Via IMF (Den Internationale Valutafond)

G20 DGI Regional Thematic Workshop on Government Finance Statistics and Public Sector Debt Statistics

Opening Remarks by Tao Zhang, Deputy Managing Director, IMF

March 2, 2020

As prepared for delivery

Good morning!

Thank you, Gabriel, for the kind introduction. I am pleased to welcome you
to this joint World Bank and IMF G-20 Data Gaps Initiative Regional
Thematic Workshop on
Government Finance Statistics and Public Sector Debt Statistics
—the GFS and PSDS. On behalf of the IMF, I would also like to express my
gratitude to the Saudi authorities for hosting this important event.

This Workshop is the second—and final—on this topic during Phase 2 of the
Data Gaps Initiative. And, as you know, the objective is for all G-20
countries to meet their commitments by the end of Phase 2 in June of 2021.

I am also pleased to see that two non–G-20 countries from the region are
participating— Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.

Much of the discussion over the next two days will focus on your efforts to
develop fiscal statistics that include both operations as well as balance
sheet information.

Government operations data provides important information about government
policies while balance sheet analysis enriches the policy debate by
focusing on the full extent of public wealth. Public assets are a valuable
resource. And how governments use and report on them matters. But not just
for financial reasons. It also matters for improving service delivery and
preventing the misuse of resources that can result from a lack of

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Over the next two days, we will recognize the progress and accomplishments
that your countries have made up to now. And we also hope to help you
identify—within your specific national contexts—a way forward through the
end of this initiative in 2021.

We trust that the next two days will result in very productive discussions,
to be followed by concrete actions taken by you and your colleagues back
home. These actions can then be highlighted at the Global Conference
scheduled to take place about four months from now in June. We will also
look for ways to help develop capacity in the compilation of GFS and PSDS.
This should in turn help your countries to compile and disseminate these
data in a manner that is both high-quality and high-frequency—and by
“high-frequency” I mean quarterly. In doing so, you will be meeting
international standards—namely theGovernment Finance Statistics Manual 2014 and the Public Sector Debt Statistics Guide for Compilers and Users 2011.

The GFS framework, which the World Bank’s PSDS initiative builds on,
provides the tools needed to analyze the resilience of public finances.
These tools allow governments to examine both sides of the balance sheet to
identify imbalances or mismatches and use fiscal stress tests to gauge the
strength of public finances. By identifying risks in the balance sheet,
governments can act to manage or reduce those risks early on, rather than
dealing with the consequences after problems occur.

As such, balance sheets provide the most comprehensive picture of public
wealth. They aim to bring together all the accumulated assets and
liabilities that the government controls—including natural resources and
pension liabilities. In this way, they account for the entirety of what the
state owns and owes. And they offer a broader fiscal picture beyond debt
and deficits.

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But most governments do not provide the transparency needed to form a
complete and accurate picture, thereby avoiding the additional scrutiny it
brings. Yet only after governments begin to understand the size and nature
of public assets, can they then begin to manage them more effectively.

Of course, for the IMF, the ultimate purpose for fiscal and debt statistics
adhering to international standards is to provide policymakers with
comprehensive, and accurate, data that are cross-country comparable.

But beyond high-quality and high-frequency GFS and PSDS that are comparable
at the international level, there are also important domestic requirements
for good GFS and PSDS. For example, formulating a holistic vision for
government finance requires high-quality GFS and PSDS at the national and
subnational levels to perform key functions, which include:

  • Forecasting the amount of revenue that can be generated at the national
    and subnational levels, and determining how revenue should be shared; and
  • Establishing the level of debt that is not only sustainable, but that
    fosters higher levels of inclusive growth.

As representatives of the world’s G-20 nations, your presence here attests
to what your governments have committed to fulfilling, but are perhaps not
currently fully meeting, in terms of certain statistical requirements, or
“targets,” under the Data Gaps Initiative. One example is to compile and
disseminate quarterly GFS and PSDS for the general government sector. I
hope over the next two days we can make progress toward fulfilling these

Indeed, we all see that greater international cooperation is needed to
address difficult multilateral issues, including corporate taxation,
climate change, corruption, and, more generally, to achieve the 2030
Sustainable Development Goals. The actions needed to meet these challenges
will be founded upon the availability of data that support good (and
timely) fiscal analysis. And this is a truly vital part of the reason you
are here today.

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Moreover, your work sets the bar for many other countries around the world.
I am happy to say that both Egypt and the United Arab Emirates are among
the approximately 130 countries reporting annual GFS to the IMF Statistics
Department. About 80 of these countries are also reporting financial
balance sheet information, which means debt data too.

Of course, not all of them are currently providing data on the consolidated
general government and many key economies do not currently report quarterly
data as prescribed under the Data Gaps Initiative recommendations. But I
think we can all be certain that when countries see what their peers are
achieving in terms of improving macroeconomic statistics, they are often
encouraged to undertake what may have previously seemed to be a daunting
challenge. This means that your work is extremely important!

So let me stop here and take a final opportunity to wish each of you a
productive Workshop. It will go by quickly. And you should ensure you take
with you all the information you need to go back and help your countries
move forward on meeting the Data Gaps Initiative targets relating to fiscal

Thank you!

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