External Debt Statistics. Guide for Compilers and Users

International financial crises in the late 1990s underscored the importance of reliable and timely statistics on external debt as a critical element for the early detection of countries’ external vulnerability. Against this background, improving the quality of key external debt data and promoting convergence of recording practices became of vital importance.

External Debt Statistics: Guide for Compilers and Users (the Guide) provides clear guidance on the concepts, definitions, and classifications of gross external debt of the public and private sectors; the sources and techniques for compiling these data, analytical use of these data and the work of international agencies in this field.  The Guide was prepared by an Inter-Agency Task Force on Finance Statistics, chaired by the IMF, and involving representatives from the BIS, the Commonwealth Secretariat, the European Central Bank, Eurostat, the IMF, the OECD, the Paris Club Secretariat, UNCTAD, and the World Bank. The preparation of the Guide was based on the broad range of experience of these organizations, in close consultation with national compilers of external debt, balance of payments, and international investment position statistics.

The Guide updates the previous international guidance on external debt statistics, External Debt: Definition, Statistical Coverage and Methodology, which was published in 1988,to take account of developments in the 1990s which included new international statistical guidance for national accounts and balance of payments statistics; a substantial growth in private sector financial flows, especially to private sector debtors; and, associated with these, an increased use of instruments such as debt securities and financial derivatives to manage and redistribute risks. The Guide is intended to be a useful source of reference to both compilers and users of external debt data.

The core of the Guide’s conceptual framework is the definition of gross external debt (and related terms) and an explanation of the accounting principles required for its measurement.  The framework also provides a number of tables for the presentation of the external debt position.  The key summary table gives a breakdown of institutional sector of the debtor, maturity and instrument, consistent with national accounts and balance of payments presentations.  In addition, several other tables are provided to show important items which facilitate the analysis of the implications of the external debt position, for example, with regard to external vulnerability. These include public and publicly guaranteed external debt, external debt on remaining maturity and ultimate risk bases and foreign currency debt.

OECD has a long record of experience in the field of external debt, and its annual publication External Debt Statistics has appeared since the early 1980s. The work has involved close collaboration with its partners, the BIS, IMF and World Bank, in the areas of data exchange and development of methodology and guidelines.  OECD has co-authored with these same partners External Debt: Definition, Statistical Coverage and Methodology, 1988, Debt Stocks, Debt Flows and the Balance of Payments, 1994 and the quarterly internet publication, the Joint BIS-IMF-OECD-World Bank statistics on external debt.

Sales information, and a pdf version of the Guide may be found at http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/eds/Eng/Guide/index.htm.

For further information please contact Deborah Guz, Head of the external debt unit, National Accounts and Economic Statistics of the Division, Statistics Directorate e-mail: [email protected]