Country experience: Italy
5.33. In the period 2007-2011, the Bank of Italy modernized its BOP system. The SBR developed by the Bank plays a central role in the new system. It is used particularly to facilitate direct reporting via surveys covering different parts of the BOP and the index of industrial production. Although the use of a single national business register across all domains of economic statistics (not just BOP) would be ideal, the Bank had to create its own SBR because, despite close cooperation in statistics between the national statistical institute and the Bank, legislative constraints prevent the Bank from accessing the institute’s business register.
5.34. The SBR of the Bank of Italy contains information for the entire corporate sector (about 1.5 million units), with the exception of small, sole-proprietor firms. The coverage of the SBR, in terms of turnover, is nearly 90 per cent, and even higher for cross-border operations. Given the tight deadline for the production of BOP data, timeliness is a particularly critical factor for the Bank’s SBR. The register is therefore updated daily with online data transmissions. This allows for the timely accounting of changes in the population of firms, which in some cases may significantly affect the external sector statistics, especially FDI. An SBR that is always up to date also contributes to the smooth running of back-office activities, such as the help desk, formal communications to enterprises and sanction procedures.
5.35. Enterprises have engaged in cross-border transactions are flagged in the SBR on the basis of information from quarterly bank reports on firms that have carried out cross-border settlements. Such an integration of sources significantly improves the efficiency of the sample selection. The Bank of Italy’s SBR is built by aggregating various source data (mostly received from external data providers) and converting them into normalized tables. The latter are integrated to form a relational database through a “bridge table” that contains all the identification keys used by the various data providers. The relational database consists of three tables: a structural data table, which contains information, such as a firm’s name and address; a quantitative data table, with balance sheet data and a flag for the presence of cross-border payments; and an FDI table, concerning enterprise ownership features.
5.36. The final population list used for direct reporting purposes is extracted from the SBR according to well-defined criteria. The complete population list is usually too large to be used efficiently in a survey strategy. Therefore, a threshold is applied, according to which only firms with total assets or turnover greater than €1 million are included in the subpopulation. In the direct reporting system of Italy, the SBR not only allows for the identification of the target population, it also contributes auxiliary information and uses a cut-off strategy to reduce the population in order to stratify it in homogeneous clusters and to derive model-based estimators directly in the estimation process.
 At the time of writing of the present Guide, the two institutions are working together to overcome the mentioned legal obstacles.
 In terms of number of enterprises, the coverage of the Bank of Italy business register is about 33 per cent. The apparently low percentage is explained by the fact that the numerous “individual firms” are excluded. In other words, the true population frame of the register is actually the corporate sector, for which the coverage is complete (100 per cent). In any case, the cross-border transactions of individual firms are covered through the tax authority’s data; their cross-border transactions represent about 5 per cent of the total in the “other services” aggregate.