National Accounts delayed

Up-to date data setting out the relative contributions of various Cayman business sectors to the country’s overall Gross Domestic Product will not be available for some time.

While Cayman’s first System of National Accounts report was published in June 2009, Yvonne Newland, senior statistician at the Economics and Statistics Office, said that due to technical problems, the office does not know when the next one will be published.

The System is a comprehensive and systematic record of the value of all economic activities in a given country, and is standard tool for economic growth measurement, monitoring and forecasting across countries and periods, and across economic sectors in a single period.

The report compiles information collected through an Annual National Accounts Survey. The last one was conducted during the period February to April 2008 among all businesses and establishments included in the ESO Business Register. The information was augmented by data provided by various government ministries, departments and statutory authorities and other informal interviews with industry sources.

‘We did not send out a survey in early 2009 for the 2007-2008 financial year as we did in early 2008 for the 2006-2007 financial year,’ said Ms Newland.

She said she was hopeful the exercise would go ahead for early 2010, however.

In Cayman, the ESO survey divides the economy into three goods producing and eighteen services sectors, all of which have specially tailored surveys.

Developed jointly by the United Nations, the Commission of the European Communities, the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, and the World Bank, the System of National Accounts was launched in 1953 and has been adopted by almost all countries in the world.

Cayman is one of the very few non-compliant countries.

Valuable information

The consequences of failing to meet the objectives of compiling the national accounts statistics are far reaching.

For instance, the Public Management & Finance Law (2005 Revision) requires the reporting of gross domestic product in the Strategic Policy Statement. Governments in general use the SNA statistics as key indicators for evaluating the potential and actual macro-economic impact and sustainability of fiscal policies.

Foreign investors and creditors also require the information, which is key to assessing the worthiness of a jurisdiction as an investment site and the worthiness of its entities as borrowers.

The system is also needed in order to comply with international credit rating agencies and private entities who borrow from the global financial market.

Domestically, the national accounts contribute valuable data for economic impact assessments of hurricanes and other disasters, which are required by funding and other donor agencies.

Furthermore, having the information at hand allows government departments and business associations to monitor the economic performance and contribution of their respective sectors, as well as assisting government departments, local businesses and non-government organizations in preparing business plans or assistance to businesses.

According to a presentation made in late October, the ESO’s strategic plan for upgrading Cayman’s national statistics, which includes the system of national accounts, states the data and administrative structure for collecting the national accounts information should be up and running by 2010-2011.

However, the ESO has identified a number of challenges to its efforts.

These include resistance to business surveys, the lack of a business records-keeping culture, the absence of a public sector data-sharing system, and finally, the need to coordinate data requirements with CIMA and other offices.