5362.0.55.001 - A Guide to Australian Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Statistics, 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/04/2004   
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Contents >> Data Quality


To be of benefit to users, balance of payments statistics need to be a reasonable and timely measure of the real world economic events to which they relate. In general, high quality statistics should be:

  • Accurate, providing a close approximate of a data component to the ideal or true value of the component;
  • Not subject to large revisions, providing data consistency from publication to publication;
  • Timely, with minimal lag between the end of the reference period and the initial publication of statistics for that period;
  • Relevant, measuring the concepts in which users are interested;
  • Comprehensive, providing exhaustive coverage of subject matter; and
  • Accessible, readily available and interpretable to interested users.

Note: There is a trade-off between accuracy, revisability and detail on the one hand, and timeliness of the release of statistics on the other. Generally, with given resources, significant improvements in timeliness can only be made at the expense of detail, accuracy, or revisability.


Compilation of balance of payments statistics is a complex task and, given the variety of data sources and methods used, there is no single comprehensive measure of the quality of these estimates. To get an overall picture of the quality of these estimates, all the measures of quality listed below need to be viewed together while taking into account their limitations.
  • examination of the statistical process;
  • examination of series over time;
  • data confrontation, ie how they reconcile with other statistical information;
  • net errors and omissions;
  • assessment of revisability;
  • partner country comparisons; and
  • relative standard errors.

Net Errors and Omissions

The adoption of the double entry accounting system of recording means that, in principle, the sum of all credit and debit entries should be zero. In practice this rarely occurs, and any differences are recorded in the net errors and omissions item. The item reflects the net effect of differences in coverage, timing and valuation, as well as errors and omissions which occur in compiling all the individual component series. Persistently large figures in one direction (negative or positive) may be taken as an indication of serious and systematic errors.

A detailed explanation of the remaining quality measures may be found in Information Paper: Quality of Australian Balance of Payments Statistics 1996 (ABS Cat. no. 5342.0).

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