Many countries lack the statistical information needed to pursue national or international policies of economic and social development. The collection of demographic and economic data is often inadequate, possibly due to a lack of finance and professional manpower. Vital events are frequently not registered by the population and important categories of data are omitted from censuses. The processing of statistics may suffer from methodological obsolescence.
Economic statistics and other data required in international analyses are often limited in scope, quality and quantity. The basic facts required for analyses have to be reconstructed and carefully evaluated from the limited data released by socialist countries. Low quality and poor availability of commercial data limits trade and external financing because it raises both costs and risks.
Dozens of times a week, governments publish economic statistics. Businesses and governments make decisions based on these figures, but many of these figures are wrong. The biggest problems in official economic statistics lies within the balance of payments. The total of all countries current-account balances should add up to zero but in 1982 there was a discrepancy of $100 billion. This was down to $45 billion in 1987, not because the statistics were more accurate, but because there was an increase in errors which offset the discrepancy. Some countries deficits are obviously overstated and the surpluses of others are understated.