CBS and DNB: working towards univocal figures

/ Author: Miriam van der Sangen
From June 2018 onwards, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the Dutch Central Bank (DNB) will publish univocal figures on the Netherlands’ economic relations with the rest of the world. This will ensure that national and European policymakers no longer encounter discrepancies between the national balance of payments statistics and the National Accounts. In addition, CBS and DNB will better match their respective mandatory surveys for companies serving as reporting agents. Tasks will furthermore be reallocated between the two institutions. These results stem from intensive mutal cooperation, effective 18 September 2017 following a cooperation agreement between DNB’s Director of Monetary Affairs and Financial Stability and the Director General of CBS.

Intensified cooperation

Both CBS and DNB are responsible for publishing macroeconomic statistics that describe the Netherlands’ relationship with the rest of the world, e.g. on trade in goods and services, international financial transactions and the Netherlands’ international investment position. These statistics are not always in concordance with each other, as has become increasingly apparent in both the national and the international community. Gerard Eding, Director of the CBS National Accounts Department, explains: ‘The discrepancies were partly rooted in the use of different sources and methods, as well as the different publication times. This led to the decision by CBS and DNB to cooperate even more closely with a view to achieving complete concordance. Moreover, tasks have been redistributed between CBS and DNB, with DNB in charge of monitoring the financial sectors, securities statistics and the national balance of payments while CBS takes care of the National Accounts and monitoring of the non-financial sectors.’

One single survey

Businesses stand to benefit from this new cooperation. In the future, they will only need to complete a single integrated survey which will be used to calculate DNB’s balance of payments as well as the National Accounts of CBS. This effectively means there will be fewer overlapping questions to answer, as parts of the monthly DNB survey will be discontinued. ‘In the near future, non-bank financial institutions will be sent only one survey for the balance of payments and this will be on a quarterly instead of a monthly basis,’ says Pim Claassen, Department Head Balance of Payments and Securities Statistics at DNB. ‘DNB will also introduce integrated quarterly reporting for a number of financial sectors to improve monitoring of developments in these sectors. This will cover shadow banking, for example, in which other (non-bank) institutions lend money. Doing so will also benefit the quality of the National Accounts. The description of the relationship between financial sectors and the real economy shall be further improved. This is a relationship which has received more and more attention since the financial crisis.’

Best of both worlds

The way in which CBS and DNB partner intensively can be described as unique. Eding: ‘Within Europe, there are several different models. In some countries, such as Finland and Ireland, the balance of payments and the National Accounts are both compiled by the national statistical institutes. But there are also countries where the NSI and the central bank largely operate on their own. However, this is going to change under the growing pressure from international institutions to organise things more efficiently and effectively. Here in the Netherlands, CBS and DNB have made a conscious decision to work together. We keep our own independence, but our work is strongly interconnected. In addition, we both take full advantage of the other’s know-how and skills. This is essential as we need to work towards a better description of the ever more rapidly evolving economy.’ Claassen affirms this statement and adds: ‘The construction as we use it here in the Netherlands combines the best of both worlds.’

‘An important advantage is that both CBS and DNB set high demands for the production of statistics, including the handling of confidential data’  

Fundamental choices

Both Eding and Claassen are satisfied with the progress made so far in this project. ‘It is large and complex, and requires a great deal of adjustment in both organisations’, says Eding. ‘We had to make fundamental choices and reach agreement on the commitment of sources, statistical estimation methods, revision and publication policies. We were quite far apart in our opinions initially, but succeeded in reaching alignment thanks to fruitful discussions and mapping of the alternatives. At an early stage, staff members from both organisations went and visited each other in the workplace. This was an essential element in getting to understand each other’s work, get to know the processes and manage the change.’


As Claassen explains, these steps towards higher quality and consistency in figures on the Dutch economy are related to DNB’ plans for an overhaul in the statistical infrastructure. ‘This overhaul was the reason to reflect on the basic structure of the macroeconomic statistics chain. Practice had demonstrated that the quality of the balance of payments statistics would benefit from the fully integrated framework of the National Accounts. However, this meant we had to be prepared to give up part of our autonomy. Ultimately, based on proper arrangements for a collective integration process and mutual respect with equal and professional status as chain partners, the choice was no more than logical.’

High praise

Eding and Claassen highly praise the staff at both CBS and DNB for gradually transferring the work to each other. Claassen: ‘It is not always easy, but even the staff appreciate that it will improve the quality of the statistics. And that is ultimately what matters. An important advantage is that both organisations set high demands for the production of statistics, including the handling of confidential data. For instance, DNB is committed to the ESCB Public Commitment on Statistics while CBS uses the ESS Code of Practice as its guiding instrument. These two standards are fully complementary.’