A one-stop source for comprehensive external debt statistics is now on the web—a product of the joint efforts of the IMF, the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the World Bank. Rob Edwards, who heads the IMF’s Statistics Department, called the creation of the Joint External Debt Hub (www.jedh.org) an important milestone “in using technological innovation to bring timely and high-quality external debt statistics to global users.”
The new website—which replaces the Joint BIS-IMF-OECD-World Bank Statistics on External Debt initially launched on the OECD website in 1999—provides timely access to quarterly external debt statistics. The information is expected to be particularly useful for macroeconomic analysis and for cross-country and data source comparisons.
What’s on the site
The new hub offers comprehensive national external debt data provided by 54 subscribers to the IMF’s Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS); data from creditor and market sources for external debt and selected foreign assets for 175 countries; and information describing the data provided (metadata). The new website—through its national and creditor and market series—also allows users to compare individual country data for three broad categories: loans and deposits, debt securities, and trade credits.
The website collects information from two sources. National data are drawn from the SDDS reports, redisseminated on the World Bank’s Quarterly External Debt database (QEDS). The BIS, the IMF, the OECD, and the World Bank provide creditor and market data, including loans and other credits, debt securities, international reserves, cross-border deposits with foreign banks, and portfolio investment assets (drawn from the IMF’s Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey). While creditor and market sources offer incomplete coverage of external debt, they do cover a wider range of countries than do national sources.
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Finance Statistics was created in 1992 under the auspices of the United Nations Statistical Commission. Its current members are the Bank for International Settlements, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the European Central Bank, Eurostat, the IMF, the Paris Club Secretariat, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the UN Conference on Trade and Development, and the World Bank.
Continuing pursuit of better data
The Joint External Debt Hub builds on a number of initiatives that the Inter-Agency Task Force on Finance Statistics (see box) has taken to make comprehensive and consistent external debt statistics more available. In addition to the OECD website created in 1999, the task force’s work led to the publication in 2003 of External Debt Statistics: Guide for Compilers and Users; the dissemination, since September 2003, of quarterly data on national external debt positions (with a one-quarter lag) by SDDS subscribers; the launch of the QEDS website in 2004; and the IMF’s recently developed framework for assessing the quality of external debt statistics.
The new website also reflects a determination to apply technological innovation to generate efficiencies—in this case by converging data flows into a common framework. The hub is a pilot project of the Statistical Data and Metadata Exchange, which, under the sponsorship of the BIS, the European Central Bank, Eurostat, the IMF, the OECD, the UN, and the World Bank, is fostering standards for the exchange of statistical information. The participating agencies see the new website as a mechanism to enhance the transparency, timeliness, and availability of external debt statistics for a global user community.
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