World Economics

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Measuring Greek Debt: The Difference between Market and Credit Perspectives
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Colin Ellis, World Economics, September 2018
It is likely to be several decades before data on government assets, off-balance sheet and contingent liabilities are consistently available across a wide range of countries. In the absence of data, GDP is a readily available scaling factor, but official sector agencies such as the IMF and private sector analysts recognise the insufficiency of debt–GDP ratios. Some commentators claim that, using international standards, Greek government debt could be only around 75% of GDP, compared with official figures of around 180%. Fundamentally, such discrepancies reflects debt valuation variations related to the difference between market risk and credit risk.
How Accurate Are the National Balance Sheets for China?
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James L. Chan, World Economics, September 2017
The accuracy of data on China’s national balance sheets has attracted much less attention than that of the Gross Domestic Product reports. China’s Bureau of National Statistics has not released official national balance sheets, but two Chinese research teams have produced estimates for recent years. A detailed analysis of these reports by the author reveals varying degrees of discrepancies for the whole Chinese economy and its components, and for different types of assets and liabilities. The System of National Accounts was claimed by researchers as a common framework, but non-standard classifications and disclosures of assets and liabilities from diverse data sources mean that many issues must be resolved before China’s wealth can be measured accurately.
Are Estimates of the Economic Contribution of Financial Services Reliable
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, March 2017
The methods used to estimate the contribution of financial services to national income are seriously flawed. Banking sector output in the UK was estimated to have increased in 2008 while the financial services sector was collapsing. The relative contribution of service activities in GDP is not easy to measure, but there are many problems in measuring financial services in general and the output of banks in particular. National income accounting standards, used to estimate the output of financial intermediation companies such as banks, rely on flawed indirect measurements based on interest rate spreads. Furthermore, many services are provided at no charge so price indexes cannot be meaningfully created. The main method used, Financial Intermediation Services Indirectly Measured (FISIM), is arbitrary and fails to measure the quality of banking assets and risk. Over the period 2003–7, one study found that aggregate risk-adjusted output would have been only 60% of officially estimated output across the Euro area.
De-Risking Impact Investing
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Neil Gregory, World Economics, June 2016
Despite great investor interest in impact investing, actual investment flows have remained modest. This is largely due to insufficient investment opportunities which offer a financially sustainable risk-return balance. A focus on de-risking impact investments can enable investors to find more assets which offer commercial returns on a risk-adjusted basis, without sacrificing impact. By cutting off the lower tail of the risk distribution, impact investments can offer comparable returns to other investments, as has been the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC’s) experience. Successful impact investing involves selecting assets and structuring investments differently to realize their potential to deliver both financial and social returns. We segment the supply and demand of impact investing funds, and identify the causes of elevated risks in prevalent approaches to impact investing. Drawing on IFC’s investment experience, we identify seven ways to reduce these risks. With these approaches, we provide evidence that investment opportunities can be generated that meet the requirements of investors seeking both commercial financial returns and social impact without trading one off for the other.
Risk Exposures in International and Sectoral Balance Sheet Data
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Philip R. Lane, World Economics, December 2015
This paper outlines the opportunities and pitfalls for risk analysts in interpreting the information embedded in international and sectoral balance sheets. It places an emphasis on the different risks posed by net financial stock imbalances and the cross-holding of large stocks of gross financial assets and gross financial liabilities. It argues that it is important to supplement sectoral-level data with more disaggregated levels of data, in view of the importance of intra-sectoral financial linkages and the heterogeneity in portfolios and funding mechanisms within sectors. Finally, the growing internationalisation of financial balance sheets means that it is important to take a unified approach to the joint analysis of international and sectoral balance sheets.
Measuring Natural Capital
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Dariana Tani, World Economics, December 2014
The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance of establishing a system of natural capital accounting. Natural capital is integral to the economy and yet it is routinely taken for granted because the goods and services it provides are generally freely available. The consequence is that without prices, these resources are not being allocated efficiently within the economy and opportunities for significant gains in well-being and the possibility of long-term future growth are being lost. Recent works by the World Bank and the Inclusive Wealth Report have provided a wealth accounting framework, which gives more emphasis to environmental assets; however, due to data and methodological limitations, they inevitably failed to capture all assets of natural capital as defined by the Natural Capital Committee’s (NCC) State of Natural Capital Report.
Applying Reputation Data to Enhance Investment Performance
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Simon Cole, Mike Brown & Brian Sturgess, World Economics, December 2014
The fact that corporate reputations deliver tangible shareholder value has been recognised by managers for some time. More recently, techniques have emerged that allow them to measure just how much value reputation delivers and identify the driving factors in order to structure communications and corporate messaging accordingly. While these techniques are having a marked affect on how companies are managing their reputation assets their use also has implications for investors. This paper uses reputation data to analyse the share price performance of companies identified as over- or under-valued. Evidence is found that where reputations are such that they suggest the companies are under-valued, that over time their market capitalizations grow at a greater rate than those whose reputations suggest over-valuation. This implies company reputation can be a powerful leading edge indicator to estimate investor returns and thus contribute to fund management.
Asset Poverty in India
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Swati Dutta, World Economics, September 2013
In order to formulate policy to target the correctly identified rural poor in India, focus on an income poverty measure alone is insufficient. The purpose of this research is to study a new area of poverty measurement based on data that detail a household’s access to basic assets. The study has used the secondary data source provided by the Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) for the time period of 1992, 1998 and 2005. In order to construct the asset index the technique of multiple correspondence analysis is used. A discussion of trends in asset poverty in various states in India follows, together with the policies they need to adopt depending on their state of poverty.
Measuring Information Technology and Productivity in the New Economy
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Kevin J. Stiroh , World Economics, March 2002
The growing importance of information technology raises significant challenges for statisticians and economists. The US national accounts now incorporate sophisticated measurement tools to capture the rapid rates of technological change and dramatic improvements in the performance/price ratio of many hightech assets like computer hardware, software, and telecommunications goods. These data have been incorporated into traditional sources of growth analyses to identify the impact of information technology on the US economy. The emerging consensus is that information technology played a key role in the post-1995 revival of US productivity growth.
Reply to Professor Zimmermann
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Giles Atkinson, World Economics, September 2000
Giles Atkinson replies to Professor Zimmermann’s "A Multi-coloured GDP -or No New GDP at All?"[World Economics, Vol 1 No 3 July-September 2000]
Re-thinking Economic Progress
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Giles Atkinson, World Economics, March 2000
Most national governments have pledged a commitment to sustainable development. The transformation of these pledges into policy is a formidable challenge. Of particular interest are proposals for the construction of green alternatives to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which it is hoped will provide policy-makers with a consistent and summary signal of "true" trends in the economy both now and into the future. This paper reviews the green accounting debate over the past decade. the author argues that, while initial expectations have, at times, been overstated, there are encouraging signs for policy-makers attempting to make sense of their commitments to sustainable development. One such indication is the increasing emphasis on improved measures of saving, providing a better link between actions in the present and their implications for the future.

The Black Economy - Benefit frauds or tax evaders?
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Jim Thomas, World Economics, March 2000
One answer to the question "How Rich are We?" is to compare levels of National Income either across countries or for a single country over time. However, the relevance of this approach depends on how accurately National Income measures the output of goods and services of a country. While it is difficult to measure, the Black Economy represents the output of goods and services that is not generally captured in the National Income Accounts. This article discusses the problems of measuring the size of the Black Economy and speculates on the questions of who is involved and how. The relative importance of Tax Evasion versus Benefit Fraud is discussed.

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