5331.0 - Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia, Concepts, Sources and Methods, 1998  
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Contents >> Chapter 5. Data sources and methods >> Classification of data sources

5.17. Each nation compiling balance of payments and international investment position statistics has tended to develop its own unique mixture of data sources and methods. However, in more recent times, there have been attempts to classify data sources by broad category. The data sources used in Australia can be classified under the following broad categories: international trade statistics, business surveys, collections from households and individuals, other official sources, and miscellaneous. For a classification of data sources used by balance of payments compilers worldwide, the reader should refer to the IMF Balance of Payments Compilation Guide, especially table 1.1. The classification of data sources used here is largely based on that.

International trade statistics

5.18. International trade statistics measure the quantities and values of goods that add to or subtract from a nation’s stock of goods as a result of movements, either across the national frontier or the customs frontier, depending on the system of measurement used. A general trade system records movements of goods across the national frontier and a special trade system records movements of goods across the customs frontier.

5.19. Australia’s international trade statistics are presented using the general trade system as recommended by the United Nations draft guidelines, International Merchandise Trade Statistics; Concepts and Definitions (February 1996).

5.20. Annual international trade statistics for Australia were first collected and presented on a financial year basis for 1914-15, although information on imports and exports exists from colonial times. Monthly statistics were first presented in August 1917 and have been compiled ever since. The major developments in the collection and compilation of international trade statistics in Australia have been predominantly in terms of the commodity classifications used. Over the years there has been a move towards the use of international classifications in place of classifications developed in Australia. There are five main internationally adopted commodity classifications for goods: the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System (HS); the Standard International Trade Classification, Revision 3 (SITC Rev3); the Central Product Classification (CPC); the Classification by Broad Economic Categories (BEC); and the International Standard Industrial Classification of All Economic Activities, Revision 3 (ISIC, Rev.3). An important development in the early 1990s was the adoption of the shipping date for measuring monthly exports rather than the date of processing for export documents.

5.21. The UN international trade standards recommend that the Harmonised Commodity Description and Coding System (HS) be used for the collection, compilation and dissemination of international merchandise trade statistics. While the ABS collects and disseminates international trade statistics on the basis of the HS classification, data are also published according to two other international commodity classifications, the Standard International Trade Classification, Revision 3 (SITC Rev3) and the Classification by Broad Economic Categories (BEC). They are also published by industry in accordance with the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC). Data classified by HS are also available.

5.22. The international guidelines for trade statistics recommend that exports be valued on an f.o.b. (free on board) basis and that imports be valued on either an f.o.b. or a c.i.f. (cost, insurance and freight) basis. Specifying the f.o.b. and c.i.f. point is referred to as specifying the point of valuation. BPM5 and SNA93 recommend that both exports and imports of goods be measured f.o.b., and be valued at market prices. In Australian international trade statistics, exports are published on an f.o.b. basis, and the transactions values reported are assessed to be the best practical approximation to market price. Imports in international trade statistics are valued using an Australian Customs value for duty (v.f.d.), which is virtually identical to f.o.b.. However, imports valued on both an f.o.b. transactions value basis and a c.i.f. basis are also made available.

Business surveys

Survey of International Trade in Services

5.23. The Survey of International Trade in Services collects detailed product and country information across a range of selected services transactions covering transportation, travel, insurance, communications, construction, computer and information services, royalties and licence fees, other business services and personal, cultural and recreational services. It also collects information on goods procured in ports by carriers (debits only), for the change in stocks of merchanting goods held abroad, and for the capital account item acquisition/disposal of non-produced, non-financial assets.

5.24. The ABS began transportation services surveys in the early 1950s. To counter data quality problems which were arising in the International Transactions Reporting System (the Tickets System) the scope of services surveys was extended over time. By the early 1970s, estimates for more than 85 per cent of services trade (covering transportation, travel and insurance services) were based on sources other than Tickets. In 1987-88, the introduction of the ‘miscellaneous’ component of the Survey of International Trade in Services, to collect data directly from businesses, saw the end of Tickets as a source for services components. (The ‘miscellaneous’ services component of the Survey of International Trade in Services was subsequently conducted for the year 1989-90, and in both years it obtained benchmark data for use in compiling balance of payments estimates of these miscellaneous services. Limited amounts of data were also collected in the off-survey years (1988-89 and 1990-91) from the major contributors to update the benchmark data. From 1991-92 until 1995-96, the miscellaneous component was conducted on a quarterly and annual basis. The annual collection provided detailed benchmark data while the quarterly collection provided more frequent updates of the quarterly estimates benchmarked to the annual collection. From the September quarter 1996, as part of the implementation of BPM5, the sample size and the amount of information collected in the quarterly services survey were expanded and the annual survey ceased.)

5.25. The Survey of International Trade in Services is a quarterly collection which uses a range of collection forms to measure the disparate activities involved in cross-border trade in services. Data are available about three months after the end of the quarter. The main components of the survey are:

      • Transportation services - these are measured by several forms targeted at resident transport operators and the agents of non-resident transport operators. Agents of the smaller operators are not approached regularly, and estimates are made for their very minor activity. For example, estimates of transportation services by the small air operators are based on Air Transport Authority Statistics which provide information on the passengers and volumes of cargo uplifted and landed in Australia by each foreign carrier;
      • Travel services - for travel debits, a quarterly census is undertaken to cover travellers cheque and credit card use by Australians travelling abroad (the predominant modes of payment for travel), and a partial coverage quarterly survey of travel wholesalers is undertaken for prepaid package expenditure. This component of the services survey has been conducted, initially periodically, from the mid-1970s;
      • Selected services - these include communications services, construction services, computer and information services, insurance placed directly abroad by the insured, royalties and licence fees, other business services, personal, cultural and recreational services, and the acquisition/disposal of non-produced, non-financial assets. They are collected in a quarterly sample survey of 2,500 businesses from a population of about 5,000 businesses which have international trade in these services. Different forms are used, depending on the type of business being surveyed; and
      • Insurance business placed abroad through resident brokers - this is collected from larger brokers (30 to 40 each year) to supplement data on insurance enterprises collected by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (formerly the Insurance and Superannuation Commission) Survey of Insurance Companies and Agents.

Survey of International Investment

5.26. The Survey of International Investment measures the investment position, financial transactions and other changes in position (price changes, exchange rate changes and other adjustments), and investment income associated with claims on and liabilities to non-residents by Australian residents. Data items and classifications used in the collection are consistent with BPM5. (The earliest published data relating to international investment statistics appeared in the 1924 edition of the Official Yearbook of the Commonwealth of Australia which included limited details about financial transactions. An annual collection, the Survey of Companies with Overseas Affiliations, was introduced in 1948. From 1962, the survey was expanded to include a quarterly collection. In 1971, in response to concerns about the volume of funds flowing into Australia at the time, a new quarterly Survey of Overseas Borrowings by Companies in Australia was introduced. In December 1982, a review of Australian statistics in this field was completed and, as part of the recommendations, the previously separate collections of international investment activity were merged and rationalised under the one umbrella collection, the Survey of Foreign Investment. The survey continued to expand in scope and, in the late 1980s, it had acquired much of its current form, although in the mid 1990s the survey underwent some large transformations to meet the new data requirements of BPM5 and was renamed the Survey of International Investment.)

5.27. The survey consists of several elements:

      • a quarterly partial coverage survey of about 900 resident trading and financial enterprises with foreign financial assets and/or liabilities above specified thresholds - all banks and public sector enterprises known to have foreign investment activity are included in the survey;
      • a periodic sample survey of enterprises, other than those in the quarterly survey;
      • quarterly and annual collections of nominees, in respect of their holdings on behalf of non-resident clients, of securities issued in Australia (shares and debt securities). Quarterly collections approach larger nominees for aggregate data on the face value of securities held plus income received on those securities. Annual collections approach the larger nominees, which report similar data, but on a security-by-security basis (i.e. details are collected for each security held by nominees); given the amount of data collected, this information is gathered electronically. Smaller nominees are approached annually for aggregate data on securities held and income;
      • a quarterly census of general government units, including the Department of the Treasury and the central borrowing authorities of the State governments, for debt securities issued abroad, loans from abroad and financial assets abroad;
      • a quarterly collection from the Reserve Bank of Australia. The collection provides the ABS with data on the levels of official reserve assets, comprising official holdings of gold, foreign exchange (split between securities and deposits), Special Drawing Rights and Australia’s reserve position in the IMF. It also provides data about the changes in these values due to financial transactions, the allocation or cancellation of Special Drawing Rights and the monetisation or demonetisation of gold, exchange rate changes and price changes; and information on investment income earned on reserve assets. The Bank also supplies information on both its gold custody activity on behalf of non-residents and its gold loans and, where appropriate, on its other cross-border financial activities;
      • a quarterly census of fund managers placing funds offshore on behalf of their resident clients. Businesses which place such funds with fund managers are asked not to report them. This approach is adopted to facilitate the capture of funds being placed abroad on behalf of the household sector. In addition, as client enterprises may not always know exactly where funds are placed, data reported by fund managers are likely to be more accurate; and
      • a periodic census of enterprises with international investment activity, other than those covered by the quarterly and annual sample surveys, which produces information for updating the basis on which the quarterly or annual surveys are selected. A census of these enterprises was conducted in 1997.

5.28. Summary data on financial transactions and the investment position, as well as investment income details, are available in time for the quarterly balance of payments and international investment position publication (Cat. no. 5302.0) and more detailed instrument and sector data are available shortly after and published in Australian National Accounts: Financial Accounts (Cat. no. 5232.0). The quarterly publication (Cat. no. 5302.0), includes the very detailed decompositions of the financial account and the international investment position for periods up to the quarter prior to the reference quarter.

Collections from households and individuals

Overseas Arrivals and Departures

5.29. Persons arriving in or departing from Australia complete Incoming and Outgoing Passenger Cards. These cards provide information to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs for administrative purposes and serve as the source of statistics of overseas arrivals and departures which are used in a number of balance of payments data models. (Overseas Arrivals and Departures statistics have been published monthly since 1950; in the Australian Demographic Review until 1965 and then in the monthly publication Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (Cat. no. 3401.0). Quarterly statistics were published in Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (Cat. no. 3402.0), from 1965 to 1994, and annual statistics in Overseas Arrivals and Departures, Australia (Cat. no. 3404.0), from 1972.)

5.30. Overseas arrivals and departures statistics are derived from a combination of full enumeration and sampling. Information on all permanent movements and all movements with a duration of stay of one year or more are fully processed. However, while data on all movements with a duration of stay of less than one year are collected, only a sample of these movements is fully processed. The statistics exclude the movements of operational air and ships’ crews and of passengers on pleasure cruises commencing and finishing in Australia (the expenditure of these people is measured elsewhere), and of transit passengers who pass through Australia but are not cleared for entry.

International Visitor Survey

5.31. The International Visitor Survey conducted by the Bureau of Tourism Research is a quarterly sample survey of about 20,000 foreign visitors leaving Australia per annum (representing 0.5 per cent of non-residents visiting Australia). It is conducted in international airport departure lounges and collects data on a range of travel issues including, importantly from a balance of payments perspective, expenditure by foreign visitors to Australia (for use in estimating travel credits), earnings from employment (compensation of employees debit), and purchases of airline tickets (used to adjust passenger fare data). (The survey was commenced in 1971-72 and results are only available for the years 1971-72 to 1974-75 (financial year basis), 1979, 1981, 1983 to 1986, 1988 and 1989 (calendar year basis). From then on the survey has been conducted quarterly.)

Survey of Returned Australian Travellers

5.32. The Survey of Returned Australian Travellers is an ABS sample survey (conducted in 1991-92 and repeated in 1995-96) of around 7,500 Australian residents aged 15 and over travelling abroad for less than 12 months (representing 0.3 per cent of Australian travellers). Data are collected by mail from a sample of returning travellers drawn from the Incoming Passenger Cards. The survey is primarily used to supplement results from the quarterly Survey of International Trade in Services (travel services component), and to generate per capita expenditure estimates by purpose of travel, per capita estimates of traveller expenditure using cash taken abroad, earnings while abroad, and some other details about Australians travelling abroad.

Survey of International Students

5.33. The Survey of International Students, conducted in 1991-92 and 1996-97 by the Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs, is a sample survey of about 2,000 foreign students selected from enrolments at registered Australian educational institutions. Only students on education visas are covered. New Zealand citizens, and foreign students in Australia for less than three months, do not require an education visa. Students travelling on other types of visas are also excluded. The student population is stratified by type of institution, region and country of origin. The survey covers a number of education-related issues, as well as providing information on per capita estimates of weekly expenditure on goods and services and earnings while in Australia.

Other official sources

Commonwealth Government Transactions

5.34. The Department of Finance provides the ABS with a copy of the Commonwealth Government Ledgers which contain itemised monthly data on all Commonwealth Government expenditures and receipts. These data are used to identify commonwealth Government expenditures and receipts from abroad. Entries are recorded on a cash basis, i.e. at the time a payment is made or received. In addition, various government departments provide regular details about particular international activity of relevance to balance of payments compilation.

Statistics about foreign students

5.35. The Department of Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs assembles annual calendar year data from a number of sources on the numbers of foreign students studying in Australia in any one year, and the fees paid by them. Data are restricted to students on education visas (i.e. all foreign students, except New Zealand citizens, studying in Australia at any institution for three months or more) and New Zealand students at higher education institutions. For student numbers, data come from the Department’s survey of higher education institutions (which collects, inter alia, the number of students on foreign visas and New Zealand students) and from a Departmental database relating to students on foreign visas. Student fees are obtained from Departmental surveys of institutions which provide data, inter alia, on course type, indicative fees and numbers of students on foreign visas who are enrolled. Data are also collected on indicative fees payable by students who are New Zealand citizens. These data are used, with adjustments, for a variety of balance of payments estimation purposes.

Miscellaneous data sources

International Transactions Reporting System (Tickets)

5.36. The main balance of payments data source in many other countries is an international transactions reporting system. It is used to measure business and household transactions that pass through domestic banks, and business transactions through inter-company accounts (including non-cash transactions) and bank accounts held abroad. They can provide comprehensive and timely balance of payments statistics. Most such systems, which were formerly known as foreign exchange record systems, evolved as by-products of foreign exchange control systems.

5.37. In Australia, the system was referred to as the Tickets System. The system essentially relied on bank clerks completing a record (a ticket) for each foreign exchange transaction, recording the value of the transaction (in Australian dollars), the country of non-resident transactor, and the appropriate balance of payments code. (The Tickets System was introduced for statistical reasons in 1948. However, deregulation of the financial markets and the subsequent removal of foreign exchange controls resulted in a deterioration in the ability of the system to capture all foreign exchange transactions. From the early 1970s it was increasingly replaced as a data source by business and other surveys and was phased out in 1989.)

Survey of Foreign Unrequited Transfers

5.38. The Survey of Foreign Unrequited Transfers (SOFUT) is a monthly survey of those financial institutions believed to account for the majority of private transfers transactions involving residents and non-residents. It collects information used in the compilation of the migrants’ transfers (credits and debits) component of capital transfers and also collects information used in the compilation of the private current transfers (credits and debits) series. The information collected includes such items as immigrants’ funds transferred into Australia and emigrants’ funds transferred out of Australia, gifts, donations and pensions. (The results from the SOFUT suffer from many of the same problems as the Tickets collection. A review is underway to find a more accurate source to measure this type of information. The Longitudinal Survey of Immigrants to Australia is being investigated as a possible source for the migrants’ transfers credits component. See paragraphs 18.3 to 18.5.)

Information about Foreign Embassies and Consulates

5.39. The ABS periodically collects information from the larger embassies and consulates in Australia. It was collected in 1984-85, 1987-88, 1992-93 and in 1997. The information on the numbers of diplomatic staff and locally engaged staff and the average expenditure per foreign representative and dependants, is used in the Foreign Embassy Expenditure Model, together with data from other sources, in compiling estimates of foreign embassies, and their employees, expenditure on goods and services, and wages and salaries paid to locally engaged staff.

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