World Economics

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The NTV Model for Total Factor Productivity
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Andrew Smithers, World Economics, June 2019
The consensus model for total factor productivity is unsatisfactory; the alternative, non-technology variables (‘NTV’) model resolves the objections to it and should therefore be preferred by economists. The key objections to the consensus model are that it is untestable, its assumption about corporate behaviour is falsified when tested and, for the accounting framework to function, the labour/capital ratio has to be as flexible on old capital as it is on new: an assumption which seems most unlikely. The differences in the results are non-trivial and the NTV model has positive implications for economic policy by showing how they could be changed to boost growth. NTV comprises all the variables, other than changes in labour and technology, that determine the level of investment and the capital stock. Changes in NTV are the net impact on the incentive to invest resulting from changes in the individual constituents, which are profit margins, the cost of equity, the cost of debt, leverage, corporation tax and the hurdle rate, which is the minimum expected return on equity needed to make new investment worthwhile in the opinion of management. The consensus model assumes that investment is partly determined by changes in the cost of capital while ignoring the impact of changes in the cost of equity and debt and in leverage. I show that this assumption is unjustified and why it is preferable to use NTV.
Debunking the Relevance of the Debt-to-GDP Ratio
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Arturo C. Porzecanski, World Economics, March 2018
Historical experience does not confirm the simplistic notion that the heavier the burden of the public debt relative to GDP, the greater is the risk that governments will encounter debt-servicing difficulties. In 25 government defaults that occurred during 1998-2017, the pre-default debt-to-GDP ratios ranged from a very low of 27% (Ecuador in 2008) to a very high of 236% (Nicaragua in 2003), with a sample median of 79%. As ratios of government debt rise, some societies manage to deliver more responsible fiscal behaviour. Low debt ratios, on the other hand, often mask dangerous currency or maturity mismatches, as well as contingent liabilities, capable of suddenly impairing banks and governments. The demand for government bonds can behave unpredictably, and governments with low or high debt ratios can suddenly find themselves cut off from needed financing. Official institutions like the IMF, European Commission, and World Bank have done themselves and their member states a great disfavour by obsessing about debt ratios which do not predict fiscal outcomes.
Owner-occupiers and the Price Index
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Ralph Turvey, World Economics, September 2000
The treatment of owner-occupied dwellings in Consumer Price Indexes varies between countries and is the subject of continuing controversy. Ralph Turvey explains the alternative possible treatments and reasons for disagreement.

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.

Extending the UK National Accounts
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Amanda Rowlatt, World Economics, March 2000
The national accounts measure economic activity. The UK is developing "satellite accounts" which use the framework of the national accounts but aim to quantify other aspects of living standards. This article starts by comparing satellite accounts with the use of indicators to measure the quality of life. It then reports on progress with the UK environmental accounts, and with the household accounts, which measure the productive unpaid work done in the home. It concludes with a discussion of the scope for developing a wider range of satellite accounts for the UK.

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