4.1. In relation to balance of payments and international investment position statistics, the ABS has the following objectives for its dissemination strategy:
- to publish quite detailed quarterly current account statistics and broad financial account and international investment position statistics two months after the reference quarter, and more detailed international investment position statistics within five months;
- to publish original, seasonally adjusted and trend quarterly data for the current account, including current price and volume measures for goods and services, before the publication of the quarterly Australian National Accounts (Cat. no. 5206.0);
- to publish summary monthly goods and services estimates, in original, seasonally adjusted and trend terms, one month after the reference month;
- to publish more detailed annual balance of payments and international investment position statistics within twelve months of the end of the financial year;
- to provide a good standard of analysis and explanation of these statistics;
- to release the longer term time series of all published series on electronic media, simultaneously with their release in hard copy form; and
4.2. The ABS policy is to balance the requirements of timeliness with those of accuracy, in order to provide good quality statistics appropriate to the information need as soon as they are available. The ABS considers that the quality of the underlying data sources and methods permits it to publish monthly goods and services data about 21 working days after the end of the reference month, quarterly current and capital account data and summary financial account and international investment position data about 43 working days after the reference quarter, more detailed financial account and international investment position information within five months of the reference quarter, and comprehensive and detailed annual data within twelve months of the end of the reference year. Some financial account and international investment position information is included in the Financial Account three months after the end of the reference quarter. The issue of the timing of source data becoming available is discussed further in paragraphs 4.6 to 4.10
- to provide more detailed data services, with unpublished information as required, in both hard copy and electronic forms.
4.3. International Trade in Goods and Services, Australia (Cat. no. 5368.0) (1), provides summary data on the main goods and services aggregates, and original, seasonally adjusted and trend series. It also provides limited commodity breakdowns of monthly exports and imports of goods and services, and statistics on exchange rates. The publication provides annual time series for the latest three financial years and monthly series for the latest fifteen months. It also contains detailed quarterly trade in services statistics. Like all balance of payments and international investment position publications, it contains a comprehensive analysis of and comments on key aggregates, explains the nature and causes of revisions to previously published statistics and provides explanatory notes.
(1) This publication, which started with the January 1997 issue, replaced the monthly Balance of Payments Australia (Cat. no. 5301.0). The decision to replace the latter was announced by the Australian Statistician in the Information Paper: The Future of Monthly Balance of Payments Statistics (Cat. no. 5367.0), released on 31 January 1997. This followed the release, on 6 January 1997, of the Information Paper: Do We Need Monthly Balance of Payments Statistics? (Cat. no. 5366.0), which reviewed the future of monthly balance of payments statistics.
4.4. The quarterly publication Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (Cat. no. 5302.0), is published about two months after the reference quarter. It provides both summary and detailed balance of payments, international investment position and related statistics. Generally data are presented in the form of time series for the latest six quarters and three financial years. For the current account, original, seasonally adjusted and trend estimates are provided and, for goods and services, both current price data and volume measures are provided. For the financial account and international investment position, results for the current quarter are at a summary level, with full details provided up to the quarter before the reference quarter. The publication also includes explanatory notes, graphs, analysis of the estimates, data on revisions to previously published figures, and occasional articles.
4.5. The annual publication Balance of Payments and International Investment Position, Australia (Cat. no. 5363.0), is released within twelve months of the end of the reference year and contains annual financial year data consistent with those in Cat. no. 5302.0. This publication contains data by partner country. It contains explanatory notes, graphs, analysis of the estimates and occasional articles.
Timing of availability of source data
4.6. Details of the data sources and methods used to compile balance of payments and international investment position statistics are given in the next chapter. However, the following is a brief summary of the availability of the key data sources and their impact on the timing of release of these statistics.
4.7. More than 80 per cent of the monthly value of trade in goods and services is derived from monthly sources. International trade statistics are monthly and are available in time for inclusion in the monthly goods and services publication (Cat. no. 5368.0); imports of goods are first released in the monthly imports publication, International Merchandise Imports, Australia (Cat. no. 5439.0), twelve working days after the reference period.
4.8. Two thirds of the data on services come from the Survey of International Trade in Services, the results of which are generally available within three months of the end of the reference quarter. Monthly data are available for about 25 per cent of services trade. For a further 55 per cent of services trade, the quarterly data are allocated to months using a variety of indicators. The remaining 20 per cent of quarterly information is evenly allocated to months. However, even where some data come from monthly sources, such as a monthly split of the earnings from foreign airline passenger services, the information is only reported once a quarter, and results for the latest month or two need to be extrapolated. Therefore, in monthly and quarterly publications, much of the services data is extrapolated for most recent periods.
4.9. Investment income data are available for inclusion in the quarterly publication (Cat. no. 5302.0). However, survey information on the equity related components (about half of total investment income) is preliminary for the most recent quarter. Data on compensation of employees are generally not available for the more recent quarters and are estimated using indicator series. Data on general government transfers are available for the latest quarter, but the transfer components for other sectors are not, and are extrapolated.
4.10. The only detailed financial account and international investment position data available for the reference quarter in time for inclusion in the quarterly publication (Cat. no. 5302.0), relate to international reserves. Summary data for the rest of the financial account and international investment position are compiled from the Survey of International Investment, in time for inclusion in Cat. no. 5302.0. These include direct investment abroad, direct investment in Australia, net portfolio investment and net other investment, together with net equity and net debt transactions and levels. More complete survey results for the reference quarter are reconciled with ABS financial statistics, and published a few weeks later in Australian National Accounts: Financial Accounts (Cat. no. 5232.0). The detailed financial account and international investment position statistics are included in Cat. no. 5302.0, with a one quarter lag (that is, about five months after the reference quarter).
4.11. The ABS has increasingly enhanced its analysis of and commentary on statistics over the years. Analysis and comments are included in ABS publications to:
- highlight the main features of the statistics, especially for the current period compared with past periods;
- help users to understand the presentation of the statistics included in the publication;
- present information which may help users to understand and interpret the quality of the data and the economic factors that may be impacting on particular aspects of the data; and
- provide information on technical issues and particular treatments that may have been adopted.
The monthly goods and services publication (Cat. no. 5368.0), and the quarterly and annual balance of payments and international investment position publications (Cat. nos 5302.0 and 5363.0), contain extensive analysis, including the use of graphs. Table 4.1 shows the graphs of the key balance of payments and international investment position aggregates and balances included in the quarterly publication (Cat. no. 5302.0).
4.1 SELECTED GRAPHS FROM QUARTERLY BALANCE OF PAYMENTS AND INTERNATIONAL INVESTMENT POSITION, AUSTRALIA (CAT. NO. 5302.0), MARCH QUARTER 1998
Note: Graphs 4.1A and 4.1B are from the front page of Cat. no. 5302.0, and are shown for a shorter time period than the remaining graphs.
4.12. The general policy adopted for the Australian balance of payments and international investment position statistics is to take every practical opportunity to incorporate more accurate information into the estimates for every period. However, in the monthly goods and services publication (Cat. no. 5368.0), revisions to prior months are generally not made in the first month of a quarter, in order to minimise disruption to historical statistical series, to meet the compilation timetable requirements for the national accounts and to maintain consistency between monthly and quarterly series. More generally, revisions to periods prior to the previous financial year are only made twice a year. These revisions are made in the December and June quarter issues of the quarterly publication (Cat. no. 5302.0), and in the December and June issues of the monthly goods and services publication (Cat. no. 5368.0). Exceptions are made to this practice where significant revisions are identified; these are incorporated into the next available issue.
Special Data Dissemination Standard
4.13. The Special Data Dissemination Standard has been established by the IMF to set dissemination standards for official statistics as required for international monitoring of an economy. Over 40 countries, including Australia, have subscribed so far. These standards set out the types of statistics, especially economic statistics, which subscribing countries should publish, their periodicity and timeliness. In addition, they set out conditions about access to the public, the integrity of the statistics and the quality of the data. For balance of payments and international investment position statistics, the standards require, inter alia, that the statistics be based on BPM5, that balance of payments statistics be published quarterly within three months of the reference period, and that annual international investment position statistics (quarterly statistics encouraged) be published within six months of the reference year (three months encouraged). The standards also require that release dates be announced in advance, that data on sources and methods be published to ensure transparency, and that certain information be supplied to the IMF for inclusion on its Special Data Dissemination Standard bulletin board, available on the internet at http://www.imf.org. Australia easily meets these standards for its balance of payments and international investment position statistics.