Iraqi Economists Network

شبكة الاقتصاديين العراقيين

The Iraqi National Economy

Major Features of the Recent Revisions, introduced in the UN 1993 System of National Accounts, (UN 1993 SNA). By Dr. Kamil Al-Adhadh*

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A Prelude

Two years ago, this author presented at the first Arab Statistical Conference which was held in Amman of Jordan, a paper, (in Arabic), (1), describing critically the UN 1993 System of National Accounts, (1993 SNA), and highlighting the ongoing revision of some of its concepts and some of its methodologies to estimate and account for certain activities and variables in the economies. This revision was the fourth to be carried out for the System, since its inception in 1951 and formulation in 1953; (2), it was a part of the evolutionary periodical endeavors to remove ambiguities, incorporate new developments in various economic and financial activities, and to achieve overall consistencies within the structure of the System, on one hand, and harmony with other international statistical Systems and classifications, on the other. This recent revision process was started in the year 2004 and continued till March 2009. The Inter-Secretariat Working Group, (ISWGNA), formed by representatives from the major five UN Agencies, (3), was entrusted with the tasks of the overall responsibility to direct, organize the works of the various expert groups, and to coordinate amongst various interested parties. After almost five years of consultations and meetings of various expert groups, agencies and UN member countries had elapsed, during which, the Advisory Expert Group, (AEG), was acting as the filter body for all the various contingent expert group reports and recommendations, the final revised version of the new SNA, renamed as the 2008 SNA, was approved by the UN Statistical Commission, and endorsed by the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations last March of this year. The SNA Manual came up, eventually, in two volumes, instead of one, covering 29 chapters instead of 21, as was in the previous version. The full pre-edited 2 volumes Text of the 2008 SNA is now available, embodying all relevant changes, as new standards to be followed by UN member countries, beside some recommendations that are left as options for the countries whose state of statistical art may not enable them to implement them; (these are designated as supplementary). We will navigate, selectively, through the large Text. We would not be able to expound the details of the changes but indicate their nature and illustrate some of the most important ones. Description of methodological issues would require a manual, not a research paper. (4)

The first three sections of the paper present some background on the development of the System and indicate its basic structural features as they stand in the third revised formulation of the System, i.e., the 1993 SNA. The limitations and flexibilities of this System are, then, pointed out, in light of its prior research agenda and lessons learnt from a decade of international applications. The second three sections will focus on explaining, the main features of the changes in the revised 2008 SNA. The various purposes and uses of the changes will be mentioned, and the relevance of the whole new 2008 SNA for the promotion of powerful statistical and economic analyses will be assessed. The role of the 2008 SNA in the development of statistics around the world, particularly in developing and Arab countries will be discussed. Then some conclusions and recommendations for the enhancement of statistical development in the Arab countries are given in section 6. The last section accommodates annexes.

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*) Ex UN Adviser on National Accounts & Economic Statistics

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