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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.
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 .
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.
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.
Measuring The Americas GDP
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World Economics, March 2015
The Americas, comprising the USA and Canada, the Spanish speaking countries of South and Central America plus Brazil and the Caribbean, is a region displaying large differences in living standards. The availability of resources has an impact on the quality and reliability of economic statistics. Chile and Mexico, both OECD members, produce economic data that can be compared favourably with the USA, Canada and many European countries. In other countries out of date base years, outdated national income accounting standards and problems in recording the size of the informal economy mean that GDP figures are likely to be underestimated. The most insidious problem in the region arises from the political manipulation of economic data in Argentina which has led to a censure of the government by the IMF.
Measuring the Asia-Pacific Region
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, September 2014
The Asia-Pacific region covers the countries around the Pacific Rim, South East Asia, the Indian Sub-Continent and Oceania. It contains three of the world’s largest economies outside the US: China, India and Japan. The quality of economic statistics varies widely across the region mainly because of differences in the resources available to national statistical offices in the large number of poorer countries. There are other data problems affecting inter-country comparisons: the use of old standards of national income accounting; the degree to which shadow and informal economies are under-recorded; and the use of outdated base years for the calculation of real GDP. On top of these issues is the continuing question about the extent to which China’s economic data is subject to political manipulation.
Data Manipulation of Inflation Statistics Artificially Raises Real GDP
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Christopher Balding, World Economics, June 2014
Baseline Chinese economic data are unreliable. Taking published National Bureau of Statistics China data, three problems appear. First, base data on housing price inflation are manipulated. Second, the NBSC misclassifies most Chinese households as private housing occupants. Third, the NSBC applies a straight 80/20 urban/rural private housing weighting. To correct for these manipulative practices, I use third party and related NBSC data to correct the change in consumer prices in China between 2000 and 2011. I find that using conservative assumptions about price increases, the annual CPI in China should be adjusted upwards by approximately 1%. This reduces real Chinese GDP by 8–12% or more than $1 trillion in PPP terms.
Measuring Argentina’s GDP Growth
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Ariel Coremberg, World Economics, March 2014
The main purpose of this paper is to report on the results of an exhaustive reworking of Argentina’s output growth by industry realized by the ARKLEMS+LAND Argentina Productivity and Competitiveness Project. The aim was to reproduce a GDP time series since 1993 using traditional Argentinean national accounting methodology in order to check economic growth against official statistics produced after political intervention in the work of the National Statistics institute since 2007. The reproduced ARKLEMS GDP series closely approximates to official GDP between 1993 and 2007 at macro and industry level. But after 2007, Official series showed a higher growth than ARKLEMS reproducible (29.4% Official GDP vs. 15.9% ARKLEMS GDP for 2007–2012). However, the gap between the series is not related to the use of biased CPI deflators, but it is due to the abandoning of traditional methodology followed by Argentinean national accounts prior to its intervention. The paper shows that Argentina’s recent growth episode of 2002–2012 was similar to the previous positive growth cycle period of 1990–1998. Argentina was not the growth champion of the Latin America region during the later period, but it has one of the highest rates of volatility of GDP across Latin America. Argentine official GDP data has been subject to the so-called ‘Pandora’s Box’ effect as a result of the political intervention in the production of official statistics.
Are National Accounts Revisions Harmful for Historical Comparisons?
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Dieter Brümmerhoff & Michael Grömling, World Economics, December 2012
Revisions of national accounts affect economic analysis, calling into question theoretical findings based on earlier data. Revisions to German national accounts have resulted in a markedly higher GDP in absolute terms and a lower volatility in macroeconomic production. According to the revised data, recessions have been less pronounced. Moreover, less volatility in production has changed income accounts and, above all, reduced the fluctuations in property and entrepreneurial income. The stylised fact of declining property and entrepreneurial incomes during recessions in West Germany from 1970 to 1991 has vanished into thin air as a result of the revisions of 2002 and 2006.
Wealth and Population Data in Africa
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, June 2012
There are very good grounds for challenging much of the conventionally accepted UN and World Bank economic data relating to both the absolute and relative per capita income of many African countries and to their growth rates over time. A recent paper by Morton Jerven published in World Economics demonstrated the unreliability of much if not most African GDP data and a new paper published in this issue by Deborah Potts challenges the accuracy of African population estimates"
Editorial: The Scandalous State of State Accounting
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, March 2012
There is no summary available for this paper.
Government Accounting
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Ian Ball & Gary Pflugrath, World Economics, March 2012
As the current sovereign debt crisis engulfing Europe broadens and threatens to bring down more governments and lead the world into another, potentially very serious, economic slowdown, minimal commentary and public debate has focused on a fundamental problem, and the need to address it. That problem is the deficient – and sometimes fraudulent – accounting practices employed by many governments around the world. A major shortcoming of many governments has been highlighted by the crisis – that is, the poor quality of public financial management and the lack of public accountability. And, while robust public-sector financial management would not alone solve the crisis, it is clear that the problems presented by the crisis will not be solved without it. Shareholders, debt providers and regulators of publicly listed companies would not tolerate for a minute the poor levels of reporting and disclosure evidenced by governments. Yet while governments recognise the need to impose stringent regulations on companies accessing funds from the public, many – indeed most – make little or no effort to meet such high standards in their own reporting. This is despite the fact that governments seek to raise hundreds of billions – indeed trillions – of dollars from the public. Improved financial reporting, disclosure and financial management of the public sector cannot be achieved until there is recognition that the incentives faced by politicians promote decision-making that works contrary to the public interest and appropriate institutional reforms are implemented.

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