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An Economic Comparison of Greece and Italy
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Theodore Pelagidis, World Economics, December 2018
In Greece and Italy, populist parties have taken power in recent years, a result of coalition between radical left and far-right parties. Both countries are of concern to the European Commission—Greece’s ‘enhanced surveillance’ could end in another bail-out program; Italy is pursuing its budget deficit dispute. Greece and Italy share many economic structural weaknesses in the size of public sector deficits, in the taxation of labour, corporate taxes, and high levels of regulation. Finally, the current and future growth rates of both Greece and Italy are inadequate and the political climate is highly polarized, radical, with no culture of compromising.
Trade Data: Use with Care
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, December 2017
Politicians focus on trade deficits and surpluses between countries and threaten trade wars and retaliatory actions, but the conventional international trade statistics used by many commentators are inaccurate. World exports and imports do not balance, but asymmetries are also found in the balance of trade statistics between countries and regions and these discrepancies can be very large in emerging markets. The ‘Rotterdam effect’ distorts the measurement of trade flows and balances where goods are recorded as imports into one country, which subsequently re-exports them to third countries without taking note of the country of origin. The Apple ‘Made in China’ question, or the existence of global value chains where much trade is in intermediate inputs, indicates that conventional trade statistics involve double-counting and misallocated trade balances.
Greek Economic Statistics: A Decade of Deceit
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, June 2010
This paper looks at the recent problems in official Greek economic data on public finances, whose reliability has been impaired by inappropriate accounting methods, the application of poor statistical methods and deliberate misreporting. Data on deficits and debt have been misleading from before Greece’s eurozone entry, but despite a regular supply of public information about the problems, the rating agencies did not respond by downgrading Greek public debt until it was too late. These agencies reacted to, rather than leading, market tends that were already under way. The issue casts doubt on the fitness for purpose of the European Statistical System where the powers of Eurostat, the statistics arm of the European Commission have been inadequate to effectively monitor the fiscal status of eurozone countries. These powers, at present limited by the principle of subsidiarity to administering a Code of Practice, must be strengthened closer to approximating a power of audit.

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