1.2. An important aspect of quality is that the concepts, definitions and classifications used in a body of statistics are relevant to and understandable by users (domestic and international), internally coherent, and able to be linked to other bodies of statistics. The conceptual framework underlying Australian balance of payments statistics has been developed over the years with these objectives in mind.
1.3. The framework used by the ABS in the compilation of balance of payments statistics is based upon the recommendations of the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) Balance of Payments Manual (BPM4) (Fourth Edition, IMF Washington DC, 1977), and the recommendations of the United Nations' A System of National Accounts (New York, 1968). The standards set out in these documents are generally adopted by the ABS in its economic statistics, although over the years Australia has progressively revised and harmonised its national and international accounts and further developed concepts, definitions and classifications that have been targeted closely to domestic user requirements. This has allowed Australian balance of payments statistics to be integrated with the national and financial accounts and with the international investment position statistics. As most countries follow the IMF statistical standards for balance of payments statistics, broad comparisons can be made between Australia's statistics and those of other countries.
1.4. The conceptual framework and estimation methodology for Australia's balance of payments statistics are explained in Balance of Payments, Australia: Concepts, Sources and Methods (5331.0) which was published in October 1990. Since then, a number of conceptual and methodological changes have been made as a result of the availability of new data sources or the development of improved estimation methodologies. To keep users informed, these changes have been documented, as they occurred, in the ABS monthly, quarterly and annual publications Balance of Payments, Australia (5301.0, 5302.0 and 5303.0, respectively).
1.5. Within this conceptual framework the ABS attempts to make the statistics as useful as possible by classifying the data in a number of ways which users have requested. For example, merchandise exports and imports are classified by commodity in various ways, and foreign borrowing transactions are classified in many ways, such as, by debt instrument, currency of the debt, and institutional sector of the borrower.
1.6. In late 1993 the IMF issued the fifth edition of its Balance of Payments Manual (BPM5), and together with the Commission of European Communities, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, the United Nations and the World Bank, issued the System of National Accounts 1993 (SNA93). The ABS plans to implement BPM5 and the SNA93 as fully as possible, with the first balance of payments statistics compiled on the basis of the two new standards planned for release in late 1997. As far as possible the ABS will recast back series onto the new basis or provide a bridge on both the old and new bases for a limited time to show the impact of the changeover. Future analyses of the quality of Australia's balance of payments statistics will assess the impact of this revision to the conceptual framework (greater relevance, more comprehensive coverage of international financial transactions, greater consistency with related statistics) but will also assess the resulting one-off revisions to several key aggregates in the balance of payments.