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A2.1 As mentioned previously, the ABS endorses the revised SNA and has implemented its recommendations to the fullest extent practicable, especially in relation to those changes which affect GDP. However, there are a number of SNA93 recommendations relating to concepts and the production boundary that the ABS does not plan to implement or is not currently in a position to implement because of inadequate data. These are described below.
A2.2 At present in the ASNA, employers’ contributions to superannuation funds (a component of compensation of employees), and interest received on householders’ equity in life insurance and superannuation funds, are recorded as household income and contribute to disposable income and saving. Contributions to and drawdowns from superannuation reserves are treated as financial transactions by households and do not impact on income or saving. In addition, contributions placed with financial institutions managing superannuation funds are not treated as income of the financial institutions, neither are payments of benefits from the funds regarded as disbursements of income from the financial institutions. Rather, the contributions made to the schemes and the benefits paid by them represent changes in the equity of households in the schemes, and are reflected instead in the financial accounts and balance sheets.
A2.4 SNA93 recommends that speculative construction be shown as part of inventories until the ownership has been transferred to the eventual user of the asset. Hence work done on speculative construction would not be treated as gross fixed capital formation until that time. The value of output would remain as part of the work-in-progress of the institutional unit producing the asset until sold. However, construction for own use or work completed under contract of sale should be included as gross fixed capital formation as the work is put in place. The ASNA currently adopts the latter treatment for all building and construction activity, including speculative construction.
A2.6 SNA93 recommends that cultivated natural growth be included in output as work-in-progress or gross fixed capital formation over the entire period of the growth process. This recommendation covers growth of agricultural crops, livestock, cultivated fish and crustacea, vineyards, orchards and timber tracts. In SNA68, only growth in livestock and fishstock were treated in this way, although the recommended treatment was not adopted in the ASNA. The existing ASNA treatment is to include crops and forest products in output when harvested, but to follow SNA93 recommendations for major categories of livestock (i.e. beef and dairy cattle and sheep).
A2.9 SNA93 recommends that the value of acquisitions less disposals of mature repeat production trees, vines, shrubs, etc., and the acquisition and establishment of immature trees etc. on own account, should be included in gross fixed capital formation. The latter may be valued by the costs incurred in their establishment during the period until maturity. In the existing ASNA, these establishment costs are variously treated as intermediate consumption or gross fixed capital formation, depending on their treatment in business accounts. Although the ABS supports the SNA93 recommendation in principle, it has not been implemented for data availability reasons.
A2.10 A new type of asset has been created in SNA93 called 'valuables'. Valuables are defined as goods of considerable value that are not used primarily for purposes of production or consumption, but are held as stores of value over time. The economic benefits that valuables bring is that their values are not expected to decline relative to the general price level. For Australia, the most important of these assets is gold. While this SNA93 recommendation is supported in principle, existing and prospective data availability is a major problem. It has not been possible to implement this change in the ASNA at this stage, although further investigations will be undertaken. In the ASNA, that part of gold production which is retained as a store of value will contribute to the item ‘changes in inventories’ rather than to an item for ‘valuables’.
A2.11 SNA93 recommends that the purchaser’s transfer costs (stamp duties, legal fees etc.) should be added to the purchase price when measuring the acquisition of fixed assets, and that the seller’s transfer costs (real estate agents’ commissions, legal fees etc.) should be deducted from the sale price when measuring disposals. The effect of this is to include the whole of the costs of ownership transfer in gross fixed capital formation. In SNA93, ownership transfer costs (except for those on land) are included indistinguishably with the asset being bought and sold, rather than being shown as a separate asset class. As such, they are written off over the lives of the underlying assets.
A2.13 SNA93 makes a distinction between market and non-market output in the measurement of production. The latter includes services provided by general government, housing services produced for own consumption by owner occupiers, and own-account capital formation. The ABS does not explicitly make this distinction in either the national income, expenditure and product (NIEP) accounts or the I-O tables. However, some major components of non-market output will continue to be available separately in the ASNA.
A2.14 SNA93 recommends that, in principle, all economic transactions associated with illegal activities should be included in the accounts. While current estimates in the ASNA do not include any specific estimates for such activities, some transactions arising from them are likely to be included in the data sources used to compile the accounts. For example, some income earned from illegal gambling or prostitution activities may be reported as unincorporated business income in the taxation statistics which are used to compile estimates of gross mixed income.
A2.15 The SNA recommendations are adhered to with regard to the sector allocation of NPIs that are market producers and those that are controlled and mainly financed by government units. In principle the ABS has agreed to identify and implement the NPISH sector. However, due to source data limitations, it will be some time before a complete set of accounts for this sector can be developed, including the provision of an adequate time series. In the interim, NPISHs are included in the household sector.
A2.16 Two main differences exist between the ASNA and SNA93 in the presentation of accounts. First, the ASNA GDP account is a combination of SNA93 production account and generation of income account; and second, the ASNA income accounts are a combination of the SNA93 accounts for allocation of primary income, secondary distribution of income, and use of income. There are also minor differences in the way information is presented within the accounts and in the level of detail shown.