Implementing the new Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual (BPM6)

Since 1948 the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has developed guidelines for the compilation of consistent, sound and timely balance of payments (b.o.p.) statistics.

The IMF released the sixth edition of its Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual (BPM6) in 2009, replacing the fifth edition (BPM5), which had been released in 1993. The update was carried out in close collaboration with the IMF Committee on Balance of Payments Statistics and involved extensive consultations with national compilers and international organisations, including the ECB and the European Commission (Eurostat).

This latest edition of the IMF’s manual takes into account important developments that have occurred in the global economy since the release of the fifth edition. Three major factors influenced the revision, namely globalisation (increased use of cross-border production processes, complex international company structures and international labour mobility), an increasing focus on balance sheets (reflected in the international investment position, or i.i.p.) and financial innovation (more and more complex financial instruments). Information on the major methodological changes is available in Appendix 8 of the BPM6, as well as in a set of frequently asked questions compiled by the ECB. The manual was revised in parallel with the introduction of the System of National Accounts 2008 (2008 SNA) and the European System of Accounts 2010 (ESA 2010), in order to ensure consistency between external and domestic macroeconomic statistics. Information related to the new international standards applying to national accounts is available from a Eurostat website dedicated to ESA 2010 implementation.

The implementation of the BPM6 was coupled with a major change in the data codification structure used for the collection and dissemination of b.o.p. and i.i.p. data around the world, the BOP-DSD (Balance of Payments Data Structure Definition). At the same time the worldwide SDMX (Statistical Data and Metadata eXchange) standard was introduced for the transmission of external statistics.

Revised data requirements for ECB and Eurostat external statistics

The changeover to the new BPM6 methodology is being prepared in cooperation between the ECB and Eurostat, which share the responsibility for producing and publishing the b.o.p. and i.i.p. statistics for the EU.

On 9 December 2011, the Governing Council of the ECB adopted Guideline ECB/2011/23 on the statistical reporting requirements of the European Central Bank in the field of external statistics. This legal act, as last amended by Guideline ECB/2013/25, lays down new reporting requirements for euro area national central banks in the field of external statistics, i.e. b.o.p., i.i.p. and international reserves statistics, as well as data on international shipments of euro banknotes. Recommendation ECB/2011/24, as last amended by Recommendation ECB/2014/2, complements Guideline ECB/2011/23 by addressing other authorities that are entrusted with the collection and/or compilation of external statistics in their respective countries, namely:

Regulation (EC) No 184/2005 of the European Parliament and of the Council, which establishes a common framework for reporting b.o.p., international trade in services and foreign direct investment data, has also been amended in line with the new international standards (BPM6), by Commission Regulation (EU) No 555/2012.

Although these new legal acts in the first place reflect methodological changes introduced by the BPM6, they also help to close some remaining data gaps and bring external statistics into closer alignment with national accounts in terms of content and presentation. Compared with the reporting required under the BPM5, the BPM6 reporting introduced in the EU includes much more detail on transactions and positions as well as a more granular geographical breakdown.

When translating the new manuals into legal acts, Eurostat and the ECB also took the opportunity to simplify and align their data requests so as to avoid double work for the compilers. Hence, the new monthly b.o.p. and the quarterly b.o.p. and i.i.p. datasets to be reported to Eurostat and the ECB are identical in every detail. In the case of Eurostat, the monthly b.o.p. data request is new and replaces the previous reporting of preliminary estimates of quarterly b.o.p. due 60 days after the reference period.

Interim period

EU countries are gradually moving their national compilation systems to the new methodology. Therefore, until the end of 2014, data related to the EU countries will be presented in different methodological formats (BPM5 and/or BPM6) on the websites of the national statistical authorities, as well as on the websites of the IMF, Eurostat and the ECB.

While all EU countries will start disseminating data compiled on the basis of the BPM6 from 2014 onwards, the IMF has been disseminating BPM6-based data for EU countries since August 2012. However, for the time being some of these data are derived/converted (through a partially automated process) from BPM5-based source data.

Data availability and accessibility

The ECB started publishing b.o.p. and i.i.p. statistics in line with the BPM6 on 30 October 2014. The first BPM6 data cover reference periods from January 2013 onwards. This will be followed by releases of extensive backdata, the length and detail of which will depend on the availability and quality of national data. International reserves statistics were first published in line with the BPM6 on 31 October 2014. Data calculated on this basis are available back to December 1999. Data based on the previous methodology (BPM5) are no longer updated but will be available from the ECB’s Statistical Data Warehouse and on Eurostat’s website for some time [Link not yet available]. The ECB’s statistical publications, namely monthly and quarterly statistical press releases and the “Euro area statistics” section of the Statistics Bulletin, have been reviewed to accommodate the new BPM6 nomenclature and increased data availability.

Eurostat will disseminate the BPM6-based data in its online database, via new tables that will reflect the new nomenclature. The BPM5-based national and EU quarterly b.o.p. and i.i.p. tables will be maintained in the database for a period of time but will not be updated.

Additional information on the process of changeover to the BPM6 in euro area countries

Information related to the old statistical standards and the changeover process