Does the “balance of payments” actually balance? In theory, a current account deficit would have to be financed by a net inflow in the capital and financial account, while a current account surplus should correspond to an outflow in the capital and financial account for a net figure of zero. In actual practice, however, the fact that data are compiled from multiple sources gives rise to some degree of measurement error.
Balance of payments and international investment position data are critical in formulating national and international economic policy. Certain aspects of the balance of payments data, such as payment imbalances and foreign direct investment, are key issues that a nation’s economic policies seek to address.
Economic policies are often targeted at specific objectives that, in turn, impact the balance of payments. For example, a country may adopt policies specifically designed to attract foreign investment in a particular sector. Another nation may attempt to keep its currency at an artificially depressed level to stimulate exports and build up its currency reserves. The impact of these policies is ultimately captured in the balance of payments data.