In Belgium, as in all EU countries, the national accounts are compiled in accordance with the definitions of the "European System of National and Regional Accounts" (ESA).
The compilation of the national accounts in Belgium makes use of a large number of information sources, both administrative data and surveys. The national accounts are also compiled on the basis of an exhaustive business register. All in all, a whole range of consistent and exhaustive statistical information are produced to get an accurate a picture as possible of the state of Belgium’s economy. Compilation of the national accounts relies on a methodology defined at European level, in cooperation with the Member States. This guarantees high quality standards, backed up by the fact that the accounts drawn up in each country are monitored by Eurostat.
The estimates are likely to be revised over time, depending on the availability of the sources used and their own revision. As a general rule, the figures only become final after about four years. Every five years, the statistical series may also be subject to revisions over a much longer time horizon. These are called benchmark revisions, which make it possible to introduce new data sources or to improve the methodology.
In line with European-level recommendations, the national accounts were subject to a benchmark revision in 2019. This revision, which is part of the normal and customary procedures for improving the national accounts, is carried out in most European countries. It was introduced in Belgium on 18 October 2019, together with the publication of the detailed annual accounts. The other Belgian national accounts statistics are being adapted under the normal publication schedule.
Statistical information on the national accounts is compiled according to a precise serial timetable:
- The quarterly accounts are published in several stages. A first flash estimate of economic growth (real GDP) is produced 30 days after the end of the quarter. That figure is reviewed 60 days after the end of the quarter, together with detailed statistics on the composition of GDP (value added, expenditure, revenue) and on the labour market. 90 to 110 days after the end of the quarter, the final, complete estimate of the main economic aggregates is published.
- The quarterly accounts of the institutional sectors (households, corporations, general government) are published approximately 105 days after the end of the quarter. That publication includes certain key indicators such as the household saving ratio, the business investment rate and the government’s quarterly accounts.
- A first estimate of the national accounts, based mainly on the quarterly accounts, is published in the April following the reference year.
- More definitive figures are included in the detailed annual accounts published in mid-October of the year following the reference year. Those accounts present tables for each branch of activity (production account and operating account, main expenditure categories, investment and employment), and the accounts of the various institutional sectors. After that, the capital stock and the detailed supply and use tables are published.
- The government’s annual accounts form the subject of two annual estimates. A first estimate is published in mid-April in the form of tables of the main government revenue and expenditure. The second estimate is published in October and presents the detailed complete accounts which are incorporated in the publication of the sector accounts. These two estimates are in line with the data submitted for the purpose of the excessive deficit procedure.
- The satellite account of non-profit institutions is likewise a statistic published in the general framework of the national accounts. The satellite account of non-profit institutions is not part of the European statistical obligations. Nevertheless, it conforms to the international standards on the subject.
- The regional accounts are published in February and present data on the aggregates per branch of activity and the household income accounts for the regions, provinces and districts. The aggregates per branch of activity comprise gross value added, compensation of employees, the number of persons in work, hours worked and gross fixed capital formation. The household income accounts include the primary income allocation account, the secondary income distribution account and disposable income per capita.
- The regional breakdown of Belgian imports and exports of goods and services is produced jointly by the NBB and the three Regions. These regional figures are not part of the European statistical obligations, but are based on the methodological principles defined at European level and used for the other variables per branch of activity.