The 1998 edition of the Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean contains a selection, updated to the end of December, of the main statistical series available on economic and social trends in the countries of the region. It represents a systematic effort of the ECLAC Statistics and Projections Division to harmonize the figures and make them internationally comparable. The year's edition does not differ from the 1997 edition in terms of its structure, but its content differs substantially, since the base year for the regional macroeconomic series and for the various indicators and indices has been changed to 1995. Minor changes continue to be made in the tables included in the chapters on social development and welfare and on social conditions as improvements are made in the processing of the available households surveys. The tables given in the chapter on the balance of payments continue to be based on the approach to its analysis used in the fifth edition of the Balance of Payments Manual published by the International Monetary Fund in 1993. It should be noted that an effort is again being made to ensure that this edition will be made available to users promptly. Part One consists of derived social and economic indicators (growth rates, ratios or coefficients) which provide an overview of each area of interest, along with the background material needed to make the information suitable for use in specialized analyses. This group of indicators include those used in the periodic regional appraisals of the development process of Latin America and the Caribbean conducted by the ECLAC secretariat. Part Two provides historical series in absolute figures which can be used for a large variety of purposes. The majority of the statistical tables provide figures on a single topic, organized in such a way as to facilitate comparisons among countries as well as between individual countries and regional totals or averages. The tables on the balance of payments and national accounts are the only exceptions in this respect, since they have been prepared on a country-by-country basis. Although there are currently 33 Latin American and Caribbean member countries of the Commission, the tables giving regional totals generally correspond to the sum of data on 25 countries. In this connection, it should be noted that the statistics of the Caribbean countries are less complete, which is why the regional coverage varies according to the subject area addressed. Efforts continue to be made to overcome this situation and it is hoped that in the medium term complete information will become available, at least on the major macroeconomic items such as national accounts, the balance of payments and foreign trade. In most of the tables, the countries appear in alphabetical order; those for which there are no data or for which the amounts are zero or negligible are not included. In Part One of the Yearbook, most of the indicators correspond to the years 1980, 1985 and 1990, and to the period 1992-1997. In cases where the data have not been updated, the most recent figures available for each country are given. Some of the indicators that are based on census data are given only for the years when censuses were conducted. The country and regional series included in Part Two cover 1980, 1985 and 1989-1997. In view of users' favourable response, as well as the degree of accuracy achieved in previous versions, preliminary estimates for the year of issue of the Yearbook (in this case, 1998) are once again given. These estimates are the result of an effort made during the last two months of each year to inform the international community about the macroeconomic trends observed in the countries of the region during the period.