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MEFMI conducted a regional workshop on Government Finance and Public Sector Debt Statistics Compilation and Reporting from 14 – 23 March 2016, at Cresta President hotel, Gaborone, Botswana. The workshop was officially opened by Ms Boitumelo Matlhaga, Acting Deputy Statistician General at Statistics Botswana. Statistics Botswana is a principal agency responsible for coordinating, monitoring and supervising the national statistical system in the country.

In her opening remarks, Ms Boitumelo commended MEFMI for giving priority to enhancing the capacity of client institutions to collect, compile and disseminate macroeconomic and financial statistics based on contemporary international standards and conventions. She noted that accurate and timely data enables correct and factual analysis to be carried out for purposes of informing the policy formulation process and keeping stakeholders abreast of developments in government finances and public sector debt. This transparency not only fosters better-informed public debate, but also enhances greater government accountability and credibility.

She commended the efforts that the IMF and other global partners have made to ensure that reliable and accurate information on government finances and public sector debt is readily available, evidenced by various international reporting standards and conventions developed. She noted that the reporting standards and conventions are not only meant to improve the quality of statistics, but also promote convergence of recording and dissemination practices, as well as enabling broader analysis by allowing comparison across countries to be undertaken on a clear and consistent basis. Therefore, she encouraged compilers of statistics in the MEFMI region to endeavour to comply with all these international standards and practices.

While substantial progress has been made in building financial and macroeconomic databases by member states, Ms Boitumelo noted that there is a lot of room to improve the reporting and dissemination of this information in a way that satisfies stakeholders’ diverse information requirements. For instance, while a number of countries in the region have gone as far as complying with the IMF General Data Dissemination System (GDDS), all countries are yet to accede to the more stringent reporting requirements under the Special Data Dissemination Standards (SDDS) and the SDDS plus.

Publication of essential macroeconomic data provides policy makers and other stakeholders easy access to information for monitoring economic performance and decision making.From a national perspective, countries need to prioritize the generation of macroeconomic statistics that get disseminated regularly, including through websites of governments and central banks.

At the regional level, governments were encouraged to post and maintain updated statistics on the websites of regional bodies, such as the East African Community (EAC) and Southern African Development Community (SADC). The latter aspect is important in the tracking of countries’ performance against regional macroeconomic convergence objectives, of which public debt and fiscal deficit levels are also among the criteria. From an investor perspective, regular, timely and accurate disclosure of statistics is one of the key variables used in country risk assessment and credit rating. This is even more important in this post-crisis era where equity and bond investors are more careful in assessing creditworthiness of sovereign borrowers prior to investing their funds. Thus governments need to generate and disseminate own reliable debt information, rather than only rely on other agencies to report on their behalf.

She informed participants that the Botswana government has moved consistently and decisively to up-scale general economic and financial data quality by strengthening data information flows at the Bank of Botswana, the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development and at Statistics Botswana.

The workshop primarily targeted junior to middle level staff whose main responsibility is compiling and reporting public finance statistics(that is, Government Finance and Public Sector Debt Statistics)in Ministries of Finance and Central Banks. A total of 45 participants from 13 MEFMI member states participated in the workshop. The participants included 23 females, representing 51 percent of the total.

The workshop was facilitated by two (2) international resource persons from MEFMI’s technical cooperating partners, IMF. The two resource persons were Mr. Gary Jones, Senior Economist in the Government Finance Division at IMF and Mr. Danny Labonte, Accountant in the Ministry of Finance in Seychelles and IMF expert. Both resource persons came on gratis.

The workshop covered basic concepts, accounting principles, and detailed classifications of public sector debt statistics in the context of the methodology that is harmonized with the government finance statistics and system of national accounts. The lectures, discussions and case studies examined the coverage and accounting rules of the public sector debt and government finance statistics framework, valuation, classification, selected methodological issues, and the sources and methods used for compiling statistics Public sector statistics reporting to the IMF and the World Bank was also dealt with.

 

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