Banque de France Bulletin

Three good reasons for central banks to (also) produce statistics

Published on 21 March 2024
Authors : Marie-Laure Barut-Etherington, Cécile Golfier-Chataignault

Bulletin No. 250, article 4. The Banque de France and the banks of the European System of Central Banks are major players in the production of official statistics, in cooperation with national institutes. The economic and, above all, financial data they produce, benefit from their independence and a reliable, transparent methodology. In addition to these specific features, they offer three other advantages:

  • central banks are able to cross check the aggregate indicators they produce with the individual data to which they have access (in particular those of banks, non financial corporations, customs), and thus ensure overall consistency;
  • they have embraced digital and associated technologies, and are disseminating new indicators, notably on the climate. They have also been able to analyse in real time the economic consequences of the health crisis and the invasion of Ukraine;
  • they put their statistics within everyone’s reach, striving to make them accessible to all audiences.
Image Statistics produced by the Banque de France : 68 000 data items monthly, 70 databases, 47 000 series Thématique Central bank Catégorie Banque de France Bulletin
Statistics produced by the Banque de France

1. Central banks look at economic data from a variety of angles

Central banks have long produced statistics relating to their “core business”, i.e. monetary and financial statistics, which complement the European Statistical System (ESS) in different ways depending on the country. The Banque de France produces balance of payments and international investment position statistics, as well as national financial accounts.

As required, it summarises the information contained in the individual data to produce aggregate indicators that provide an overview of the economic situation. It can also put current events into perspective by using historical statistics, the analysis of which sheds light on the current monetary and financial situation. Finally, it can exploit granular data, either to cross check them with the major aggregates or to focus on specific topics.

More recently, central banks have begun producing data on the climate and on crypto assets. At a time when digitalisation is fostering the emergence of new players and increasing the availability of easily accessible data, this paper looks at the strengths of central banks as producers of statistics.

Faced with new digital players, central banks provide essential guarantees of quality

Independence, impartiality and transparency

The intrinsic characteristics of central banks guarantee the quality and coverage of their statistical production. For those central banks that, like the Banque de France, belong to the European System of Central Banks (ESCB), these specific features are rooted in the Statute of the European Central Bank (ECB) and of the ESCB (the “Statute”) and in European Regulation (EC) No. 2533/98.

Their statistical production is based on one key element: independence. Their impartiality is guaranteed by the fact that they do not seek any commercial gain.

Since the purpose of central bank statistics is to enlighten decision makers and inform the general public, the transparency of information is checked throughout the production process. Upstream, the ESCB carries out public consultations with economic agents for each new data collection project , with the two pronged aim of minimising the reporting burden and maximising the collective utility. Once the data has been collected, the national central banks (NCBs) publish the standards and methodologies used.

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