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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.
Measuring the Share of Labour in GDP
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Michael Grömling, World Economics, December 2017
There is a view that increasing inequalities in advanced economies are responsible for growth problems and political polarisation. A new impetus has been injected into the analysis of macroeconomic income distribution since if capital’s share is rising this has implications for the personal distribution of income. An international comparison of data from advanced countries does not reveal any widespread or consistent decrease in labour’s share for the past quarter of a century. No pattern is discernible and a number of statistical limitations and data issues need to be taken into account when interpreting the functional distribution of income.
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.
Analysis of Revisions in Indian GDP Data
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Amey Sapre & Rajeswari Sengupta, World Economics, December 2017
This paper studies constant price growth estimates of India’s annual GDP data in order to understand the revision policy adopted by the Central Statistics Office. The use of high-frequency indicators to prepare initial estimates overstates the growth of the economy, although at the aggregate level the difference between initial estimates and final revisions is low. At the sectoral level the extent of revision for almost all sectors is large and the magnitude and direction of the revision is unpredictable. The Central Statistical Office must address issues in data quality and revisions by (i) adopting a comprehensive revision policy, (ii) supplying information and data on high frequency indicators and (iii) adopting revision metrics to assess the quality of estimates.
The Seemingly Underappreciated Role of Panel Data in Measuring Poverty and Economic Transformation
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Hai-Anh H. Dang & Calogero (Gero) Carletto, World Economics, September 2018
Panel survey data play a crucial role in producing estimates on welfare dynamics as well as insights into transformation processes in developing economies. Panel survey data are indispensable for effective policy advice for poverty reduction and growth. Fielding and maintaining a good-quality panel survey requires investment in financial and technical resources as well as careful planning, especially in developing countries. Statistical techniques can also be employed to produce estimates on poverty dynamics as an alternative methodology, but a new hybrid approach can combine the advantages of both methods.
Debt, Economic Growth and Data Adequacy
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Vighneswara Swamy, World Economics, June 2018
The effects of government debt on economic growth has become of immense importance in the backdrop of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis and Reinhart & Rogoff’s related research. This study is based on a sizeable dataset which extends the horizon of analysis to country groupings and makes it inclusive of economic, political, and regional diversities. The study overcomes issues related to data adequacy, coverage of countries, heterogeneity, endogeneity, and non-linear relationships by conducting a battery of robustness tests. An increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio is found to be associated with a reduction in average growth, but the relationship is nonlinear.
The World Economy
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Ed Jones, World Economics, March 2018
The World Economy has grown for 57 out of the past 58 years, only the great recession of 2009 saw an interruption in over half a century of continuous growth. Over the whole of the last 5 decades, annual real GDP growth has averaged 3.2%, and 1.6% in per capita terms. Global Real GDP split by continent illustrates that the share of the world’s GDP in the Asian region grew considerably faster than all other continents, from 16.8% in 1960 to 47.0% in 2017. The wealth of Europe and the Americas remains considerably higher compared with Asian and African continents.
Measuring the Impact of Terror
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Piotr Konwicki, World Economics, March 2018
Events observed in Israel include terror attacks, controversial elections and unexpected wars, the impact of which can be analysed on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange in terms of abnormal returns. Results show that defence and high-tech industries react positively to these events while other industries have a negative reaction. Recent data demonstrate that these events create positive abnormal market reactions when Israel is at war with Palestine and Lebanon because of the high number of defence and high-tech companies listed on Tel Aviv Stock Exchange. A phenomenon of the ‘normalisation of terror’ can be observed in the stock exchange, as the market reacted negatively to events in 2002 but has become more resilient to recent events.
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.
What Makes Maddison Right
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Jan Luiten van Zanden & Debin Ma, World Economics, September 2017
The ‘Great Divergence debate’ in economic history relates to the question of when China fell behind the levels of well-being in Western Europe. A recent paper published in this journal argues that existing historical data cannot answer this question and criticizes estimates of Angus Maddison of GDP per capita based on limited evidence. The authors believe, in contrast, that critiques, assessments and summaries on the state of the Great Divergence debate even if flawed are in the original spirit of the Maddison research. Maddison’s work is less about right or wrong than about trying to achieve better or best estimates by overcoming the current constraint on data and methodologies over time.
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.
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.
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.
Data on Indicators of Governance: Handle with Care
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M.G.Quibria, World Economics, June 2016
This article provides a select review of data used as indicators of governance. Despite the popularity and considerable success of the existing body of governance indicators in putting the spotlight on governance inadequacies in developing countries, they are fraught with a whole host of statistical and measurement issues. It argues that these indicators should be applied with caution, keeping their shortcomings in mind.
The Digital Revolution – New Challenges for National Accounting?
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Michael Grömling, World Economics, March 2016
The digital revolution has changed many industries, but measuring these changes from a national accounting perspective causes problems. Generally, in the transition periods during the introduction of new technologies, marked setbacks in the estimation of productivity growth are possible. Whereas new private goods are partly invisible in the national accounts because of measurement lags due to outdated accounting standards, more often only their negative substitution effects turn up in GDP measures. If this causes a market phenomenon it should be reflected initially in a weaker market production and productivity. In order to capture new private digital goods and their welfare effects a separate documentation of their introduction in a ‘satellite account’ is recommended.
Measuring Financial Inclusion using Multidimensional Data
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Mandira Sarma, World Economics, March 2016
The author notes that the lack of a financially inclusive system is a major concern not only for developing and low-income economies, but for many developed and high-income countries. At the global level, a network of financial regulators from developing and emerging economies, called the Alliance for Financial Inclusion (AFI), was formed in 2008 to provide a platform for peer-to-peer learning from the experiences of country specific policies of financial inclusion. The paper notes that there has been an intensive debate about how financial inclusion should be measured. In consequence, it recommends using the Index of Financial Inclusion (IFI), developed by the author. The IFI is multidimensional, it satisfies many important mathematical properties and can be used to compare levels of financial inclusion across economies and over time. IFI values computed for 110 countries for 2014 show various levels of financial inclusion: Chad ranked lowest with an IFI value of 0.021 while Switzerland had a value of 0.939. Measuring the IFI over 2004 – 2014 indicates a general improvement in the level of financial inclusion across countries, but the availability of data is the biggest constraint on its usefulness.
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.
Costing a Data Revolution
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Gabriel Demombynes & Justin Sandefur, World Economics, September 2015
The lack of reliable development statistics for many poor countries has led the U.N. to call for a “data revolution” (United Nations, 2013). One fairly narrow but widespread interpretation of this revolution is for international aid donors to fund a coordinated wave of household surveys across the developing world, tracking progress on a new round of post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. We use data from the International Household Survey Network (IHSN) to show (i) the supply of household surveys has accelerated dramatically over the past 30 years and that (ii) demand for survey data appears to be higher in democracies and more aid-dependent countries. We also show that given existing international survey programs, the cost to international aid donors of filling remaining survey gaps is manageable--on the order of $300 million per year. We argue that any aid-financed expansion of household surveys should be complemented with (a) increased access to data through open data protocols, and (b) simultaneous support for the broader statistical system, including routine administrative data systems.
Measuring GDP in Europe
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World Economics, June 2015
In Europe the quality of national income statistics is less constrained by the capacity and resources devoted by national statistics offices to follow international best practice than is the case in many other parts of the world. In addition the members of the European Union have to meet the harmonised standards of national accounting set by Eurostat which are based on the United Nations System on National Accounts. However, despite recent modifications both these standards fail to adequately record the size of the informal economy.
Deflation? What Deflation? Statistical Origins of Japan’s Declining Price Levels
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Masanaga Kumakura, World Economics, June 2015
Although Japan’s CPI is often criticized for potential upward bias, it deals with improvements in the quality of individual goods in ways that make the statistical inflation rate much lower than actual price changes. Moreover, the quantitative importance of this effect has risen progressively since the early 2000s due to increased weights of technology-intensive electronic products and changes in the method of adjusting their prices for quality improvement. Once this artificial effect is taken into account, it becomes questionable that Japan’s recent deflation has been so serious as to justify the adventurous monetary policy currently implemented by its central bank.

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