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Balance of payments – Incorporation of the Hellenic Statistical Authority's (ELSTAT) trade statistics into the balance of goods

21/09/2015 - Press Releases

As from reference month July 2015, the Bank of Greece will implement a significant change to its balance of payments compilation methodology, using ELSTAT’s trade statistics instead of the settlements data used until June 2015 inclusive. According to the new methodology, the goods trade balance statistics will reflect customs-based or other administrative data, as collected or estimated by ELSTAT.

With this Press Release, the Bank of Greece wishes to provide information on the transition to the new source of data on imports and exports of goods and the ensuing changes in the balance of payments figures. The adoption of the new source of data will be implemented retrospectively, going back to January 2013, a period for which historical data will be available. For the period up to 31 December 2012, only past data, compiled according to the old transactions settlement methodology, will be available.

The incorporation of ELSTAT’s trade statistics into the balance of payments is part of an overall effort at EU level to apply uniform international rules and to harmonise balance of payments statistics with National Accounts statistics. The need for harmonisation is a direct consequence of the guidance contained in the IMF’s Balance of Payments Manual 6th edition (BPM6), as well as of the broader statistical framework of the Eurosystem and the EU. Furthermore, the need for harmonised statistics arises from the fact that both series of data (balance of payments and National Accounts) will be used in parallel in the context of the Macroeconomic Imbalances Procedure (MIP). The use of trade statistics in the compilation of the balance of payments is a common practice in EU Member States, while the rules of the BPM6 have been progressively adopted since mid-2014 for compiling the balance of goods.

ELSTAT’s trade statistics as a source of information

ELSTAT’s trade statistics comprise: (i) statistics on imports and exports from and to non-EU countries (Extrastat), based on data collected from customs authorities through the Single Administrative Document; and (ii) intra-EU trade statistics (Intrastat), based on data collected through a special document submitted by enterprises (Intrastat document).

Intra-EU trade statistics include ELSTAT’s estimates of transactions, whose value is below the statistical reporting threshold and for which enterprises are not required to submit an Intrastat document.

Statistics on imports and exports from and to non-EU countries also include data from "incomplete customs declarations", mostly concerning oil products. These data are finalised after such declarations are completed.

Trade statistics also incorporate additional data transmitted to ELSTAT by administrative sources and relate mainly to military equipment.

Finally, ELSTAT has developed a methodology to estimate the value of undeclared imports, which relate mainly to illegal activities (illicit trade of alcoholic beverages, tobacco, narcotic drugs and other products, e.g. clothing). These data are included in imports in the process of compiling the National Accounts.

Methodological adjustments to ELSTAT’s trade data

In the context of the implementation of international rules for the compilation of the balance of payments, ELSTAT’s trade data are subject to a number of methodological adjustments.

In ELSTAT's trade statistics, the value of exports is reported in FOB (Free on Board) terms, while the value of imports is reported in CIF (Cost, Insurance, Freight) terms. Given that both exports and imports are reported in FOB terms in the balance of payments, the Bank of Greece converts the value of imports into FOB terms by applying a fixed 5% CIF/FOB conversion coefficient (i.e. FOB = CIF * (1-0.05)), and the resulting difference is allocated to transportation and insurance services by 4/5 and 1/5, respectively.

ELSTAT’s trade statistics include also transactions related to the processing and repair of goods that are excluded from the compilation of the balance of goods. In line with the methodology of the IMF's BPM6, such transactions are classified in the balance of services and calculated on the basis of Bank of Greece data.

Moreover, in the compilation of the balance of goods (as is also the case with that of National Accounts) imports of goods include ELSTAT's estimate of the illicit trade in goods, which amounts to €1.5 billion annually.

Finally, it should be pointed out that the recording of imports (purchases) and exports (sales) of ships in the balance of goods will continue to be based on data collected by the Bank of Greece.

Useful links

More information on the survey of Commercial Transactions published by ELSTAT is available on the website of the Hellenic Statistical Authority ( under the link Statistical Themes, Trade-Services, Imports-Exports, External Trade.

ELSTAT’s Commercial transactions of Greece



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