B.4. Creation and maintenance of a statistical business register
5.16. The circumstances and factors within which an SBR is built can clearly be vastly different across countries. The legal frameworks for acquiring data, as well as the access to human, financial and technical resources, will ultimately determine how countries can proceed. There are, however, some key recurring themes, including the following:
(a) The requirements for building effective partnerships with data suppliers, funding providers and users of the SBR are, first, making sure that the critical role of the SBR in delivering a coherent and reliable national economic statistics programme is well recognized, and, second, putting in place robust governance structures and partner engagement mechanisms;
(b) It is necessary to manage the implementation, operation and focus of the SBR in a manner that enables it to achieve its mission-critical purpose of identifying the population of businesses of a country so that they can be surveyed to acquire useful economic data. There are other secondary, yet highly desirable, roles that an SBR can fulfil, such as acting as a data collection management and tracking tool. The original design and implementation plan should allow for adding in such components, but only once the SBR has fully matured in its role as a high-quality statistical frame;
(c) Generally, the approach should be to maintain simplicity to the extent possible. Conceptual and technical complexities should be added only when they serve a practical purpose, and should never prevent the SBR from meeting its larger goals.
5.17. Although the primary purpose of an SBR is to provide a central frame for economic surveys across statistical programmes, the longer-term vision should allow for the addition of features and components that will further enhance the value of an SBR, including the following examples:
(a) An SBR can serve as a source of register-based statistics. This requires the seamless integration of administrative data, as well as adequate quality assurance, raw data treatment and programming resources;
(b) A module to track respondents and response burden can be added. Such a module requires human information technology resources to develop and maintain servers and databases. The module may or may not be efficient or necessary when using an SBR in the early stages, since population coverage would be limited and resources would be directed towards the economic entities with the largest impact;
(c) A receptacle for tracking survey collection outcomes and response rates and a survey feedback mechanism can be established to facilitate analysis of the survey’s efficiency and results, as well as to update the SBR on a more regular basis.
5.18. Information technology professionals who design the data structures and larger system will benefit, in particular, from the clear definition of the longer-term vision, facilitating the addition of such modules as the SBR evolves. To reiterate, the SBR must first and foremost be a solidly reliable listing of businesses from which statistical surveys can accurately measure the economic trends of a country. Creating it will be a challenging task, as will keeping it up to date once it is in use. The challenges entailed in the creation and ongoing maintenance of the SBR will be greatly facilitated by adhering to the following principles:
(a) Do not overextend resources in the early stages by trying to cover all types of businesses. While a highly developed SBR may cover a vast swathe of the economic population, a new SBR must focus on covering the population that is both most important and can be most reliably captured and reflected. The need to maximize limited human and technological resources, and to use available funding efficiently, should limit the scope of the initial SBR population. Reflecting the informal economy, which is highly diversified and for which no administrative data exist, cannot be a focus of an SBR development project. Typically, for the macroeconomic indicators that are the driving objective for the statistical programmes to be served, acceptable margins of statistical error can be obtained by excluding the numerous businesses that are at the smallest end of the size spectrum. Including such “micro” businesses would add large volumes of records to be maintained, while adding only very small increments to the statistical aggregates (such as the main components of the gross domestic product (GDP) or BOP) being produced. This is not to say that having such businesses would not be useful, as they can inform important policy analysis pertaining to business formation strategies, small-business financing and other microeconomic issues. Again, the addition of the smallest businesses is a desirable feature that is worth adding, but only once the core objective of adequately supporting the key indicators produced by the national accounts and balance of payments has been met;
(b) Plan for a system that provides both live and snapshot versions of the register. It will likely be necessary to have two versions of the SBR: (1) a live version that allows the instant recording of record updates entailed by ongoing frame maintenance activities and (2) a snapshot version, produced from the live version on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, that can be used to create particular survey frames. The snapshot version also provides a basis for period-to-period comparisons of frame quality.