1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2002  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/01/2002   
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Contents >> International Accounts and Trade >> International accounts - Conceptual framework

Australia's international accounts statistics, which cover both the balance of payments and the international investment position, are compiled in accordance with international statistical standards. In this edition of Year Book Australia the data are compiled in accordance with the Fifth Edition of the International Monetary Fund's Balance of Payments Manual (BPM5). The concepts of residency, transactions, valuation and time of recording are common to the balance of payments and international investment position statistics.

The balance of payments accounts, which present systematically the economic transactions between Australia and the rest of the world, incorporate four types of economic transactions. The first involves the provision of real resources, i.e. transactions in goods, services and income. The second involves the provision of financial resources, i.e. foreign financial assets and liabilities. The third covers those one sided transactions of a current nature (described as current transfers) that are offsets to transactions in current real or financial resources undertaken without an exchange. Current resources are not associated with, nor finance, fixed assets. For example, famine relief, whether in cash or in kind, would have its offset in current transfers. The fourth type is capital transfers that offset transactions undertaken, without exchange, in fixed assets or in their financing (such as development aid). For example, migrants' funds represent the shift of the migrants' net worth to or from Australia, and are classified as capital transfers.

The first and third of these types of transactions comprise the current account, while the second type comprises the financial account. The fourth type (capital transfers), together with a minor item for the acquisition and disposal of non-produced, non-financial assets (such as patents), comprises the capital account.

The double entry accounting system is used for recording balance of payments transactions. Under this system, credit entries, which are shown with no arithmetic sign, are used to record the provision of real or financial resources. Credit entries are therefore required for exports of goods and services, and for income earned by residents (a return for providing the use of financial capital to non-residents, or for providing the labour of Australian residents). Credit entries are also required for providing financial resources to the rest of the world, either as new liabilities (such as issuing bonds), or through returning existing foreign assets (such as selling foreign equity securities to non-residents). Therefore, any credit entry in the financial account will reflect either an increase in Australia's foreign liabilities (more foreign debt or foreign ownership), or a decrease in Australia's foreign financial assets (such as a run-down in foreign exchange reserves).

Conversely, debit entries, which are identified by a minus sign (-), are used to record the provision by the rest of the world of real or financial resources to Australia, and are shown against imports of goods and services, income earned from Australia by non-residents, and financial transactions involving either an increase in foreign financial assets or a decrease in foreign liabilities.

Transactions in a double entry accounting system are reflected in pairs of equal credit and debit entries. For example, an export transaction for which payment is received through the banking system involves a credit entry for providing the good to a non-resident and a debit entry for being provided with foreign exchange assets due as payment for the export. Any entries that are not automatically paired in a transaction, i.e. for which there is no 'quid pro quo', are matched by special offsetting entries. Such offsetting entries are made in the categories 'current transfers' (when offsetting the provision of current resources such as food for famine relief) and 'capital transfers' (when offsetting the provision of capital resources such as development aid to build a new dam).

In principle, the net sum of all credit and debit entries is zero. In practice, some transactions are not measured accurately (errors), while others are not measured at all (omissions). Equality between the sums of the credit and debit entries is then brought about by the inclusion of a 'net errors and omissions' item which balances the accounts.

Transactions and other changes should be valued in the balance of payments at market prices. However, for practical reasons, transactions are generally valued in the statistics at transaction prices as this basis provides the closest practical approximation to the market price principle.

Transactions and other changes recorded in the balance of payments should be recorded at the time of change of ownership (either actual or imputed). For current account transactions, this occurs when ownership of goods changes, or services are provided. Investment income is recorded on a full accrual basis, that is, when it is earned. Reinvested earnings are calculated for the earnings of the period of account, using current replacement cost estimates of depreciation and excluding holding gains and losses. Current and capital transfers should be recorded when the goods, services, cash, etc., to which they are offsets, change ownership. Those transfers, such as taxes and fines, which are imposed by one party on another, should ideally be recorded at the time of the occurrence of the underlying transactions or other flows or events that give rise to the liability to pay. For the financial account transactions, the time of recording is at the change of ownership of the financial claims, which by convention is the time at which transactions are entered in the books of the transactors.

In practice, the nature of the available data sources is such that the time of recording of transactions will often differ from the time of change of ownership. Where practical, timing adjustments are made for transactions to ensure that they are recorded in the time period in which change of ownership occurs.

International investment position statistics provide information on the levels (stock) of Australia's foreign financial assets and liabilities. The investment position at the end of a period reflects the foreign financial asset and liability positions at the start of the period, and the financial transactions (investment flows) from the balance of payments which increase or decrease these assets and liabilities, together with the non-transaction changes due to exchange rate effects, other price effects and changes in the volume of these assets and liabilities that are not due to transactions (such as debt write-off).

While the international investment position statistics form an integral part of Australia's balance of payments (see diagram 30.1), they are also useful in their own right, for example in determining the impact of foreign investment policies and the level of Australia's foreign assets and liabilities, including foreign debt. They are also useful when analysing the behaviour of financial markets.

As with the balance of payments, market price is the principal method of valuation in international investment position statistics, and financial assets and liabilities are recognised on a change of ownership basis, that is, at the time when the foreign financial asset or liability is acquired, sold, repaid or otherwise disposed of. By convention, this is generally taken to be the time at which the event is recorded in the books.

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