Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Trade Balance: Bank Of Greece vs. ELSTAT

Much publicity has been given to the fact that ELSTAT reported an increase of 36,2% in Greece's trade deficit in March of this year (versus March 2016). The numbers are distorted by oil and ship transactions but even without those, the trade deficit increased 6,6%.

While this is interesting information, it always reminds me of a question which I have been trying to get an answer to for years, albeit without success, namely: why do ELSTAT and the Bank of Greece report trade figures which differ quite substantially, sometimes even enormously. For example, for 2016, ELSTAT reported a trade deficit of 18.705,0 MEUR whereas the corresponding figure from the Bank of Greece was 16.581,0 MEUR. A difference of that magnitude can certainly be considered as enormous.

Will I ever get an answer to this question?


  1. I received the following reply from the BoG:

    "Please be informed that, for the compilation of the balance of goods in balance of payments statistics, the Foreign Trade Statistics (FTS) of ELSTAT is used as the basic data source. Nevertheless, in order to implement the international rules for the compilation of the balance of payments, FTS data are subject to a number of methodological adjustments which are described in the press release of 21-9-2015, available on the site of Bank of Greece


    It is noted that the major reason of the differences that you mention, is the different treatment applied on imports-exports of vessels; ie in Bank of Greece the calculation of imports-exports of ships is based on bank settlements’ data, while in ELSTAT the calculation of imports-exports of ships is based on customs (flag) data. The two institutions have set up a working group to deal with shipping statistics, which is expected to conclude after Eurostat finalizes its manual on this issue.

    Nicholas T. Tsaveas
    Director - Advisor
    Statistics Department
    Bank of Greece

    1. Thank you very much, Mr. Tsaveas!

    2. What Tsaveas says makes sense.

      Also because now mainly due to Cosco, Greece has become a transit country it does not mean that everything that enters customs in Greece is paid for by Greece. We may have shipments passing through Greece, perhaps even registered in Greece for accounting purposes but paid for by other destinations other than Greece.

    3. Ubergut:

      Quite frankly I don't trust either of these two sources (ELSTAT, BOG). Their methodologies don't appeal to me nor do they paint the true picture.

      The numbers I trust come the Panhellenic Exporters Association because that's their livelihood and have an incentive to keep track of what matters and not of what an EU directive requires instead.

      Problem of course with these trusted numbers is that they are late. March already been reported by ELSTAT and BOG but not by the Association. So they are good but late numbers.

      By the way, as a manager I can make sense of these numbers and put them to good use something I can not do with either ELSTAT or BOG numbers which tend to be lumpsummed in such few broad categories which are meaningless to any manager. In my humble opinion ELSTAT and BOG don't provide meaningful statistics but monthly obituaries for the Greek economy whose only use is for any opposition to brutalize the reigning government. In other words they are nothing more than propaganda script scenarios for Hollywood type productions.