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National Output as Interest on National Capital
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John Hartwick, World Economics, June 2019
Current national output can be consider as deriving from a collection of capital goods, including a natural capital good. A model is created which considers Net National Product as interest on capital in the economy: a new approach which touches in a non-trivial way on green national accounting. One important implication is that trading nation draws in part on the capital, including natural capital, of its trading partners and exports in part some of its own capital in its exports. It is also necessary to incorporate pollution spillovers Net National Product which is a hugely vexing issue.
A Modest Challenge to GDP Reforms
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Mitsuhiko Iyoda, World Economics, June 2019
This paper explores the importance and possibility of GDP reform by examining the weaknesses of the current GDP concept. The GDP concept itself involves flawed metrics; there are more effective measures of economic and societal well-being. Here we limit our argument to economic well-being. The weaknesses of GDP can be broadly divided into two primary categories: market workability and the GDP framework. We present four types of GDP reform, among which, we consider further, is a modest improvement on current GDP. If not dealt with, the misleading aspects of GDP are likely to produce a misguided economic growth strategy and reduce the likelihood of a ‘positive sum’ result.
Measuring GDP in Fragile States
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Barbro Hexeberg & Jose Pablo Valdes Martinez, World Economics, December 2017
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is central to measuring economic performance and productivity, and monitoring fiscal and monetary policies, as well as changes in poverty and shared prosperity. Compiling GDP in accordance with internationally agreed definitions and rules is a complex and data-intensive task, but it is especially challenging in fragile countries. Data are often lacking, of poor quality, or out of date. Much economic activity takes place outside the formal economy, and measuring real growth is more difficult for countries facing armed conflict or natural disasters. But fragile states need accurate measures of GDP, because their economic losses are commonly evaluated in terms of GDP prior to the design and implementation of any mitigation policies.
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.
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.
Measuring Illegal Activities in the National Accounts
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, June 2018
Until 2014 the only illegal activity measured in the UK National Accounts by the Office of National Statistics was the smuggling of alcohol and tobacco. The European System of National Accounts 2010 requires statistical bodies to measure consensual illegal economic activities such as drug consumption and prostitution. In 2014 the first estimates measured the contribution of illegal drugs and prostitution at 2009 prices to UK Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at just under £10 billion. The estimates are based on a flawed methodology using survey data while private sector figures suggest that the contribution of the cannabis market alone to GDP may be over three times the official value of £828 million .
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.
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.
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.
Why Maddison was Wrong
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Kent Deng & Patrick O'Brien, World Economics, June 2017
Much academic debate in Western and Chinese universities has engaged in testing the hypothesis that standards of living in China did not fall behind those of the populations of the national economies of Western Europe until late in the eighteenth century Unfortunately, the data for China accessible in secondary sources do not provide historical runs of estimates either for GDP or for total population, let alone for any purchasing-power-parity rates of exchange estimates. Angus Maddison used short-cut methods to circumvent these difficulties, but a platoon of distinguished economists have found his methods and estimates to be conceptually and statistically unacceptable as historical evidence. The data currently available for China are and may well remain too fragmentary, ambiguous and insecure to sustain a Kuznetsian perception for investigation into the historical origins of the Great Divergence.
Double Deflation Casts Doubt on Existing GDP Data
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, June 2017
Increasingly, national income statisticians, the specialists involved in producing real national income figures, and the users of those figures are living in a parallel universe. Most countries use an outdated and inaccurate method to estimate real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by using what is termed single deflation. Best practice suggests using double deflation: one price index to deflate the prices of goods produced and another to deflate the value of intermediate goods used up in production. A recent study comparing single deflation calculations with double deflation official growth estimates for eight countries showed that, for some years, single deflation figures deviated up- or downwards from the official estimates by as much as 3–4 percentage points.
New Estimates of Regional GDP in the UK
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Julian Gough, World Economics, June 2017
Real GDP is estimated by applying a price-level estimate or deflator to nominal GDP, but GDP levels in the UK’s 12 inhabited regions are only reported at nominal prices with no allowance for differences in regional prices. A purchasing power parity (PPP) rate for the £ in each region, measuring how much a typical bundle of goods and services would cost, is required to create an accurate index to apply to nominal GDP in order to get real regional values. A solution lies in creating an expenditure-based, weighted, regional price index for consumers’ expenditure, government spending, investment and exports, to adjust nominal data to real price levels. Using imperfect public data, creating an expenditure-based index makes a significant difference to the size of each regional economy and to GDP per capita. In real terms, the London economy shrinks by 12%, the South-East contracts by 2% and all other regions increase in size.
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.
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.
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.
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.

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