Since the restoration of Eesti Pank one of its tasks has been collecting banking statistics and drawing up the balance of payments of the Republic of Estonia. Since 1997, Eesti Pank also draws up Estonia's international investment position.
The economic crises in Asia, Russia and Brazil have considerably increased the importance of prompt, adequate and internationally comparable macroeconomic statistics. In 1998, the activity of Eesti Pank was mostly aimed at improving and systematising the current practice of publishing statistical data, proceeding from international requirements and the development of the local financial market. At the same time, the quality of statistical information was being improved, and the information basis expanded.
CHANGES IN REPORTING AND COVERAGE
The systematisation of the credit institutions' reporting and rearranging of its structure began in 1997 when data required on the banks' loan and securities portfolio and resources incorporated was made more detailed. In 1998, one of the priorities of improving reporting was getting more detailed information on off-balance sheet transactions. Six new reporting forms on off-balance sheet activities were drawn up, tested and introduced. These enable to get information on the guarantees given and received by credit institutions and other non-revocable claims and liabilities, derivatives as well as claims and liabilities that can arise from managing and investing the assets of customers. In 1998, the content and format of reports reflecting the purchase and sale of foreign currency through credit institutions was changed. After considering the suggestions made during the test period, the statistical reporting concerning payment intermediation by credit institutions was introduced from 1 July.
Proceeding from Eesti Pank's goal of guaranteeing efficient monetary policy and banking supervision by devoting more attention to non-banking financial intermediation, the specification and expansion of the necessary statistical basis was started in 1998. Concrete steps were taken in arranging the collection of data on leasing companies. Eesti Pank, the Estonian Leasing Association and its members worked out a set of reports, which helps to provide a survey of the activities of leasing companies in Estonia. In order to secure smooth co-operation an agreement was signed. The first statistics of leasing companies arrived in Eesti Pank at the beginning of 1999.
In 1998, much emphasis was put on improving the availability of economic statistics and coverage within Eesti Pank. A division was created for collecting macroeconomic and real sector statistics. Handling of the data contained in various databases was made easier by the introduction of a new user interface (MetaCube). The aim of these steps is to improve the awareness of Eesti Pank management and analysts and guarantee as quick as possible access to the data needed for decision-making.
In drawing up Estonia's balance of payments and the international investment position Eesti Pank focussed on the quality of the sources of information in 1998. This was achieved by improving and adjusting questionnaires in line with changes in legislation and the economic environment.
In 1998, the bank also began to elaborate the rules of publishing data on credit institutions or the so-called public reporting. These rules will set the minimum of data that has to be made public, the format of reporting, the ways of publication, frequency and deadlines, as well as the responsibility of the credit institutions' management for the correctness of the published data.
STATISTICS ON THE INTERNATIONAL LEVEL
One goal of Eesti Pank in collecting statistical data, making conclusions and publishing them is to improve the availability of information to both local and international economic agents and harmonising the data with international standards. In 1998, the most important step in implementing this principle was joining the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS) of the IMF. Ever growing economic and financial integration of the world has considerably increased the need for providing the public with all-round, timely, reliable and comparative macroeconomic statistics. In order to guarantee this, the IMF began to introduce a data standard for its members in 1995. In April 1996, the Board of IMF approved the SDDS, aimed at harmonising the content of the main economic indices of the member countries and the publication practice. Joining the SDDS is voluntary but once a country has joined, it has to obey the requirements of the standard.
Since this is a framework covering the entire macroeconomic statistics of a country it presupposes close co-operation of the institutions collecting the data. In Estonia, the Ministry of Finance, the State Statistical Office and Eesti Pank prepared joining the SDDS.
The SDDS includes 17 categories of data, which provide information on four macroeconomic areas:
- the real sector (GDP, production indices, price indices, the labour market);
- the government sector (state budget, government sector debt);
- the financial sector (most important data of credit institutions and the central bank, including reserve money, interest rates, stock market index);
- the external sector (the balance of payments, foreign trade, international investment position, exchange rates).
The SDDS sets definite requirements on the content, regularity and deadlines of publishing the data. In every category the so-called metapages have to be filled in, describing the nature of the data, quality and methodology of compilation as well as access by the public. The metapages are sent to the IMF, which puts them up on the Dissemination Standard Bulletin Board in the Internet. By the beginning of 1999, the IMF electronic Bulletin Board provided data on 47 countries. The Bulletin itself does not contain any numerical data but the IMF has provided the possibility of linking the metapages with the respective country pages, which provide the concentrated numerical data described by the SDDS.
Estonia joined the SDDS in early October 1998; Estonian metapages are available on the IMF electronic Bulletin since 1 January 1999. As soon as the description of the data had been published, the State Statistical Office began building the country page containing concrete data. The country page was completed in January 1999 and can be found through the Statistical Office's Internet home page.
The turbulence of the world economy has increased the need for up-to-date statistical information and the IMF's SDDS has been welcome by the market players. Positive responses have encouraged the IMF to develop the project further. In 1999, the system of data categories will be improved and clear requirements on constant updating of the metapages and country pages will be worked out. Besides joining the SDDS, the introduction of EU requirements into the existing Estonian statistical system continued as an important developmentin 1998.
In December, the Board of the European Central Bank adopted a decree on the consolidated balance sheet of financial institutions . It took effect on 1 January 1999. The decree makes institutions of the euro-zone to submit statistical data and specifies the definitions and classifiers concerning the information. The collected statistical data will be used for compiling the consolidated balance sheet of financial institutions, aimed at providing an extensive picture of the development of the euro-zone monetary environment through the aggregated financial assets and liabilities of the financial institutions acting in the region seen as a unified economic territory. However, these requirements apply only on the Member States of the European Monetary Union. Although the ECB requirements on banking statistics are not mandatory for Estonia, Eesti Pank has set the goal of introducing them into the credit institutions' reporting practice in the near future.
Currently, the task of gathering statistical data of the EU candidate countries lies with Statistical Office of the European Communities (Eurostat), which has specified the data to be provided and the deadlines. In 1998, Eesti Pank and Eurostat specified the content and the format of the data and continued regular exchange of information, which began in 1997.
 Regulation (EC) No 2819/98 of the European Central Bank of 1 December 1998 concerning the consolidated balance sheet of the monetary financial institutions sector (ECB/1998/16).