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June 02, 2011

Inter-Agency Task Force Releases Online Public Sector Debt Statistics Guide

IMF Press Release No. 11/201, previously published on imf.org

Fulltext[1] 1 
The Inter-Agency Task Force on Finance Statistics (TFFS) has released an online, pre-publication version of the Public Sector Debt Statistics—Guide for Compilers and Users to help standardize classification of public sector debt liabilities and achieve more internationally comparable public sector debt data. The Guide complements the World Bank-International Monetary Fund (IMF) Public Sector Debt Statistics Database, which offers free access to public sector debt statistics for 35 countries (see Press Release No. 10/473).

Increased focus on general government and, more broadly, public sector debt sustainability and fiscal consolidation globally has heightened interest in public sector debt statistics. The Guide will be an important reference for national compilers and users, providing a comprehensive conceptual framework for the measurement of gross and net debt of the public sector and all its components.1 This guidance can be applied across the different components of the public sector and across various liabilities that constitute public sector debt. The Guide provides a structure for classifying debt liabilities by instrument and by sector of the counterpart to the debt instrument. The Guide also offers valuable advice on practical problems in recording public sector debt, including numerical examples.

“We hope that this Guide will contribute to more accurate and more internationally comparable general government and, more broadly, public sector debt statistics and an improved understanding of the complex issues involved,” said Ms. Adelheid Burgi-Schmelz, Director of the IMF’s Statistics Department.

To present debt statistics for any part of the public sector in a transparent and comprehensive manner to users, the Guide proposes a core set of tables based on international best practice. It includes an overview of the main considerations in the data collection, compilation, and dissemination of debt statistics for the public sector and its various component institutions, which include central, state, and local governments as well as public financial and nonfinancial corporations, as illustrated in Figure 1 below. The Guide also addresses the often difficult issue of identifying the holders of traded debt securities, and discusses approaches to consolidation of public sector debt statistics. The Guide offers an overview of tools used in the analysis of public sector debt statistics and outlines the activities of international agencies in the field of general government and public sector debt statistics.

The Guide is available online; the final hardcopy version is expected to be published toward the end of 2011.


The production of the Guide has been jointly undertaken by the international agencies that participate in the TFFS, in consultation with national compilers of public sector debt and government finance statistics. Its preparation was primarily undertaken by the Government Finance Statistics Division of the IMF’s Statistics Department.

The TFFS is one of the interagency task forces formed under the aegis of the United Nations Statistical Commission and the Administrative Committee on Coordination Sub-Committee on Statistical Activities. The TFFS is chaired by the IMF, and the work on the Guide involved representatives from the Bank for International Settlements, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the European Central Bank, the Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat), the IMF, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Paris Club Secretariat, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development and the World Bank. The Guide was completed after a consultation process, with suggestions provided by member countries.

1 This pre-publication draft is subject only to final editing for publication in book form.

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