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Italy: Report on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC)—Data Module

Author(s):
International Monetary Fund
Published Date:
October 2002
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I. Introduction

1. The data module of this Report on the Observance of Standards and Codes (ROSC) provides a summary of Italy’s dissemination practices relative to the Special Data Dissemination Standard (SDDS). It is complemented by an assessment of the quality of national accounts, consumer and producer price indices, and government finance, monetary, and balance of payments statistics. This report is based on information provided prior to and during a staff mission from April 3-16, 2002,1 as well as publicly available information.

2. Section II provides the assessment of Italy’s data dissemination practices against the SDDS. Section III presents the summary assessment of the quality of the principal macroeconomic datasets. Finally, Section IV sets out recommendations to achieve further improvements in Italy’s statistics.

II. Data Dissemination Practices and the Special Data Dissemination Standard

3. Italy subscribed to the SDDS on August 13, 1996 and started posting its metadata on the Dissemination Standards Bulletin Board (DSBB) on September 19, 1996. Italy is in observance of the SDDS, having met the specifications for the coverage, periodicity and timeliness of the data, and for the dissemination of advance release calendars on April 14, 2000. The Data Template on International Reserves and Foreign Currency Liquidity was hyperlinked to the DSBB on April 12, 2000. The National Summary Data Page was hyperlinked to the DSBB on May 5, 2000.

4. Four official institutions are responsible for the compilation and dissemination of the SDDS prescribed data categories. The National Institute of Statistics (Istat) compiles and disseminates data on the national accounts, production index, labor market, price indices, merchandise trade, and population. The Bank of Italy (BI) has responsibility for the analytical accounts of the banking sector, the analytical accounts of the central bank, interest rates, and the data template on international reserves and foreign currency liquidity. The BI and the Italian Foreign Exchange Office (UIC) collaborate on the dissemination of balance of payments and the international investment position data. The Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF) is responsible for data on central government operations and central government debt. General government operations data are compiled by Istat on the basis of input from the MEF; the MEF is the agency responsible for the SDDS category. The Italian Stock Exchange compiles and disseminates the share price index.

5. These data can be accessed in a variety of publications and on the following Internet websites:

Data dimension: coverage, periodicity, and timeliness

6. Italy meets the SDDS specifications for the data dimension for all data categories, using flexibility options for the timeliness of the data on central government operations and for the timeliness of data on the production index (Table 1). Periodicity and timeliness exceed the requirements of the standard for several data categories.

Table 1.Italy: Overview of Current Practices Regarding Coverage, Periodicity, and Timeliness of Data Compared to the SDDS
SDDS Data CategoryCoverage (meets SDDS requirement)PeriodicityTimelinessComments
SDDSItalySDDSItaly
Real Sector
National accountsYesQQ1Q1QTimeliness is approximately 70 days in 2002, improved from 80 days in 2001.
Production index/indicesYesMM6W (M encouraged)45 daysFlexibility option utilized for timeliness of the data.
EmploymentYesQQ1Q2MTimeliness exceeds SDDS requirements.
UnemploymentYesQQ1Q2MTimeliness exceeds SDDS requirements.
Wages/earningsYesQM1Q1MPeriodicity and timeliness exceed SDDS requirements.
Consumer price indexYesMM1MWithin 2 weeksTimeliness exceeds SDDS requirements.
Producer price indexYesMM1M1M
Fiscal sector
General government operationsYesAA2Q2Q
Central government operationsYesMM1M45 daysFlexibility option utilized for timeliness of the data.
Central government debtYesQQ1Q1Q
Financial sector
Analytical accounts of the banking sectorYesMM1M1M
Analytical accounts of the central bankYesM(W recommended)M2W (W encouraged1WTimeliness exceeds SDDS requirements.
Interest ratesDD1DBoth daily and monthly data are disseminated.
Stock marketYesD1
External Sector
Balance of paymentsYesQMQ6WPeriodicity and timeliness exceed SDDS requirements.
International reservesYesM(W recommended)M1W1W
Reserves templateYesMM1M1M
Merchandise tradeYesMM8W (4-6W encouraged)8WExtra EU trade: 1M Intra EU trade: 8W
International investment positionYesA(Q recommended)Semi-annual2Q(Q encouraged)130 daysPeriodicity and timeliness exceed SDDS requirements.
Exchange ratesYesDD1D
Addendum: populationYesAA6M
Periodicity and timeliness: (D) daily; (W) weekly or with a lag of no more than one week from the reference date or the closing of the reference week; (M) monthly or with a lag of no more than one month; (Q) quarterly or with a lag of no more than one quarter; (A) annually; and (…) not applicable.

Access dimension

7. Italy meets the requirements of the SDDS in terms of access to data by the public. Advance release calendars that meet the SDDS requirements are disseminated both in hard copy format as well as on the Internet websites of Istat, BI, and UIC. These advance release calendars are supplemented by a quarter-ahead presentation of release dates on the DSBB. For the MEF, a one-quarter-ahead notice of release dates is disseminated on the DSBB; notice informing the public that this calendar is on the DSBB is given on the MEF’s website.

8. Data are released simultaneously to all interested parties, generally on the websites of the relevant agencies and on Italy’s National Summary Data Page, which is maintained by Istat (http://www.Istat.it/fmi/ITALY-NSDP.html).

Integrity dimension

9. The SDDS-required disclosure of information on terms and conditions that govern the collection, compilation, and dissemination of data, including the confidentiality of the data collected, is available to the public in English and Italian.

10. Procedures on internal government access to the data prior to public release are disseminated on the DSBB for the data categories to which they apply. According to Italy’s SDDS metadata, there is no internal government access to the data prior to public release. For the analytical accounts of the banking sector prior to dissemination, the aggregated statistical balance sheet of monetary financial institutions is communicated to the European Central Bank (ECB) according to a transmission calendar agreed within the Eurosystem. The mission found that this same practice is employed for balance of payments data disseminated by UIC and suggests that the UIC’s metadata be updated accordingly.

11. Data released by the Italian statistical agencies are not accompanied by ministerial commentary except for the general government operations and central government debt data categories. In this regard, ministerial commentary is included in the MEF’s annual Economic Financial Planning Document and in the quarterly bulletin Relazione sulla stima del fabbisogno di cassa e situazione di cassa al…(last day of reference quarter).

Quality dimension

12. Summary methodology statements for most data categories have been provided to the IMF and posted on the DSBB. Statements have not been provided for the labor market, general government and central government operations, stock market index, and merchandise trade. In addition, methodological information is disseminated by Istat, BI, and UIC. The mission found that the methodological information disseminated by the MEF did not adequately explain the concepts, sources, and methods used, and that information disseminated by the UIC needed to be consolidated and updated.

13. Italian statistical agencies also disseminate component detail and additional data series that make possible crosschecks and checks of reasonableness for all data categories.

Monitoring of data

14. In accordance with the IMF Executive Board’s Third Review of the SDDS, the IMF staff began monitoring subscribers’ performance under the SDDS in July 2000. Monitoring is carried out against the release dates stated in the advance release calendars and the metadata, i.e., to verify not only that the data are released according to the calendar, but also that the data disseminated correspond to the metadata posted on the DSBB. Italy’s dissemination practices were in observance of SDDS.

III. Summary Assessment of Data Quality

15. An assessment of six macroeconomic datasets—national accounts, consumer price index, producer price index, government finance, monetary, and the balance of payments statistics—was conducted using the Data Quality Assessment Framework (DQAF). This framework, developed by the IMF’s Statistics Department, provides a structure and common language to assess data quality. It comprises a generic framework and a set of dataset-specific frameworks that cover five dimensions of data quality—integrity, methodological soundness, accuracy and reliability, serviceability, and accessibility—and a set of prerequisites.2

16. As will become apparent in the assessments, Italy’s memberships in the European Union (EU) and in the European Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) shape Italian official statistics and statistical policy in a number of ways.

  • In some areas, the European requirements reinforce already existing national practices. For example, Italian agencies’ already strong protection for the confidentiality of individual responses is reinforced by regulations from the European level.

  • In other areas, the EU and EMU memberships transfer the focus from the national to the European level. Most obvious is the transfer of monetary policymaking authority to the ECB, one result of which is that the ECB now has a major voice as a user of statistics. In line with the needs of European-level policy makers, there is a strong push to increase the scope and timeliness of statistics and to harmonize members’ statistics more fully.

  • Especially where the focus has transferred to the European level, Italian statisticians participate with colleagues from other member countries in working groups and other fora to arrive at common decisions, often sharing good practices and extending the reach of professionalism.

  • In statistical methodology, Eurostat and the ECB issue a range of documents that provide guidance. Some of the guidance allows substantial room for national practices in the collection and compilation of required statistical outputs. Other guidance mandates specific practices in data collection and compilation.

  • The important role played by quantitative guidelines and targets—such as the fiscal guidelines set by the Stability and Growth Pact, and the ECB’s goal of measured inflation of less that 2 percent—highlights not only the need for accurate statistics, but also the need for statisticians to guard their independence vigorously and to avoid pressures or temptations to arrive at “acceptable” figures.

17. Information resulting from the application of the assessment framework to the Italian statistical system is presented below, following the structure of the DQAF. Conclusions are also presented in summary tables in which the assessment of data practices is made using a four-part scale (Table 2 and tables 1-6 in the Detailed Assessment volume).

Table 2.Italy—Data Quality Assessment Framework: Summary Presentation of ResultsKey to symbols: NA = Not Applicable; O = Practice Observed; LO = Practice Largely Observed; LNO = Practice Largely Not Observed; NO = Not Observed; SDDS = Complies with SDDS Criteria
ElementNational Accounts Statistics (NAS)Consumer Price Index (CPI)Producer Price Index (PPI)Government Finance Statistics (GFS)Monetary Statistics (MS)Balance of Payments Statistics (BOP)Comments
0. Prerequisites of quality
0.1 Legal and institutional environmentOOOLNOOOSee paragraph 23
0.2 ResourcesLOLOOOOOSee paragraph 19
0.3 Quality awarenessOOOOOO
1. Integrity
1.1 ProfessionalismOOOOOO
1.2 TransparencyOOOOOO
1.3 Ethical standardsOOOOOO
2. Methodological Soundness
2.1 Concepts and definitionsOOOLOOOSee paragraph 30
2.2 ScopeOOOOOLOSee paragraph 32
2.3 Classification/sectorizationOOOLOLOLOSee paragraphs 30, 31, 32
2.4 Basis for recordingOOOOLOOSee paragraph 31
3. Accuracy and Reliability
3.1 Source dataLOLOLOLOOLOSee paragraphs 33, 34, 35, 36, 38
3.2 Statistical techniquesLOOLOOOOSee paragraphs 33, 35
3.3 Assessment and validations of sourceOLOOOOLOSee paragraphs 34, 38
3.4 Assessment and validation ofOOOOOO
3.5 Revision studiesOOOLOLOOSee paragraphs 36, 37
4. Serviceability
4.1 RelevanceOOOLOOLOSee paragraphs 41, 43
4.2 Timeliness and periodicityOOOLOOOSee paragraph 41
4.3 ConsistencyOOOLNOLOOSee paragraphs 41, 42
4.4 Revision policy and practiceLOOOLOOLOSee paragraphs 39, 41, 43
5. Accessibility
5.1 Data accessibilityOOOOOO
5.2 Metadata accessibilityOOOLOOLOSee paragraphs 46, 48
5.3 Assistance to usersOOOLOLOLOSee paragraphs 46, 47, 48

18. In summary, Italy’s macroeconomic statistics are of generally high quality. They are adequate to conduct effective surveillance even though the IMF staff identified some shortcomings that detract from the accurate and timely analysis of economic and financial developments and the formulation of appropriate policies.

Prerequisites of quality

This category in the DQAF identifies conditions within the agency in charge of producing statistics that have an impact on data quality. The elements within the category refer to the legal and institutional environment, resources, and quality awareness.

19. Istat, which is responsible for national accounts, the consumer price index, and producer price index, among other datasets, is at the center of the National Statistical System (SISTAN) under Legislative Decree No. 322/1989. This decree and subsequent legislation, especially the legislation under which Istat was reorganized in 2000, provides a legal and institutional environment that clearly sets out responsibility for the relevant statistical work, provides for data sharing and coordination, calls for protection of the confidentiality of individual responses, and makes legal provision for statistical reporting, including the identification of surveys on which reporting is mandatory. Staff resources are generally adequate except in some areas, such as national accounts, under pressure from European-level directives to produce additional and more timely statistics. Computer resources are generally adequate; almost all staff members have a computer workstation. However, extended automation of price collection is a key factor in improving the consumer price index. Istat maintains a high sense of quality awareness, as evidenced by the “Legend of Quality Measures Adopted” in the 2001 Italian Statistical Yearbook. An independent oversight body, Quality Circles that participate in formulating and tracking of the National Statistical Program, and the Information System for Survey Documentation and Quality Control are among the processes in place to monitor quality and deal with quality considerations.

20. The BI, which compiles and disseminates monetary statistics, financing data for general government, as well as certain data on the balance of payments, has a supportive legal and institutional environment. Its legal authority in statistics derives from the statute that established the European System of Central Banks (ESCB) and the ECB, the regulation that governs the collection of statistical information for fulfillment of the tasks of the ESCB, and related regulations. At the national level, the authority of the BI to request information from Italian monetary financial institutions is provided in the 1993 Banking Law. Data sharing and coordination takes place at the European level and, among the other data producing agencies, at the national level. The BI does not disclose the data on individual institutions or transactions. Statistical reporting is supported by ECB and national legal mandates; the ECB requires that the reporting population consist of all monetary financial institutions in the territory of the member state. Resources are commensurate with the BI’s statistical programs; regular processes are in place to inform management of resource requirements in line with evolving needs. Committees and processes at both the European and national levels promote quality awareness: the collection and processing of data are closely monitored, supported by automated systems.

21. The UIC, which is responsible for compiling and disseminating the balance of payments statistics, is an instrumental entity of the BI and shares most of the BI’s legal and institutional environment. At the national level, the authority of UIC to request information is provided for in Legislative Decree No. 319/1998. Resources are commensurate with the UIC’s statistical programs. Committees and processes at the European and national levels promote quality awareness.

22. The MEF has a legal and institutional environment that generally supports its responsibility for the compilation and dissemination of data on budget execution. Although there is no specific legal mandate ensuring the reporting of data, MEF staff view the provisions of Legislative Decree 468/1978 as playing this role and note that almost all units of general government report. The MEF traditionally had almost no statistical capacity, but has recently adopted planning mechanisms focused on ensuring adequate staff, financial, and computing resources in the area of statistics. As to quality awareness, the MEF focuses on the application of accounting rules.

23. No single agency is responsible for compiling and disseminating a comprehensive, integrated set of government finance statistics. Three agencies—Istat, MEF, and BI—are responsible for collecting, processing, and disseminating different components. The availability of independent datasets is valuable in allowing cross-checking of the data, but the lack of a clearly specified and coordinated framework presents problems for the analysis of Italy’s fiscal position.

Integrity

Integrity identifies features that support firm adherence to objectivity in the collection, compilation, and dissemination of statistics so as to maintain users’ confidence. Elements refer to the professionalism and ethical standards that should guide policies and practices, which should be reinforced by their transparency.

24. Istat, supported in particular by interactions that follow from its designation in 1989 as a research entity, maintains a high degree of professionalism. All evidence shows that statistics are compiled on an impartial basis, in line with Istat’s mandate to do so. Choices of sources and statistical techniques are informed by statistical considerations at the national and European levels. Comment on misuse of statistics is an explicit part of Istat’s communication strategy; as well, Istat endeavors to promote statistical literacy widely. Transparency of statistical policies and practices is promoted, inter alia, by the wide availability of the terms and conditions under which Istat works, the identification of Istat’s products, and provision of advance notice of major changes in the methodology it uses. Guidelines on the ethical standards expected of Istat staff are in place.

25. Both the BI and UIC evidence professionalism. The compilation of statistics on an impartial basis is supported by statutory provisions as well as long traditions of independence and professionalism. The choices of sources and methods are informed by statistical considerations, including those agreed in appropriate European-level committees in which these agencies participate. As well, both agencies evidence transparency, with respect to the terms and conditions under which they undertake statistical work and in procedures for the release of statistical information. They provide their staffs with guidance on ethical standards.

26. MEF staff evidence professionalism, e.g., they appear to be free from political and other influences in choosing the sources and methods and are available to provide expert advice on technical aspects of the data. As to transparency, the terms and conditions under which the MEF compiles statistics are readily available; some other transparency indicators are not evident because the MEF has only recently seen itself as having a role in statistics. Guidelines on the ethical standards expected of MEF staff are in place.

Methodological soundness

Methodological soundness refers to the application of international standards, guidelines, and agreed practices. Application of such standards, which are specific to the dataset, is indicative of the soundness of the data and fosters international comparability. Elements refer to the basic building blocks of concepts and definitions, scope, classification and sectorization, and basis for recording.

27. The national accounts follow the definitions and concepts of ESA 95. The scope of the national accounts includes, in addition to the range of recommended annual and quarterly national accounts tables, a detailed set of regional and simplified provincial accounts, as well as agricultural accounts. However, Italy does not publish input-output tables on a regular basis; the last such table dates back to 1992. The classification/sectorization and basis for recording used are in accordance with international standards.

28. The concepts and definitions and the basis for recording of the consumer price index follow the standards set by the ESA 95 and EU regulations. The scope of the consumer price index covers the expenditures of all resident households. Expenditures follow the COICOP classification. The market basket includes a representative list of 930 goods and services and weights are derived from the 2000 National Accounts Estimates updated through December 2001.

29. The producer price index is based on 1993 SNAconcepts and definitions for recording and valuation of product prices and weights. Its scope covers all resident market enterprises. As accepted by EU regulation, the producer price index differs from the 1993 SNA in excluding changes in inventories, own-account production of goods for own final consumption, illegal sales to willing buyers, and services. The classification of establishments and products is based on a combination of NACE, Rev. 1, the Classification of Products by Activity (CPA), and PRODCOM. Istat also uses its own classification of goods by end use, but provides Eurostat indices according to the Main Industrial Groupings classification. The basis for recording weights and prices is billed sales prices for own products sold in the domestic market, excluding VAT and other specific taxes.

30. For government finance statistics, the concepts and definitions, and scope, are consistent with those of the general government sector defined in ESA 95. However, they are not produced in the context of a comprehensive and fully integrated fiscal analysis framework. Rather, different components of the framework are produced in three different agencies. The classifications used are only broadly linkable to the GFSM 2001. Istat data conform to the national accounts standard. MEF data are produced according to national public accounting standards and classifications. The basis for recording is both cash and accrual, with the accrual measures estimated using internationally accepted techniques. Data on financing and debt are valued and classified in accordance with international standards.

31. The analytical framework for monetary statistics reflects concepts and definitions that are in broad conformity with guidelines in the Monetary and Financial Statistics Manual (MFSM). The scope is consistent with the MFSM recommendations. The classification of instruments and the sectorization of institutional units are based on ESA 95 and are consistent with the MFSM guidelines, except for the classification of nonmarketable securities, special advances to banks, and several financial derivative instruments. MFI assets and liabilities are not distinguished according to whether they are held/incurred by the ECB, national central banks, or the MFI. The basis for recording flows and stocks is broadly consistent with internationally accepted standards. In line with MFSM guidelines, the general valuation principle is based on market prices or market-price equivalents; exceptions are made as regards the recording of securities held to maturity, debt securities issued, and financial derivatives. In conformity with the MFSM guidelines, financial transactions are recorded gross and on an accrual basis.

32. The balance of payments statistics are compiled in line with the concepts and definitions in BPM5. The scope is in accord with the standards, except for the treatment of Italian workers as residents, even when they spend more than one year abroad. This treatment results in a large part of worker’s remittances being recorded as compensation of employees rather than as transfers. In a few cases, the classification of investment income subitems departs from the standards. In particular, some income flows between affiliates are not recorded as direct investment income. Regarding the basis for recording, a security-by-security database supports the effective implementation of the accrual basis.

Accuracy and reliability

Accuracy and reliability identifies features that contribute to the goal that data portray reality. Elements refer to identified features of the source data, statistical techniques, and supporting assessments and validation.

33. For national accounts, a major improvement of the source data, in particular the sample surveys directed at the large number of very small enterprises, came as a result of the introduction of Istat’s new business register in 1996. However, the response rates to major enterprise surveys are disappointing. Short-term sources on changes in inventories are lacking. The quarterly accounts have benefited from significant improvements in the timeliness at which many short-term indices become available. On the basis of various sources on labor demand and supply, the statistical techniques used to compile the national accounts make very large upward adjustments for selected activities with respect to the nonobserved economy. Intermediate consumption estimates are compiled at the same level of detail as output, that is, between the two- and three-digit levels of NACE, Rev. 1. It would be possible to provide more detail if cost structure surveys were conducted more frequently. Presently, the annual accounts are balanced at current prices only; it is preferable to do this operation simultaneously at current and constant prices. The benchmark year for the accounts (1992) is outdated. The detail at which the quarterly national accounts are compiled is satisfactory and good statistical techniques are used. Assessment and validation as well as revision studies guide statistical improvements.

34. The weights and prices source data for the consumer price index are obtained from comprehensive surveys. Beginning in 1997, the HBS became a continuous survey based on a two-stage stratified random sample; the current basket and weights are based on National Accounts data for the year 2000, updated for price changes through December 2001. The monthly price survey is conducted in 76 municipalities between the 16th of the preceding month and the 15th of the reference month. About 300,000 price quotations are obtained each month, which is unusually large compared to other EU countries of similar size. In addition, the Istat staff are concerned about a possible bias in the outlet samples selected by various municipalities; traditional stores, particularly specialized stores, appear to be over-represented compared to the emerging new types of large supermarkets and stores. The statistical techniques used in calculating the index are sound. The assessment and validation of the outlet and variety samples used could be improved. Revision studies are thorough.

35. The producer price index products and weights are updated on a five-year cycle. Preparations are now under way for a revision of the index on the base 2000=100, which will provide an opportunity to improve on the techniques used. The source data for the prices and weights are obtained from comprehensive data collection programs. About 12,000 price quotations are collected each month. However, the accuracy of the weights is in doubt because of the low response rate for the PRODCOM and enterprise surveys of 1993-94 that provided the data for the 1995 weights. The authorities have taken steps that will lead to new and more reliable industry estimates becoming available in June 2002. The statistical techniques do not adequately capture structural change. The producer price index would be improved by the use of annual chain linking. The assessment and validation of weight data could be improved by using national accounts data. Revision studies are thorough.

36. Source data for government finance statistics are available from the public accounting records of the MEF, supplemented by survey-based data collected by Istat, and financial data collected by the BI. Detailed and timely subannual cash data are available from the MEF and the BI, while accrual data are available from Istat annually. Borrowing by local governments to finance capital spending is not being fully reported to the MEF and there is evidence of a build up of arrears at the local government level. Financing and debt data compiled by the BI are available through the bank reporting system. The capacity for assessment and validation of the data that arises from the independent compilation of both nonfinancial and financial data is one of the strengths of the Italian system. Revision studies are not routinely done, but are undertaken when major changes are made.

37. The source data for monetary statistics are collected under EU Regulations and in accordance with the new ECB framework. The source data are derived from comprehensive accounting records of the BI and other MFIs, and they are based on complete coverage of depository corporations. The data capture the full range of financial instruments and economic sectors, and contain sufficient details to enable the classification of all financial instruments and economic sectors. Statistical techniques are sound. Electronic reporting and data processing, automated validation procedures, and documentation of data compilation practices contribute to the production of accurate and timely monetary statistics. Regular assessments and validations of source and intermediate data as well as statistical outputs contribute to sound monetary statistics. Balance sheets of other MFIs reported in the BI’s Supplement to the Statistical Bulletins are provisional for the latest month and regularly revised. Revision studies are not carried out routinely to investigate the sources of errors.

38. For balance of payments, source data are cross-border settlements and positions supplemented by surveys. As is often the case with bank reporting systems, transactions through domestic banks are well covered, but transactions through nonresident banks, in particular by households and small and medium enterprises, are not as well captured. Statistical techniques are sound. Assessments of the persistent bias in the initial monthly and quarterly estimates of trade in goods as compared to the final estimates do not appear to have led to improvements. Revision studies are routinely conducted.

Serviceability

Serviceability focuses on practical aspects of how well a dataset meet users’ needs. Elements refer to the extent to which data are relevant, are produced and disseminated in a timely fashion with appropriate periodicity, are consistent internally and with other datasets, and follow a predictable revisions policy.

39. In the last few years, Istat has undertaken major efforts to assess the relevance and ensure that the statistical series, including the national accounts, address issues of concern to users. The timeliness with which the annual accounts are published is good and the provisional estimates of the quarterly accounts meets the SDDS. Consistent time series according to ESA 95 are available from 1970 onward (with reduced detail for 1970-1991). The national accounts statistics are reconcilable with the balance of payments and with MEF data on government operations. Istat’s publications do not always identify preliminary data alerting users that the initially published data are subject to revisions.

40. The consumer price index and producer price index appear to meet users’ needs. Their relevance and consistency are periodically monitored by Eurostat and the Commission for Guaranteeing Statistical Information in connection with the annual review of the national statistical program. The staff involved also participates in meetings of various groups where users are represented. The timeliness and periodicity is within SDDS requirements. The revisions policy and practice for both indices are made known to users.

41. The relevance of government finance statistics could be improved by seeking regular feedback from users and better explaining the various statistics that are published. With respect to timeliness and periodicity, monthly data on the derivation of the central government’s borrowing requirement are available only after 45 days, while quarterly data are available for a broad coverage of government (general government and its subsectors) in a timely fashion. Monthly data on financing are available after five weeks for central government and nine weeks for general government. Annual data on the derivation of general government net lending (accrual basis) are available after two months. Despite consistency checks being applied to each data set, a large discrepancy between derivation and financing data for the cash borrowing requirement emerged in 2000; in the same year reconciliation items between derivation data for borrowing requirements (cash) derivation data for net borrowing (accrual) were also large compared to past experience; the size of these reconciliation items grew further in 2001. A high level Commission (chaired by the President of Istat) is investigating this problem. Revisions follow a regular schedule, but preliminary and revised data are not always clearly identified.

42. The relevance and practical utility of existing statistics in meeting the needs of the main users of monetary statistics (the ECB and BI’s Research and Banking Supervision Departments) are regularly reviewed. An established process of consultation takes place regularly with the ECB and periodically with policy departments, the banking community, and academia. Timeliness and periodicity are consistent with the SDDS. Monthly data on the BI are disseminated within one week, and monthly data on the other MFIs one month after the reference period. Quality control procedures help ensure the internal consistency of the data as well as their consistency over time. There is a discrepancy between derivation data for the cash borrowing requirement computed by MEF and the corresponding financing data (which include banking data) computed by BI. The revision policy and practice follow a well-established schedule that is in accordance with ECB’s principles and guidelines. Users of monetary statistics are informed that the initially published data are preliminary and subject to revision. Revisions mainly result from the routine replacement of preliminary data by final validated data. Significant revisions are explained in the methodological appendices of the Supplements to the Statistical Bulletin.

43. The relevance of balance of payment statistics is addressed in many fora involving national and European levels of institutional users. In response to user need, detailed breakdowns are provided to allow for in-depth analysis of regions within Italy. Surveys are developed in close consultation with the business community. However, an established framework for collecting users’ views is not in place. Timeliness and periodicity exceed SDDS specifications. Consistent time series are available from 1988 onwards. Revisions are monitored and assessed on an ongoing basis. Unless revisions result from major methodological changes, the studies are not made available to the public. Moreover, national publications do not describe the revision policy.

Accessibility

Accessibility deals with the availability of information to users. Elements refer to the extent to which data and metadata are clear and easily available and to which assistance to the user is adequate to help them find and use the data.

44. The national accounts are readily accessible, the publications present the statistics in a clear manner, and charts and tables are disseminated with the data to facilitate analysis. Several users consider the delay of about one hour at which press releases are published on the Internet too long. Many publications provide metadata, including glossaries. Much statistical information, including extensive detail, is published on the Istat website. Istat’s means of dissemination and assistance to users are excellent.

45. Regarding data accessibility, the consumer price index and producer price index are released on a pre-announced schedule and are made available to all users at the same time. The monthly releases provide sufficient detail on the indices. Metadata are accessible on the Istat website and in the publication series Note Rapide. Assistance to users is available for both indicators; contact persons are identified in the relevant publications.

46. Data accessibility for government finance statistics is very good in most respects and data are usually published by each agency in conformity with their advance release calendars. Metadata are available from Istat in the form of extensive documentation on the general government sector of the national accounts. Publications prepared by the BI routinely include summary information of the concepts, sources and methods used. Very little metadata is provided by the MEF in its publications, although extensive commentary on developments is included. Assistance to users is provided through catalogues and on-line list of documents, but contact persons are not always identified.

47. Data accessibility for monetary statistics is easily achieved through BI’s Internet website and regular publications. An advance release calendar specifying precise dates is published. Prior to their release, the aggregated statistical balance sheets of MFIs are communicated to the ECB. No national officials outside the BI have access to the data before they are released to the public. The data are released simultaneously to all other interested parties. Metadata accessibility is assured through the BI’s statistical publications, the ECB and BI websites, and the DSBB. Assistance to users is prompt and knowledgeable. However, statistical releases do not identify conversant persons who may be contacted with queries. A catalogue of publications, documents, and other services, which is free of charge, is available.

48. As to data accessibility, balance of payments statistics are disseminated in a timely manner, both in paper and online. Each monthly release provides a calendar for the next four months. Concerning metadata accessibility, updated and comprehensive documentation is not available. As to assistance to users, a catalogue of publications, documents, and other services, which is free of charge, is available. However, no knowledgeable contact point to address inquiries is identified, either in publications or online.

IV. Staff’s Recommendations

49. Based on the results of the data quality assessment, discussions with the Italian authorities in the statistics-compiling agencies, and responses from data users, the following measures are proposed to increase further Italy’s adherence to international statistical standards and to enhance the analytical usefulness of Italy’s macroeconomic statistics. In the IMF staffs view, the high priority recommendations regarding government finance statistics should be addressed with particular urgency.

Cross-cutting Recommendations3

  • Promote understanding of revisions by providing statements about the schedule of revisions and other aspects of revision policy. Clearly flag data that are provisional.

  • Carry out studies and analyses of revisions routinely to shed light on how statistical processes can be improved. Publish revision studies and analyses to inform data users about accuracy and reliability.

  • Regularize contacts with users other than those represented in official committees and tasks forces at the national and European levels to learn about their data needs.

  • Identify knowledgeable persons in, e.g., press releases and publications, who can answer inquiries about the data.

  • Update the SDDS metadata posted on the DSBB and submit summary methodology statements for the remaining data categories.

National Accounts

High priority

  • Increase the number of permanent staff in the national accounts directorate in view of the strongly expanded compilation program.

  • Investigate and implement ways to improve the response rates of Istat’s mandatory enterprise surveys.

  • Develop short-term statistics on changes in inventories.

Other key recommendations

  • Increase the detail of goods and services in the analysis of intermediate consumption. This will require the availability of recent information on cost structures, for instance from regular triennial surveys.

  • Balance the accounts simultaneously at current and constant prices.

Consumer Price Index

High priority

  • Coordinate efforts to redesign the sample of outlets, items, and varieties used by municipalities in order to reduce sample bias and the very large number of price quotations collected each month. These efforts become even more urgent as Istat plans to increase the number of municipalities covered.

  • Move the whole price collection period into the reference period and aim at a consumer price index release date around the 15th of the following month.

  • Extend the use of handheld computers in data collection.

Other key recommendations

  • Provide resources for the acquisition of more efficient equipment for the understaffed statistical offices of various municipalities.

Producer Price Index

High priority

  • Investigate and implement ways to improve the response rates of Istat’s mandatory enterprise surveys.

  • Finalize the revision of the sample, questionnaires, and data collection procedures for the PRODCOM and enterprise surveys. As a result of the revision, it should be possible to improve the accuracy and timeliness of the weight data. Meanwhile, use national accounts data as far as possible to determine the weights for activity groups (at the level of products, sufficient detail is not available).

Other key recommendations

  • Consider introducing in the ongoing producer price index revision the use of the chain version of the Laspeyres formula with annual links in order to capture the rapid structural changes in industry.

Government Finance Statistics

High priority

  • Clearly assign to one body the responsibility and authority for compiling and disseminating a comprehensive, integrated set of government finance statistics. In order to retain the benefits of validating existing datasets against each other, maintain each agencies’ responsibilities for the separate components.

  • Expedite the work of the high-level Commission investigating the discrepancy between distinct measures of government borrowing and financing.

  • Regularly disseminate government finance statistics in a presentation that completely integrates accrual data on revenue, expenditure, and financing transactions. Also, disseminate an equivalent presentation of cash-based data and a reconciliation between the two presentations.

Other key recommendations

  • Strengthen arrangements for collecting timely and comprehensive data from local government units, taking into account the additional needs arising from devolution.

  • Disseminate information on the main concepts, sources, and methods used in compiling government finance statistics.

  • Implement the analytic framework and classifications of the GFSM 2001 and develop a “migration” path for the full implementation of the system.

Monetary Statistics

  • Where appropriate, distinguish in the BI’s statistical publications data on MFI assets and liabilities according to whether they are held/incurred by the ECB, national central bank(s), or other MFIs.

  • Adopt the guidelines of the MFSM on the (i) instrument classification (e.g., classification of nonmarketable securities and financial derivatives) and (ii) valuation of financial assets and liabilities (e.g., securities held to maturity, debt securities issued, and financial derivatives).

  • Reclassify special advances granted by the BI to banks under the Treasury Ministry Decree of 1974. These advances are currently included in “remaining assets,” and should be classified in “Loans to euro area residents—MFIs,” in Table 8 of Supplements to the Statistical Bulletin—Monetary and Credit Aggregates of the Euro Area: the Italian Components (“Italian component of the aggregated balance sheet of the Eurosystem”).

Balance of Payments Statistics

High priority

  • Improve the coverage of cross-border financial transactions settled through nonresident banks by accessing data available in international databases, such as from the BIS and the CPIS.

  • Investigate the bias in the provisional monthly (and quarterly) estimates of goods trade and, through a coordinated effort of Istat and UIC, find ways to improve the estimates.

  • Prepare an updated document describing the current methodology, including the new surveys on transportation and tourism, and the roles of the BI and UIC in compiling and analyzing the balance of payments.

Other key recommendations

  • Reclassify the items that are not in line with the BPM5: (i) record income from loans between affiliated enterprises under direct investment income, rather than as other investment income as at present; (ii) record the remittances of workers who stay abroad more than one year as transfers, rather than as compensation of employees; and (iii) identify the interest component of the settlement of trade credits and record it under other investment income.

The mission team was headed by Mrs. Carol S. Carson and included Messrs. Paul Cotterell, Cornells Gorter, Gary Jones, Rainer Koehler, Samuele Rosa (all STA), Mr. John Sundgren (expert), and Ms. Elia Cadena (STA—Administrative Assistant).

See the Generic Framework in Appendix II of the accompanying Detailed Assessments volume to this report.

These recommendations apply to two or more of the statistics-producing agencies.

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