Methodology

Statistics on the balance of payments and international investment position are compiled in accordance with the European and international standards described in the International Monetary Fund’s Balance of Payments and International Investment Position Manual (6th Edition).

The foreign direct investment statistics conform to the standards set out in the OECD Benchmark Definition of Foreign Direct Investment (4th Edition).

This section gives a brief description of how the National Bank of Belgium implements these provisions.

Balance of payments

The National Bank of Belgium (NBB) started implementing a new data collection system in 2006. It is no longer a settlement-based international transaction reporting system (ITRS). Rather, the new system is based on a combination of different surveys conducted by the NBB covering trade in services, foreign direct investment (FDI), other investment and portfolio investment. The data provided by these surveys are supplemented by foreign trade in goods statistics and data from a variety of external sources.

Since the beginning of 2007, the External Statistics Unit produces the Belgian balance of payments (BOP) completely with the new system. The collection system in use since January 2007 to report statistical data for the full balance of payments, is of a matrix type, based on a combination of different surveys on the financial and non-financial sectors and on external sources.

(a) Goods: the data collection system is based on the foreign trade in goods data collection.

These data are completed with some ad hoc surveys on specific transactions in goods organised in the frame of the balance of payments system on the basis of a cut-off approach or a sampling approach depending on the topic covered.

(b) Services: for this b.o.p. component, the External Statistics Unit organises different surveys. The system is a mixture of cut-off and sampling techniques for the non-financial sector.

The system is made up of two main subsystems:

(i) a full survey of the major enterprises (monthly); and

(ii) a set of specific surveys for the other enterprises (monthly and/or quarterly).

For the financial sector, different surveys are defined, each covering a specific subsector (e.g. monetary financial institutions (MFI's), insurance companies, collective investment institutions, etc.), and are mostly addressed to the full population of these sub-sectors.

(c) Travel: the NBB uses the results of two surveys organised by the National Statistic Institute (NSI) regarding stays in Belgium and the expenditure of Belgian tourists abroad.

These data are combined with data from two specific surveys organised by the NBB covering credit/payment card companies and tour operators.

(d) Transfers: administrative sources are used; these need to be supplemented with data from ad hoc external sources and estimates.

(e) Investment income and financial account:

The collection system is sub-divided according to:

  • the domain covered (functional classification); and
  • the group of respondents concerned (mostly sub-sectors).

As a result, the surveys are broken down into three main categories:

  • foreign direct investment;
  • other investment (including derivatives); and
  • portfolio investment and securities.

The first two categories of surveys use cutoff techniques and cover both flows (gross transactions) and positions in financial assets and liabilities broken down by instrument, currency and country. The related income is also covered by the respective surveys (dividends declared, dividends paid and received, interest accrued, interest paid and received, etc.), as well as profit and loss accounts.

The third category of survey gathers data related to securities. It covers the holdings, issues and short positions of residents, as well as the custodian activities of residents. The data only concern positions and are reported on a security-by-security basis with ISIN codes (or some other agreed identification codes).

The External Statistics Unit derives the flows from the reported positions, as well as the valuation changes due to fluctuations in prices and exchange rates.

Concerning the MFI sector, the data related to other investment and direct investment are provided by the data collection system defined for supervision and money and banking statistics, extended for the needs of BOP. The External Statistics Unit addresses only a yearly detailed survey directly to the MFI's for foreign direct investment, while the survey on securities is organised monthly by this Unit on its own behalf and on behalf of the supervisory authorities.

The frequency of the different surveys may vary according to the activities covered or the group of enterprises concerned, or both, and, as a result, may be monthly, quarterly or yearly.

(f) Trade credits: a monthly survey is addressed to a sample of enterprises reporting transactions in goods.

(g) Other sources: besides organising its own surveys, the NBB is authorised to require all necessary information from any public agency if the information available fulfils its needs and the public agency is obliged to deliver the data. The NBB is also entitled to agree upon a similar process with any representative association so that the NBB has not to implement a data collection procedure for data available elsewhere, preventing in that way the enterprises to report the same data twice. Administrative sources are also used, e.g. the Social Security Agency provides data on labour income.

For all surveys, the most significant enterprises have to report flows or positions on a monthly basis.

Extrapolation methods are used for the sampled populations and non-response techniques are applied when necessary.

Direct investment

Foreign direct investments surveys are used to comply with several obligations, i.e. those of the balance of payments, international investment position, foreign affiliates trade in services (FATS) and direct investments statistics (FDI).

Data are collected using a set of integrated surveys. The main survey deals with direct investment entities. Based on the identification of individual entities and on the existing percentage of ownership between these entities, the direct investment entities are automatically selected following a predefined algorithm. The selected entities are all non-resident subsidiaries, associates and branches owned directly or indirectly by the reporting enterprise, as well as the direct and indirect non-resident shareholders. The non-resident companies related to the respondent not having an equity participation or having an equity participation of less than 10% are also selected.

Additional data, e.g. sector of activity, quoted or unquoted, are also gathered in the main survey. This information is used to calculate equity capital at book value for quoted enterprises.

The other direct investment surveys are along the same lines as the main survey:

  • FDI flow survey: for equity capital, other capital and direct investment income;
  • FDI position survey: for equity capital and other capital;
  • FDI profit and loss survey: for reinvested earnings; and
  • FATS survey.

The selected resident entities are obliged to report the data. The geographical breakdown is based on the residency of the individual direct investment entities or direct investors identified abroad.

The frequency of surveys on investment relationships and on FDI flows is monthly or yearly. The survey on positions is quarterly or yearly. The profit and loss and FATS surveys are yearly.

The data collection system does not record equity capital on a security-by-security basis. Concerning this component, both cash and noncash transactions are recorded.

The other instruments covered by the surveys are:

  • loans (very short-term, short-term, long-term);
  • deposits (very short-term, short-term, long-term);
  • factoring;
  • inter-company bank accounts;
  • interest (accrued, paid, received);
  • dividends (allocated, paid, received);
  • short and long-term debt instruments; and
  • trade credits.

The instruments required are also sector dependent.

Each survey item is precisely formulated and defined as a claim or liability (credit/debit).

The institutional sector breakdown and a detailed industry breakdown for both resident and non-resident enterprises are possible using the information collected.

All data have to be reported in the original currency so that the exchange rate variation and the stock variation can be calculated separately. When reported, real estate data are broken down by currency and country and not by direct investment entity.

The following groups of enterprises are covered exhaustively by the direct investment surveys: credit institutions, insurance companies and investment firms. Concerning the non-financial sector, the reporting companies are selected on a cut-off basis.