  • It contains internationally comparable data on major economic indicators for over 100 countries.

  • The data in each issue cover 30 time periods: the latest 7 years, 16 quarters, and 7 months.

  • It contains summary world tables on international reserves, trade, and prices of major commodities.

  • It carries historical time series of transactions between the Fund and member countries.

  • The country notes identify the relation of IFS data to those published in standard national sources.

  • The charts on the country pages are drawn on uniform log scales for intracountry and inter-country comparison.

  • The line numbering system is common throughout the country pages.

Because the outlines of the problems are similar in all countries, the topics are the same for all. The time series coverage reflected in the number of lines may, however, vary from country to country because of differing institutional structures and export patterns.

Exchange Rates

Data on exchange rates have a prominent place in IFS for two important reasons. First, they are the core of the Fund’s par value system set up by the Fund Articles and second, exchange rates are key factors that link the price and monetary systems of the countries of the world.

Exchange rate statistics are reported in IFS in the form usually quoted in most countries, i.e., in national currency units per U. S. dollar for all currencies except the pound sterling and historically associated currencies which are quoted in U.S. dollars per national currency unit. They are, however, reported as end-of-period quotations because most IFS monetary and financial statistics are also reported in this way. Since some IFS data, mainly trade and prices, are given as totals or averages for the period, annual averages of exchange rates are given in the country notes as useful conversion factors. Several rates are given for countries that have multiple exchange rates and readers should refer to the country notes for their description and conversion probelms involved

International Liquidity

IFS provides a wide coverage of data on international reserves both on the country pages and in the world tables. For the former it provides in line 1 a measure of each country’s international liquidity and for the latter it provides a measure of the international liquidity of the world as a whole and of its major economic areas. Both measures are identically defined in terms of U. S. dollars and consist of four elements, namely, holdings of gold, foreign exchange, SDRs, and reserve position in the Fund. The last two elements constitute ways by which member countries acquire international liquidity through the Fund. SDRs are unconditional international reserve assets created by the Fund and are allocated to participating members in proportion to their quotas in the Fund. Reserve positions in the Fund are unconditional assets that member countries acquire from the payment of their gold subscriptions and from the Fund’s net use of their currencies including borrowing.

Money and Banking Accounts

This topic is particularly emphasized in IFS both because the money and banking system plays a major role in problems of inflation and deflation, and balance of payments deficit or surplus, and because the accounts of the banking sector provide data on the role played by other sectors. The need to assemble internationally comparable time series has led the Fund’s Bureau of Statistics to accept responsibility for the compilation and presentation of monetary data.

The IFS country page presentation of monetary data follows the balance sheet approach in which assets equal liabilities. The accounts under each of the five sections are accordingly separated into two blocks, the upper block corresponding to assets and the lower block corresponding to liabilities. Assets and liabilities are further rearranged as “Claims on” or “Liabilities to” the various sectors of the economy. Assets are distinguished between foreign and domestic, and the latter are further classified as to whether they represent bank claims on the government, on official entities, or on the private sector. Liabilities are arranged first by liquidity and then by sector into monetary, quasi-monetary, foreign, government, and other.

Monetary Authority Account

This section comprises central bank accounts plus those reflecting the activities of monetary authorities which in some countries are outside the central bank. These are treasury coin issues, holdings of gold and foreign exchange of government or exchange funds, and Fund accounts irrespective of holder.

The importance of the Monetary Authority section is the measurement of reserve money which is indicative of monetary authority actions to influence the level of bank reserves and the ability of banks to expand or contract, after making allowance for the currency leakage.

Deposit Money Banks

This term is intended to cover the group of banks whose liabilities consist primarily of private sector demand deposits. In making up this classification IFS looks at the actual functions rather than merely at the names of institutions. Thus it includes commercial departments of central banks and of large government-owned commercial banks. For most countries, however, this group consists mainly of commercial banks, which are designated in different ways from country to country; thus we have chartered banks in Canada, clearing banks in the United Kingdom, scheduled banks in India and Pakistan, check-paying banks in Australia, private banks in several Latin American countries, and deposit banks in many others.

Monetary Survey

This section represents a consolidation of the accounts of the banking system, i.e., the central bank which creates reserve money and the deposit banks which create demand deposits. The particular importance of the section resides in the analysis of the factors that bring about changes in the money supply.

Other Financial Institutions

This group technically includes the rest of the financial intermediaries in the country. The group is treated outside the banking system because its liabilities are mainly nonmonetary liabilities that the private sector is willing to hold in certain amounts at a particular price. In this group are the normal savings banks, savings and loan associations, mortgage banks, and insurance companies.

Interest, Prices, and Production

Interest rate statistics are given in IFS because they play a major role in the operation of monetary policy. Three types of interest rates are quoted, beginning with the central bank discount rate which is the oldest type of bank rate. The discount rate is the rate at which the central bank either rediscounts or makes advances against eligible paper—i.e., treasury or commercial bills usually with not more than 90 days to maturity. The second type is the treasury bill rate which is given for countries where the treasury bill is a major medium of investment in the short-term money market. The third type is the government bond yield which is intended to measure the trend of long-term interest rates.

Price statistics are given in IFS country pages in the form of indices of share prices, wholesale prices, consumer prices, and wages as well as indices of export and import prices and of single commodities important to a country’s exports.

Production statistics are represented on the country pages by index numbers of industrial production and employment or alternative index series on manufacturing production and employment.

International Transactions

Trade statistics is the second topic particularly emphasized in IFS, with extensive coverage both in country pages and in world tables. This prominence is due to the fact that trade statistics constitutes the largest portion of the balance of payments of all countries. Trade data on the country pages cover total value of exports and imports; volume and price indices of exports and imports; value, volume, and price of each country’s major exports; and (in a separate subsection) data on the balance of payments. Trade data in IFS international tables cover the U. S. dollar value of exports and imports for all countries with regional and world totals; prices of major world trade commodities expressed in U. S. dollars; and export and import price indices already mentioned.

Government Finance

Statistics on government finance are an integral part of IFS country pages because of the effects of government activities on the perennial problems of inflation, deflation, and the balance of payments deficit or surplus. Of the many useful statistical measurements of the economic impact of government finance, IFS attempts to compile and report cash receipts from all sources other than borrowing and cash expenditures for all purposes other than debt redemption. Additional data are provided on the means by which the cash deficit was financed or the surplus was allocated. Debt data, classified as to type and sometimes by holder, complement IFS data reported in this section. The difficulty in adding government accounts for many IFS countries has been the way these data are published. Government finance data are usually given in the form of budget proposals, closed accounts, or as a statement of treasury receipts and disbursements. Unfortunately, these documents are based on accounting records not geared to provide measurement of government transactions for economic analysis.

National Accounts

National accounts comprise one of the most useful sets of statistics that a country can compile. In IFS they are shown as the penultimate section to summarize the statistical presentation of each country page. IFS selects the series that relate to the distribution of gross national product at market prices by type of expenditure defined in the UN report on A System of National Accounts and Supporting Tables and shown in the standard country table “Expenditure on gross national product” of the Yearbook of National Accounts Statistics. This selection reflects IFS emphasis on government spending and the balance of payments problem.

Rest of IFS

The rest of IFS, usually comprising the first 40 pages of the book, consists of a section on the Fund and a set of international tables. The section on the Fund consists mainly of a “Note on the SDRs and the General Account of the Fund” which defines Fund accounts and the positions of member countries arising from transactions with the Fund. Contained in this Note are six tables: Participants’ SDR Positions, Members’ Fund Positions, Exchange Transactions (by country and type), Time Series of Principal Fund Data (by type of transaction), Stand-By Arrangements (outstanding), and Fund Borrowings Under the General Arrangements to Borrow. The international tables assemble by topic and in common units historical time series that appear on country pages. The set of tables, some of which have already been mentioned, relate to international liquidity, exchange rates, interest rates, changes in money supply, changes in consumer prices, value of world trade: exports (f.o.b.) and imports (c.i.f.), export and import price indices, and prices of major world trade commodities.

Country Notes and Charts

Country notes and charts are integral parts of the country pages. Because of space limitations dictated mainly by the addition of pages for new member countries, country notes usually relate to time periods in current issues of IFS. However, additions to the notes are made from time to time to help readers interpret new or revised series, or in comparing IFS data with those published in standard national sources, the list of which is also given in the notes.

The charts of major economic indicators appearing on the left hand margins of the country pages are drawn on uniform logarithmic scales; hence similar slopes in the curves represent similar rates of change in the data, which facilitate comparisons between countries for the same series and between different series for the same country.

IFS Supplements

Annual IFS supplements provide further details beyond what is given in current IFS issues. Time series are carried back to 1948 and most money and banking sections carry all the elements that add to the sum of assets and liabilities which is also given. This information should be of particular interest to researchers and academics—to whom IFS is offered at a lower subscription rate.

Owing to the continued importance of statistics to the Fund’s work, thought is constantly given to maintaining and extending its usefulness. Plans for adding more analytical material, aided by the Data Fund, which is IFS’s own electronic computer system, are already well advanced.

World Bank Staff Occasional Papers

Benefits and Costs of Family Planning Programs

G. Zaidan

Family planning programs contribute in diverse ways to a nation’s economic welfare, adding to productivity, promoting savings, and reducing government burdens. This study critically examines one technique for measuring all the benefits and costs in terms of a single measure. The technique selected is then applied and tested in relation to the statistics of the United Arab Republic.

Mr. Zaidan is a member of the staff of the Population Projects Department of the World Bank.

Occasional Paper 12/ 52 pages/ $3.

Distributed for the World Bank by

The John Hopkins Press

Baltimore, Maryland 21218 U.S.A.


Adopted at the United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference, Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, July 22, 1944; entered into force December 27, 1945: amended effective July 28, 1969.