Compiling the national accounts demystified
This paper unveils the mystery of national accounts statistics. National accounts statistics are not facts. They are estimates of a universal accounting model (SNA93) for describing, analyzing and managing national economies. The operational versions of the universal model decide what is actually estimated. They are estimated by expanding and transforming the available data with accounting identities, tested and untested assumptions and previous estimates. The estimates reflect skills, resources and compilation policy. The resulting differences in the reliability of the national accounts statistics are to a great extent the price to be paid for a miracle come true: all over the world, very incomplete, imperfect, heterogeneous and partly outdated data are to be transformed into complete, consistent, internationally standardized and up-to-date overviews of the national economies and their major components. Nevertheless, compiling the national accounts can be improved in various ways, but this requires an international long-term strategy.
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