DNB and CBS harmonise macro-economic statistics

/ Author: Masja de Ree
© Hollandse Hoogte / EyeEm Mobile GmbH
On 24 May 2018, Statistics Netherlands (CBS) and the Dutch central bank (De Nederlandsche Bank, DNB) started publishing univocal figures on the Netherlands’ relations with the rest of the world. With this step, they fulfilled the wish of many users including the EU statistical office Eurostat and the European Central Bank (ECB). The unique cooperation between CBS and DNB is setting an example for other European countries.

The Netherlands and the rest of the world

Traditionally, both CBS and DNB produce figures on the relationship of the Netherlands with the rest of the world. CBS does so through its rest-of-the-world account, as part of the National Accounts. DNB publishes the balance of payments and the external capital position. Policymakers at ministries and central banks as well as academic researchers use data, including on trade in goods and services, financial transactions and the Netherlands’ international investment position. Gerard Eding, Director of National Accounts at CBS, explains: ‘Yet, there were actual discrepancies between figures from CBS and DNB, and we wanted to get rid of those.’

Intensive cooperation

In tackling these discrepancies, CBS and DNB launched an ambitious and intensive cooperative framework in 2015. They agreed to make use of the National Accounts Revision in order to work on figure alignment. This revision is being organised every five years by CBS, and was last published on 24 May. Eding: ‘In order for us to produce univocal figures, it was necessary to adopt the same methodology, use the same sources and process information in similar ways. We are glad to have succeeded. As CBS and DNB, we have pooled our knowledge and expertise and we are now working as a single institution.’ This form of collaboration is unique in Europe and both parties deserve praise.

Consistent and better quality figures

‘Describing our relationship with other countries is not a simple task as our economy is extremely open,’ explains Pim Claassen, Head of Balance of Payments & Securities Statistics at DNB. This is illustrated by the totals of foreign assets (7.7 trillion euros) and foreign liabilities (7.4 trillion euros). ‘If statisticians do not use the same sources and methodology, there may very likely be tens if not hundreds of billions of euros’ difference. Not surprisingly, we received a lot of questions from users about this.’ By jointly determining foreign figures, DNB and CBS can benefit from each other’s specific knowledge. DNB, for example, has a great deal of expertise on the financial sectors and CBS on households and businesses. Eding: ‘Combining this knowledge not only provides consistent figures, but also better quality figures.’

This unique collaboration between CBS and DNB is an example for other European countries

Example for Europe

‘Doing it alone is no longer an option if you want to do it properly,’ Claassen says. ‘Especially with globalisation progressing and the role of very large companies in our economy increasing, it is essential for organisations such as DNB and CBS to coordinate their actions. We’ve been bold enough to do so.’ In realising this far-reaching cooperation, both CBS and DNB have to surrender a piece of their autonomy. ‘But this is for the benefit of society. What we are doing has been a great wish of Eurostat and the European Central Bank. In that sense, we are setting an example for other countries around Europe.’


The univocal figures on the Netherlands’ relations with the rest of the world form an important and visible milestone in the cooperation between CBS and DNB. In addition, the business reporting of both organisations will become better aligned. CBS and DNB will also further reallocate their joint tasks over the next few years. Eding: ‘Today, a historic step was taken in our cooperation, but we cannot sit back and relax. We will continue to work on even more joint projects and we hope to benefit even more from our collaboration in 2018 and 2019. For our users, but also for ourselves.’

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