World Economics

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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.
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.
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.
Data on Singapore’s Sovereign Wealth Fund is Flawed
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Christopher Balding, World Economics, September 2015
This paper undertakes a critique of the quality of Singapore’s public economic data in the context of the claim that one of the island’s sovereign wealth funds, Temasek Holdings, reports that it has earned since inception in 1974 an average annualized rate of return of 16%. Over a similar time period the Singapore stock market earned 4.99% implying that Temasek on average outperformed the local stock market in which it was heavily invested, by a factor of more than three times every year. The paper replicates Temasek’s portfolio and analyses Singapore’s public finances and finds that irregularities may exist within Temasek financials. It concludes that if there are as of yet unknown financial weaknesses within Singaporean public finances that have yet to be realized then given the importance of the island in Asia’s financial markets, this should raise concerns over the quality of financial statements produced by government linked corporations and the public sector.
Discount Rate Set Too High
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Angus Hanton, World Economics, September 2012
The size of government liabilities is only now becoming apparent, but the choice of discount rate is crucial in estimating these. Historically this has been set using Green Book methods and FRS17 accounting standards, but now government is moving to using a rate based on hoped-for economic growth of 3% plus inflation. The more prudent rate to use would be the much lower gilt rate of under 1% – the government’s long-term index-linked cost of borrowing. Use of the 1% rate would show liabilities more than £2 trillion higher, and these will increase as the effects of using the higher discount rate ‘unwind’. Furthermore, the overoptimism from using a high discount rate can lead to poor policy decisions in pensions, government spending and strategic planning.
Demographic Change Across the Globe
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Marga Peeters & Loek Groot, World Economics, June 2012
This paper investigates the fiscal pressure, or the level of public expenditure on old and young economically inactive people, arising from demographic change in relation to the labour market space, or the proportion of the working age population not in full-time employment. The exercise is carried out for 50 countries that cover 75% of the world population. The pressure-to-space indicator ranks Poland, Turkey and Greece high, although, apart from Turkey and India, developing countries generally rank low due to low spending on the old (pensions, healthcare) and on the young (education, family costs). Peculiarly, economies with higher pressure have more space. The hypothesis that ageing economies have started using their labour market space in anticipation of higher demographic pressure is rejected. It is important to note that raising the retirement age in developed economies by five years alleviates fiscal pressure by almost 30% and creates 10% more labour market space.
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.
Editorial: The Scandalous State of State Accounting
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, March 2012
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