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Updating the System of National Accounts (SNA)

The System of National Accounts

The SNA is the internationally agreed standard set of recommendations on how to compile measures of economic activity. The SNA describes a coherent, consistent and integrated set of macroeconomic accounts in the context of a set of internationally agreed concepts, definitions, classifications and accounting rules.

The latest version of the SNA, adopted by the United Nations Statistical Commission (UNSC), is the System of National Accounts 2008 (2008 SNA). The 2008 SNA is an update of the 1993 SNA to address issues brought about by changes in the economic environment, advances in methodological research and the needs of users.

At its first session in 1947, the UNSC emphasized the need for international statistical standards for the compilation and updating of comparable statistics in support of a large array of policy needs. Specifically, the UNSC recommended that the United Nations Statistical Office, in consultation with the interested specialized agencies, should work on guidelines for national accounts statistics (national income and expenditure), taking into consideration best practises and international comparability. The first national accounts standard was released in 1953, with major updates in 1968, 1993 and 2008.

The 1953 SNA was published under the auspices of the UNSC. It consisted of a set of six standard accounts and a set of 12 standard tables presenting detail and alternative classifications of the flows in the economy. The concepts and definitions of the accounts were widely applicable for most countries, including developing countries.

The 1968 SNA extended the scope of the national accounts substantially by adding input-output accounts and balance sheets; giving more attention to estimates at constant prices; and making a comprehensive effort to bring the SNA and the Material Product System (MPS) closer together.

The 1993 SNA represented a major advance in national accounting and embodies the result of harmonizing the SNA and other international statistical standards more completely than in previous versions.

Research Agenda

The Research Agenda webpage contains issues that were identified by the ISWGNA as outside the scope or timeframe for the update of the 2008 SNA. Its goal is to facilitate work toward the resolution of these issues over a longer timeframe.

Updating the 2008 SNA

The 2008 SNA represents a stage in the evolution of national accounting. To continue that evolution and to ensure the continuing relevance of the SNA for purposes of economic analysis and policy making, further and constant research will need to be carried out. Periodic updates are necessary to reflect the real changes taking place within economies, the evolution of financial and fiscal instruments, and the improvements of accounting methodologies. The implementation of the results of work on the research agenda of the 2008 SNA will be incorporated into international standards or handbooks in accordance with the update procedure for the SNA established by the UNSC.

Towards the 2008 SNA

The Towards the 2008 SNA webpage contains in detail all documents (workprogramme, issue papers and recommendations, draft chapters, comments from the global consultations, etc.) and additional information (AEG meetings, ISWGNA meetings, etc.) that led to the adoption of the 2008 SNA.

Towards the 1993 SNA

The Towards the 1993 SNA webpage contains historical materials (minutes of meetings and other reports) reflecting the discussions that led to the adoption of the 1993 SNA.

Historic Versions of the SNA

The Historic Versions of the SNA webpage contains all historic versions of the SNA from the origins in 1947 until today.

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