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Global Trade Data
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World Economics, December 2019
There are serious problems with official trade statistics since according to the IMF in 2016 the world imported US$339 billion more than it exported. The Ricardian concept of comparative advantage in final goods is no longer fully relevant to explain trade between countries and the solution is to operate a paradigm shift in the packaging and interpretation of trade data. The accuracy and reliability of data is affected by a number of key biases separate from data quality issues and misreporting. The main problems are trade data asymmetries; the Rotterdam Effect and the impact of global value chains. Until this happens international trade statistics will be used as evidence of global trade imbalances and form the basis of potentially misguided policies aimed at their correction.
How to Increase your Countries GDP
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World Economics, December 2019
There are three ways to increase the real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of any country. First, by producing more goods and services in a given time frame. This is not easy. Second, by fiddling the figures, a method often adopted by politicians of all kinds, as the economist John Kay illustrated in an article in the Financial Times titled: “Politicians will always succumb to the need to bend data“ (and this in relation to the UK!) There are many ways to do this, and it’s the easiest, cheapest and quickest method. There are only two downsides. First you may be found out. Second, “bending “or otherwise fiddling GDP data may lead to the adoption of seriously erroneous policy decisions. It’s all too easy to believe your own lies... A third method, and the one on which this paper will focus is to measure the output already produced more accurately. Usually but not universally this produces a significant increase in GDP, with many beneficial effects. This method is also relatively easy (no rocket science involved), and cheap (and can easily pay for itself in reduced debt servicing charges). Furthermore, unlike actually producing more goods and services, it doesn’t contribute to global warming.
Does Phillips Curve Really Exist in India?
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Tariq Ahmad Bhat, Tariq Ahmad Bhat, Tariq Ahmad Lone & Towseef Mohi ud Din, World Economics, December 2019
The hypothetical trade-off relationship between inflation and unemployment rate known as the Phillips Curve. It plays an important role in the decision-making process, to stabilise the economy and to target these variables to keep them as low as possible. This study analyses the empirical relationship between unemployment and the inflation rate in order to predict the trade-off between these two variables and to estimate its existence in the context of Indian economy over the period of 1991 to 2017. It finds both short and long run causal relationship between unemployment and inflation rate in India.
Combining Growth and Gender Diagnostics for the Benefit of Both
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Elena Ianchovichina & Danny Leipziger, World Economics, December 2019
Women’s economic empowerment is not a new issue, but it continues to challenge both governments and development assistance agencies. Progress in closing the gender gap in labor force participation has stalled despite closing the gender gap in education. One reason for this may be that gender advocates and growth devotees are not pursuing both agendas simultaneously when there is a huge space for them to collaborate effectively. Gender-enhanced growth diagnostics offers a ‘win-win’ solution to this problem. It identifies distortions that constrain both economic growth and female labor force participation and can therefore point to efficient welfare-enhancing interventions that close gender gaps. Applied to Turkey, this approach reprioritizes the constraints to economic growth and inclusion.
Will the Current Money Growth Acceleration Increase Inflation?
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Tim Congdon, World Economics, June 2020
The coronavirus pandemic has not only come as a profound shock to the major economies, but also exposed tensions between leading schools of thought. Uncertainty has arisen about the medium- and long-term consequences of the policy responses to COVID-19. Will the pandemic, and the consequent major upheaval in economic policy, lead to deflation or more inflation? This article—which is intended above all as a contribution to the emerging deflation vs. inflation debate—begins by discussing official policy in recent months. It then states a position in the tradition of the quantity theory of money and develops the argument that inflation will rise significantly in the aftermath of the pandemic.
Measuring EU-Wide Inequality
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Michael Dauderstädt, World Economics, June 2020
EU-wide inequality is higher than official figures by Eurostat suggest. With a Gini coefficient of 0.35 and a quintile ratio of 8.4 in 2018 (5.8 at purchasing power parity), it reaches the level of US inequality. This is a major driver of migration and relocation of production within the European Union (EU), both of which have led to a rise of nativist votes and Brexit. Relative inequality has been declining owing to catch-up growth of the poorer economies in central and eastern Europe, while within-country inequality has remained stable or increased. However, absolute inequality is likely not to decline for many years.
Shedding Light on the Shadow Economy
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Leandro Medina & Friedrich Schneider, World Economics, June 2020
The shadow or informal economy covers all economic activities which are hidden from official authorities for monetary, regulatory and institutional reasons. Although widely used, multiple indicator-multiple cause (MIMIC) models have been criticised, and we develop a modified model and database covering 157 countries over the years 1991 to 2017. We tested our model using satellite data on nocturnal light intensity as a proxy for the size of countries’ economies, and compared our results with the figures of 23 countries’ national statistical offices, finding stable and similar results. The average over all countries and over the whole period is 30.9% of GDP. The shadow economy is large in some regions (Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa) and there is sizeable heterogeneity within regions. On average, from 1991 to 2017 the shadow economy declined by 6.8%. In the short term the shadow economy has a negative impact on the official one and in the long term it has a positive effect.
Why Price Data Are Mostly Wrong
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World Economics, April 2020
Is US GDP 51% bigger than China’s? Or is China 2.4% bigger than the US? It’s all down to how you measure prices. Here’s why…
The Debate Over the Depreciation of Intangible Capital
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Andrew Smithers, World Economics, March 2020
Spending on intellectual property (IP) is classed in national income accounts (NIA) as investment and represents a proportion of total investment as measured. It is, however, rapidly depreciated so that it has only a minor impact on gross domestic product (GDP). Some economists argue that the amount of such spending is being understated and the depreciation rate overstated. If these claims were correct, they would result in large increases in the measured levels of gross and net output and reduce the share taken by labour incomes. If correct the resulting changes would also be important for economic theories. Current data show that the labour share of output is mean-reverting, thus supporting the Cobb-Douglas production function, and that q’s mean reversion results from changes in share prices. The suggested revisions to the data would undermine both. These claims require an increase in profits after depreciation in the NIA. However, they cannot be correct because independently generated data on equity returns to shareholders show that profits are already overstated. Profits need to be reduced rather than increased. The change made to NIA in 2013, by the inclusion of IP expenditure as investment, has led to widespread misunderstanding about the economy and should be reconsidered.
Cryptocurrency Challenges Sovereign Currency
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George C. Georgiou, World Economics, March 2020
All national and international monetary structures have evolved to assist in the creation and management of sovereign fiat currencies. This sovereign currency status quo was suddenly upended with the arrival of the first cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, in 2008 which introduced a peer-to-peer digital fiat currency without the need of a central banking system, through a trustless, fungible and tamper-resistant distributed accounting system known as blockchain. The response to the threat posed by cryptocurrency has ranged from declaring it illegal, attempting to regulate it, ignoring it, treating it as a commodity and/or like any other financial asset and regulating it as such; or more recently seriously considering state-backed digital currency. Presently the assessment appears to be that of ‘co-existence’ with central banks providing national/sovereign currency, primarily digital currency, and cryptocurrency vying with gold as a back-up or ‘insurance’ against the perils of a sovereign fiat currency.
Global Population Data Quality Ratings
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World Economics, March 2020
The accuracy of population data varies widely across countries. The most comprehensive data on the number of people living in a territory and their demographic profile, a vital component for public sector economic and social planning and also for private sector needs, is usually available from the result of a census.
Employment, Under-employment and Unemployment in Africa
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World Economics, October 2019
Africa’s fast-growing markets should be producing far more commercial opportunities for its businesses and yielding far more jobs for its people, but they are not. If there is genuine economic growth occurring in Africa’s major cities then current data and the view from the street are not reflecting it. Jobless growth haunts the cities of Africa.
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.
China’s Monetary Policy Functions from the Core Inflation Perspective
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Yu Li Zhu & Lu Chang Rong, World Economics, September 2019
Based on the open-economy new Keynesian model, this paper studies the influence of core inflation on the central bank’s monetary policy reaction rules by optimising the multi-target welfare loss functions, and draws three conclusions. Sustainable balance of payments should be considered as a goal rather than a tool for monetary policy. The central bank should focus more on core inflation than normal inflation in its daily operations. An authoritative core inflation sequence should be established as a focal point in the policymaking process. In addition, we emphasise that the central bank should accurately judge the impacts of real exchange rate changes, and adjust how frequently it intervenes in interest rates.
How Accurate are Global Trade-Finance Data?
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, June 2019
Over 80% of international trade is financed by some form of credit, but the size of the trade finance market has received little attention by economists. It has been estimated that there is currently a world trade finance gap of around US$1.5 trillion acting as a drag on international trade and GDP growth. Survey-based estimates of traditional trade finance provided by banks at US$4.6 trillion in 2017 are highly inconsistent and are based on flawed data and opaque methodologies. The problem of collecting reliable data needed to promote trade growth and to monitor financial stability is being exacerbated as the trade finance sector is undergoing rapid structural change.
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.
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.
The Informal Economy: Who Wins, Who Loses and Why We Care
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Giovanna Maria Dora Dore, World Economics, March 2019
The informal economy is one of the most complex economic and political phenomena of our time. It exists in rich and poor countries alike, and currently employs almost half of the world’s workers, about 1.8 billion people. •At a value of US$10 trillion, the informal economy is the second-largest economy in the world, after the economy of the United States (at US$14 trillion) and before that of China (at US$8.2 trillion). High taxes, labour costs and social security infrastructures, undeclared work and underreporting are among the most powerful drivers of informality. Measures promoting behavioural changes can help counter its growth, even though controls and penalties remain more popular as tools in the fight against the informal economy. The informal sector remains the fastest-growing part of the world economy and we need a better understanding of what it means for business and society and why it is the preferred operating sector for many entrepreneurs.
CryptoRuble: From Russia with Love
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Zura Kakushadze & Jim Kyung-Soo Liew, World Economics, December 2018
A large number of decentralized cryptocurrencies has emerged since the inception of Bitcoin in 2009, with a total market size exceeding $170bn. Recent reports suggest that Russia will issue its government-backed cryptocurrency, CryptoRuble, in the middle of 2019. Russia’s primary goal in issuing a government cryptocurrency is to free its monetary system from the controls exerted by the Federal Reserve and their allied central banks. Government-issued cryptocurrencies will increase: Large sovereign states have the technological know-how and means to do this, but small and/or developing countries may be forced to outsource issuance of their government-backed cryptocurrencies to larger states.
Measuring Greek Debt: The Difference between Market and Credit Perspectives
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Colin Ellis, World Economics, September 2018
It is likely to be several decades before data on government assets, off-balance sheet and contingent liabilities are consistently available across a wide range of countries. In the absence of data, GDP is a readily available scaling factor, but official sector agencies such as the IMF and private sector analysts recognise the insufficiency of debt–GDP ratios. Some commentators claim that, using international standards, Greek government debt could be only around 75% of GDP, compared with official figures of around 180%. Fundamentally, such discrepancies reflects debt valuation variations related to the difference between market risk and credit risk.

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