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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.
Estimating Loss-in-Output as a Cost of a Financial Crisis
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Vighneswara Swamy, World Economics, June 2019
The global financial crisis caused a huge loss of economic output, depletion of financial wealth, extended unemployment, psychological consequences and other significant costs. A quantitative exploration of modelling loss-in-output as a cost of financial crisis using macroeconomic indicators is useful in understanding the impact of a crisis. The conservative estimates for India suggest that, over a period of ten years, a financial crisis can cause a cumulative loss-in-output ranging from 48% of GDP to 59% of GDP after discounting at 0.025 and 0.07 respectively. Intermediate values are also explored. Estimating loss-in-output in terms of GDP simplifies estimation of the impact of financial crises. Policymakers and regulators must be more prudent and alert in sensing the early indicators of a financial crisis and act swiftly in containing its perils.
Saudi Arabian Labour Market Data Outlines the Challenges of Reform
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, March 2019
Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers approved an ambitious National Transformation Programme (NTP) in June 2016 with the aim of carrying out a complete restructuring of the economy. The implementation of Vision 2030 has major implications for the structure of Saudi Arabia’s labour market with the creation of 1.2 million non-oil private sector jobs, most of which are expected to be taken up by citizens. Official data shows the labour market has a number of distinctive features which will challenge the implementation of Vision 2030: an overreliance on expatriate labour; a preference by nationals for public sector jobs; a gender imbalance; persisting structural unemployment and problems in balancing labour supply and demand. The government is attempting to change the operation and structure of the labour market by a set of policies involving quotas, subsidies, taxes, penalties and the provision of information services, but for a number of reasons change is unlikely to proceed smoothly in the next few years.
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.
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.
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.
Data, Deceit, and the Defence of Truth
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Stuart P.M. Mackintosh, World Economics, September 2018
Attacks on experts and professionals using available facts, are rising in the USA, with troubling implications for economics, for the collection of statistical data, and for the future integrity of the policymaking process. The Trump Administration is undermining fact-based decision making in a number of discreet interventions: Citizenship questions for the upcoming decennial census and in attacks on the work of an economist in the US Congressional Budget Office on healthcare costs. In Argentina from 2002 until 2015 the Kirchner government twisted the output of the official statistical agency to their own aims, publishing bogus data on inflation, GDP, and poverty. In Greece the efforts of Andreas Georgiou from 2010 to 2015 to correct the biased output on GDP and government expenditure data at the Greek Statistical Agency led a judicial persecution all the way to the Greek Supreme Court.
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.
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.
Measuring the Success of Industrial Policy in Australia
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Andrew Marks, World Economics, December 2016
Industry policy in the context of trade liberalization has played a critical reinforcing role in re-orienting production in the Australian manufacturing sector from the domestic to international market. In the textile, clothing, footwear and motor vehicle industries this has promoted sustainable output and employment growth. This policy has also been instrumental in improving the structure of manufacturing exports from simple to elaborately transformed manufacturing products. The niche capital and knowledge intensive nature of elaborately transformed manufacturing products is of particular importance because they exhibit a comparative advantage in international markets. This has helped to offset the competitive advantage provided by industry policy in stimulating manufacturing exports in the countries of the South East Asian region which constitute Australia’s major export markets. Pressure is also being applied on other countries to implement industrial policy in order to remain competitive on the international market and in particular in this rapidly growing region of the world.
Making Data Measurement Errors Transparent: The Case of the IMF
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Peter A.G. van Bergeijk, World Economics, September 2017
In 1950 Morgenstern pointed out that absolute precision and certainty are impossible in economic observations, but estimates are often hampered by a substantial degree of measurement error. Unlike the natural sciences, economists in general do not report measurement errors for the key concepts such as prices, value or production that it seeks to define, measure and explain. For most macroeconomic concepts two approaches are available: the Implicit Minimal Measurement Error and the Maximum Ratio. Studying different vintages of the IMF World Economic Outlook data base it was found that the estimates on average have an implicit minimal measurement error of 4.3% and maximum ratio of 17.9%. An agenda is proposed for removing disincentives (creating incentives) for stakeholders (academics, data collectors and producers) since reporting measurement error will result in better research, better policy and ultimately better data.
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.
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.
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.
Offshoring and the Labour Share in Germany and US
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Deborah Winkler & William Milberg, World Economics, December 2015
Despite broad public concern with the effect of offshoring on inequality, there is scant research. The authors shift the focus to the effect of offshoring on the labour share in value added. Regression analysis for a sample of 14 OECD countries in 21 manufacturing sectors covering the period 1995 to 2008 reveals that the effects of offshoring on the labour share are negative. They also show that different policy regimes with regard to labour markets, education and innovation, and trade liberalisation mediate these effects whilst contrasting the experiences of Germany and the U.S. where the manufacturing labour share decline was particularly strong.
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.
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.
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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