Compiling the National Accounts Demystified

Statistics Netherlands, National Accounts Occasional Paper No. NA-095, 2007

37 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2007 Last revised: 26 Jan 2009

See all articles by Frits Bos

Frits Bos

CPB Netherlands Bureau of Economic Policy Analysis


This paper unveils the mystery of compiling national accounts statistics. National accounts statistics are not facts. They are estimates of a universal accounting model (SNA93) for describing, analyzing and managing national economies. The operational versions of the universal model decide what is actually estimated. They are estimated by expanding and transforming the available data with accounting identities, tested and untested assumptions and previous estimates. The estimates reflect skills, resources and compilation policy. The resulting differences in the reliability of the national accounts statistics are to a great extent the price to be paid for a miracle come true: all over the world, very incomplete, imperfect, heterogeneous and partly outdated data are to be transformed into complete, consistent, internationally standardized and up-to-date overviews of the national economies and their major components. Nevertheless, compiling the national accounts can be improved in various ways, but this requires an international long-term strategy.

Keywords: national accounts, data compilation, macro-economic accounting, reliability of national accounts statsitics, measurement in economics

JEL Classification: C00, C82, E60, E01

Suggested Citation

Bos, Frits, Compiling the National Accounts Demystified. Statistics Netherlands, National Accounts Occasional Paper No. NA-095, 2007, Available at SSRN:

Frits Bos (Contact Author)

CPB Netherlands Bureau of Economic Policy Analysis ( email )

P.O. Box 80510
2508 GM The Hague, 2585 JR

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