Some Reflections on the 1968-93 SNA Revision

15 Pages Posted: 30 Jun 2004


The 1968 System of National Accounts (SNA 68) represented an important milestone in national accounting. In providing a more detailed structuring of the economy and integrating a correspondingly more relevant system of basic, producer and purchasers' prices by commodities and industry sectors, it helped lay to rest the early schism that developed between Keynes and Tinbergen over the question of the legitimacy of empirical economic modeling. The system was readily embraced by the advanced countries of Western Europe because it responded directly to the contemporary political imperatives of development planning and the need for economic forecasting models. But a large part of the non-Western "free world" encountered almost insurmountable difficulties in the full implementation of the system and became quickly bogged down in the quagmire of inter-industry statistics and valuation problems. Nancy and Richard Ruggles pressed for a revision providing workable solutions that would make the system more adaptable to the policy needs and statistical capacities of the majority of UN member countries. What actually happened took very much longer to reach fruition than was ever intended. The SNA 93 now represents the "gold standard" for national accounts, covering every aspect of economic activity. It is a masterpiece of conceptual coherence. Its encyclopedic character allows analysts and practitioners alike to dip into its voluminous pages for reasoned answers to why certain valuation questions and estimation procedures should be dealt with in a particular way. But SNA 93 remains a formidable document and it is not the operational data friendly framework that the Ruggles initially had envisaged.

JEL Classification: M40, P44

Suggested Citation

Ward, Michael P., Some Reflections on the 1968-93 SNA Revision. Available at SSRN:

Michael P. Ward (Contact Author)

City University of New York ( email )

Convert Avenue at 138th Street
New York, NY 10031
United States

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