World Economics

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Disentangling Foreign Direct Investments
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Michael Plouffe, World Economics, September 2019
I describe multinational corporations’ (MNCs’) motivations for engaging in foreign direct investment (FDI) rather than other forms of internationalisation. When it comes to understanding the underlying determinants of an investment, some of the issues presented by FDI studies relying on high levels of aggregated FDI measures are caused by aggregation, and others are driven by data. There are gains from disaggregation in existing studies of both FDI and global supply chains and benefits for policymakers of pursuing and promoting such an approach.
Measuring the Impact of the Internet on Retailing
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Julian Gough, World Economics, December 2017
The internet has radically changed the purchasing of goods and services leading to a rapid expansion of online retailers and a decline of many traditional shops on the high street. The UK is the leading nation in Europe in terms of online sales, after a remarkable change in consumers’ spending patterns, with a value of £67bn in 2017, 18% of total retail sales. Economists have neglected retailing as a subject area, perhaps reflecting the complexity of its operations, but it is possible to construct a model of retailing by adapting the conventional marginal theory of the firm. Online retailing has benefits—the ability to view, compare and choose products at competitive prices on screen, pay online with fast home delivery—and costs—the disappearance of small local shops with after-sales service.
Beyond the Shadow Economy
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George C. Georgiou, World Economics, September 2017
Money laundering is illegal world-wide and constitutes a significant economic inefficiency. Current anti-money laundering and combating the financing (AML/CFT) efforts are primarily driven by the threat of terrorism and drug-trafficking, but the majority of illicit money flows is due to fraud. This paper assesses the costs and benefits of controls on the efficiency of the financial system in modern advanced economies and the less developed economies of the world. The significant costs imposed on financial institutions, increasing levels of regulation and the minuscule illicit money flows intercepted has resulted in moral hazard and significant conflicts of interest.
GDP as the champion of measurements
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Mark Esposito & Terence Tse, World Economics, March 2015
This paper considers the importance of measurement in complex societies and notes that the concept of measuring macroeconomic variables such as GDP was grounded in the impact of the 1929 Wall Street Crash on America. Simon Kuznets, a Harvard economist, produced a report for the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) which was published in 1934. Despite warnings of the limitations of GDP, its use has expanded to include government expenditures while to Kuznets government activities were an intermediate service and not part of final output. This paper considers particular inadequacies in using GDP as a measure of welfare when it includes, prison funding, natural disaster relief or expenditure on big sports events. The paper also argues that we should move beyond GDP while still recognizing its benefits as an organized methodology. Climate change, environmental disasters and international terrorism, transcend the assumption that economic growth is all we need. It concludes that an index capable of measuring social progress, independent from economic activity is needed.
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.
Poor Economic Statistics Fuel China’s Low Consumption Myth
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Jun Zhang & Tian Zhu, World Economics, June 2013
The generally held belief that China’s consumption is too low is a myth based on inadequate theory, a misreading of official statistics and the use of market exchange rates for making international comparisons. Chinese official statistics underestimate consumption expenditure on housing, they omit consumption paid for as benefits by the corporate sector, and there are a number of problems with the household expenditure surveys employed. An adjustment for statistical issues suggests that the rate of consumption is 60–65% of GDP, not the 48% based on the widely quoted official statistics figures, and is quite similar to the level experienced by other East Asian economies.
The Economics of Happiness
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Carol Graham, World Economics, September 2005
The economics of happiness is an approach to assessing welfare that combines economists’ techniques with those of psychologists, and relies on more expansive notions of utility than does conventional economics. Research based on this approach highlights the factors—in addition to income—that affect well-being. It is well suited to informing questions in areas where revealed preferences provide limited information, such as the welfare effects of inequality and of macroeconomic policies such as inflation and unemployment. One such question is the gap between economists’ assessments of the aggregate benefits of the globalization process and the more pessimistic assessments that are typical of the general public. The paper summarizes research on some of these questions, and in particular on those relevant to globalization, poverty, and inequality.
Some Proposed Methodological Developments for the UK Retail Prices Index
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Mick Silver, World Economics, March 2003
The Retail Prices Index (RPI) is one of the UK’s most important macroeconomic indicators, as well as being used for indexation/adjustments for inflation to wages and benefits. This paper argues that the dynamic changes in product markets and consumers’ responses to price changes need to be incorporated into the RPI if it is to effectively measure changes in the cost of living. The quite positive and innovative work undertaken by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) is acknowledged. However, the basis of the RPI, in measuring the price changes of a matched, fixed basket of goods, is considered inappropriate to modern markets. Some proposals are made.
What Do We Know About the Shadow Economy?
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Friedrich Schneider, World Economics, December 2001
Estimates of the size of the shadow economy in 21 OECD countries are presented. The average size of the shadow economy (as a percentage of ‘official’ GDP) over 1999/2000 in these countries is 16.7%. The author concludes that it is the increasing burden of taxation and social security contributions, combined with rising state regulatory activities, that are the driving forces for the recent growth in size of the shadow economy in the countries concerned.
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.

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.

False Perspective: The UNDP View of the World
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David Henderson, World Economics, March 2000
Despite some searching and unanswered criticisms of its treatment of statistical evidence, the UNDP Human Development Report has become established as a widely-quoted and influential survey of the world scene. The 1999 Report, reviewed here, focuses on ‘globalization’. This is described as a dominant influence on the recent economic fortunes of developing countries in particular, and as a primary cause of continuing poverty and growing inequality in the world. The author argues that the Report provides neither argument nor evidence in support of this thesis; that it takes no account of other factors that have strongly influenced economic performance; that its main prescription for the world, of reforms in ‘global governance’, is largely beside the point; and that its whole approach is crudely anti-liberal. The author concludes by placing the Report, as also the economists who have aligned themselves with it, in the wider context of anti-liberalism today.

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