Meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on Economic Statistics (TAGES) in the Arab region
United Nations House, Beirut
27-28 August 2018
Statement by the Executive Secretary of ESCWA
Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome to the second meeting of the Technical Advisory Group on Economic Statistics, which is of great importance to ESCWA in providing technical support to member States and in coordinating work with relevant organizations to build capacity in collecting and disseminating national statistics and following up on the Sustainable Development Goals, in line with international standards.
Economic statistics are the basis for formulating economic policies, advancing the business sector, achieving regional integration and ensuring social welfare, while preserving the environment. Applying international standards, guidelines, concepts and definitions to data collection and dissemination ensures consistency, quality and conformity in national, regional and international economic statistics.
Moreover, formulating national strategies for the development of statistics in the light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is vital - only three of 22 Arab countries currently have an up-to-date strategy. Strategy development goes hand in hand with updating statistical systems using modern technology to strengthen the capacity of national statistical offices in producing official statistics and applying related principles.
The implementation of the System of National Accounts 2008 has been delayed in the Arab region, which in turn has caused challenges in keeping pace with requirements and changes in modern economic infrastructure. ESCWA reporting on national accounts shows that the real GDP growth rate for ESCWA member States was 3 per cent in 2016 and 3.2 per cent in 2017, compared with 5.7 per cent in 2012. Furthermore, research by Alvaredo indicates that the Middle East was the least equal region globally between 1990 and 2016, with the richest 10 per cent controlling 64 per cent of the total wealth compared with 37 per cent in Western Europe and 47 per cent in the United States.
To support the implementation of the System of National Accounts 2008, ESCWA developed supply and use tables and a framework to calculate GDP using three methods, which has assisted in the calculation of the social accounting matrix and the use of analytical tools in developing economic and social policies.
Implementing the System of National Accounts in statistical offices requires further coordination between ministries of planning and key partners to discuss an implementation strategy, cooperation between relevant ministries to exchange data, and political and financial support.
Regarding statistics on foreign trade and industry, ESCWA has updated its reports and published new indicators and country profiles. Data shows that despite a 12.5 per cent drop in exports and a 9.2 per cent decline in imports in 2016, non-oil intra-imports increased in the Arab region by 13.6 per cent, equal to $11 billion, thus highlighting the importance of promoting intraregional trade and economic integration. ESCWA has also continued working on price statistics programmes, such as the International Comparison Programme, the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices and subnational price indicators.
ESCWA is continuing its partnership with the United Nations Statistics Division to implement the System of National Accounts 2008, develop economic statistics and train national experts. ESCWA had also forged strong partnerships with the League of Arab States, the Arab Institute for Training and Research in Statistics, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.
Thank you for your attendance. I wish you every success in your deliberations.