Ratings of GDP Accuracy in the Americas
20 May 2019
The quality of economic data in North and South America is very variable. The United States, Canada and Chile publish consistently good quality data, ranking high by international standards. We believe there are significant quality issues with data produced in Ecuador, El Salvador, and Brazil. And at the extreme end of the scale, data produced in Bolivia and Haiti is likely to be of little value in describing prevailing economic conditions.
► See the Data Quality Ratings table for the Americas
Why GDP Quality is Very Important
GDP data have been described as “The World’s Most Powerful Numbers“1. We wouldn’t take issue with that description.
GDP data are, without question, of crucial importance. GDP data are used by Governments everywhere to help make policy decisions affecting millions; to direct governmental aid flows; and in many other ways. GDP data are used by banks, financial organisations of all kinds and businesses the world over to help make investment decisions, as a base for base corporate strategy, and for many other tasks.
Yet few countries achieve the standards set internationally by the United Nations, or keep up to date with recommended best practice. Even when data meets UN standards, most measures of GDP are flawed conceptually, in the way they are collected and presented, to an extent that few realise (further papers will review the conceptual problems underlying GDP data).
This paper sets out only to review which GDP data sets in the Americas are reliable in relation to basic standards, including base years used (basing data on a 25 year old snapshot of economic activity isn’t likely to produce accurate data); which UN ordained System of National Accounts (SNA) they use (some still use 1993 standards – a pre Amazon, Facebook and Google era); how much informal economic activity may remai