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:
! Istat’s website (http://www.Istat.it/)
! BI’s website (http://bancaditalia.it/)
! UIC’s website (http://www.uic.it)
! MEF’s website (http://www.tesoro.it/)
! Stock Exchange’s website (http://www.borsaitalia.it/)
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.
|SDDS Data Category||Coverage (meets SDDS requirement)||Periodicity||Timeliness||Comments|
|National accounts||Yes||Q||Q||1Q||1Q||Timeliness is approximately 70 days in 2002, improved from 80 days in 2001.|
|Production index/indices||Yes||M||M||6W (M encouraged)||45 days||Flexibility option utilized for timeliness of the data.|
|Employment||Yes||Q||Q||1Q||2M||Timeliness exceeds SDDS requirements.|
|Unemployment||Yes||Q||Q||1Q||2M||Timeliness exceeds SDDS requirements.|
|Wages/earnings||Yes||Q||M||1Q||1M||Periodicity and timeliness exceed SDDS requirements.|
|Consumer price index||Yes||M||M||1M||Within 2 weeks||Timeliness exceeds SDDS requirements.|
|Producer price index||Yes||M||M||1M||1M|
|General government operations||Yes||A||A||2Q||2Q|
|Central government operations||Yes||M||M||1M||45 days||Flexibility option utilized for timeliness of the data.|
|Central government debt||Yes||Q||Q||1Q||1Q|
|Analytical accounts of the banking sector||Yes||M||M||1M||1M|
|Analytical accounts of the central bank||Yes||M(W recommended)||M||2W (W encouraged||1W||Timeliness exceeds SDDS requirements.|
|Interest rates||D||D||1||D||Both daily and monthly data are disseminated.|
|Balance of payments||Yes||Q||M||Q||6W||Periodicity and timeliness exceed SDDS requirements.|
|International reserves||Yes||M(W recommended)||M||1W||1W|
|Merchandise trade||Yes||M||M||8W (4-6W encouraged)||8W||Extra EU trade: 1M Intra EU trade: 8W|
|International investment position||Yes||A(Q recommended)||Semi-annual||2Q(Q encouraged)||130 days||Periodicity and timeliness exceed SDDS requirements.|
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).
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).
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).
|Element||National 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 environment||O||O||O||LNO||O||O||See paragraph 23|
|0.2 Resources||LO||LO||O||O||O||O||See paragraph 19|
|0.3 Quality awareness||O||O||O||O||O||O|
|1.3 Ethical standards||O||O||O||O||O||O|
|2. Methodological Soundness|
|2.1 Concepts and definitions||O||O||O||LO||O||O||See paragraph 30|
|2.2 Scope||O||O||O||O||O||LO||See paragraph 32|
|2.3 Classification/sectorization||O||O||O||LO||LO||LO||See paragraphs 30, 31, 32|
|2.4 Basis for recording||O||O||O||O||LO||O||See paragraph 31|
|3. Accuracy and Reliability|
|3.1 Source data||LO||LO||LO||LO||O||LO||See paragraphs 33, 34, 35, 36, 38|
|3.2 Statistical techniques||LO||O||LO||O||O||O||See paragraphs 33, 35|
|3.3 Assessment and validations of source||O||LO||O||O||O||LO||See paragraphs 34, 38|
|3.4 Assessment and validation of||O||O||O||O||O||O|
|3.5 Revision studies||O||O||O||LO||LO||O||See paragraphs 36, 37|
|4.1 Relevance||O||O||O||LO||O||LO||See paragraphs 41, 43|
|4.2 Timeliness and periodicity||O||O||O||LO||O||O||See paragraph 41|
|4.3 Consistency||O||O||O||LNO||LO||O||See paragraphs 41, 42|
|4.4 Revision policy and practice||LO||O||O||LO||O||LO||See paragraphs 39, 41, 43|
|5.1 Data accessibility||O||O||O||O||O||O|
|5.2 Metadata accessibility||O||O||O||LO||O||LO||See paragraphs 46, 48|
|5.3 Assistance to users||O||O||O||LO||LO||LO||See 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
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
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
22. The MEF has a
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 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
25. Both the BI and UIC evidence
26. MEF staff evidence
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
29. The producer price index is based on 1993 SNA
30. For government finance statistics, the
31. The analytical framework for monetary statistics reflects
32. The balance of payments statistics are compiled in line with the
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
34. The weights and prices
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
38. For balance of payments,
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
40. The consumer price index and producer price index appear to meet users’ needs. Their
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
48. As to
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.