Contingent liabilities - Government finance statistics and EDP statistics
The liabilities are called contingent in the sense that they are by nature only potential and not actual liabilities. The relevance of collecting this kind of information is recognised by ESA 2010, paragraph 5.11: ''Although contingent assets and contingent liabilities are not recorded in the accounts, they are important for policy and analysis, and information on them needs to be collected and presented as supplementary data. Even though no payments may turn out to be due for contingent assets and contingent liabilities, a high level of contingencies may indicate an undesirable level of risk on the part of those units offering them.''
Contingent liabilities are not part of the government debt as defined in Council Regulation (EC) No 479/2009 of 25 May 2009 on the application of the Protocol on the excessive deficit procedure annexed to the Treaty establishing the European Community.
The data on contingent liabilities are collected by Eurostat in the context of the reinforcement of the EU economic governance which took place in 2011 (the 'six-pack') and in particular of Council Directive 2011/85/EU of 8 November 2011 on requirements for budgetary frameworks of the Member States. Article 14(3) of this Directive laid down new statistical requirements on the Member States:
"For all sub-sectors of general government, Member States shall publish relevant information on contingent liabilities with potentially large impacts on public budgets, including government guarantees, non-performing loans, and liabilities stemming from the operation of public corporations, including the extent thereof. Member States shall also publish information on the participation of general government in the capital of private and public corporations in respect of economically significant amounts".
In order to assist EU Member States in the implementation of the statistical requirements of the Directive, Eurostat conducted a Task Force in co-operation with EU Member States and DG ECFIN. Its final report provides, inter alia, a set of templates and related notes indicating the methodology, the scope of compulsory information, the periodicity and the timeliness for national and Eurostat publication of data on contingent liabilities.
The changes needed in Eurostat's collection systems were formalised by way of introduction of a supplement to the EDP questionnaire, under the provisions of Article 8(2d) of Council Regulation (EC) No 479/2009. The definitions and the implementation guidance were provided in Eurostat's decision of 22 July 2013 on Supplement on contingent liabilities and potential obligations to the EDP related questionnaire.
The Decision specifies that Eurostat would collect and publish the following indicators related to contingent liabilities:
- government guarantees,
- off-balance public-private partnerships (PPPs),
- non-performing loans (government assets),
- liabilities of government controlled entities classified outside general government (public corporations) compiled by Eurostat on the basis of information collected via the Questionnaire on government controlled units classified outside general government introduced in 2011.
All indicators should be reported to Eurostat in millions of national currency at the level of individual general government subsectors before 31 December of the following year (T+12 months) by the national statistical authority. The metadata clarifying the completeness, definitions, use of estimations or timeliness of the data are to be provided to Eurostat alongside the data.
The EU Member States should publish the same indicators at a national level and, in addition, the data on the participation of government in the capital of corporations.
Results of the Eurostat data collection
National publication of data in the context of the Council Directive 2011/85/EU
The links to the publication of data on contingent liabilities at national level are listed here.
The listing also includes the websites with the publication of monthly and quarterly fiscal data as required by Article 3(2) of Council Directive 2011/85/EU. According to this Article, the EU Member States shall publish:
"(a) cash-based fiscal data (or the equivalent figure from public accounting if cash-based data are not available) at the following frequencies:
- monthly for central government, state government and social security sub-sectors, before the end of the following month, and
- quarterly for the local government sub-sector, before the end of the following quarter;
(b) a detailed reconciliation table showing the methodology of transition between cash-based data (or the equivalent figures from public accounting if cash-based data are not available) and data based on the ESA 95 standard."