World Economics

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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.
De-Risking Impact Investing
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Neil Gregory, World Economics, June 2016
Despite great investor interest in impact investing, actual investment flows have remained modest. This is largely due to insufficient investment opportunities which offer a financially sustainable risk-return balance. A focus on de-risking impact investments can enable investors to find more assets which offer commercial returns on a risk-adjusted basis, without sacrificing impact. By cutting off the lower tail of the risk distribution, impact investments can offer comparable returns to other investments, as has been the International Finance Corporation’s (IFC’s) experience. Successful impact investing involves selecting assets and structuring investments differently to realize their potential to deliver both financial and social returns. We segment the supply and demand of impact investing funds, and identify the causes of elevated risks in prevalent approaches to impact investing. Drawing on IFC’s investment experience, we identify seven ways to reduce these risks. With these approaches, we provide evidence that investment opportunities can be generated that meet the requirements of investors seeking both commercial financial returns and social impact without trading one off for the other.
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.
The Black Economy - Benefit frauds or tax evaders?
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Jim Thomas, World Economics, March 2000
One answer to the question "How Rich are We?" is to compare levels of National Income either across countries or for a single country over time. However, the relevance of this approach depends on how accurately National Income measures the output of goods and services of a country. While it is difficult to measure, the Black Economy represents the output of goods and services that is not generally captured in the National Income Accounts. This article discusses the problems of measuring the size of the Black Economy and speculates on the questions of who is involved and how. The relative importance of Tax Evasion versus Benefit Fraud is discussed.

Re-thinking Economic Progress
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Giles Atkinson, World Economics, March 2000
Most national governments have pledged a commitment to sustainable development. The transformation of these pledges into policy is a formidable challenge. Of particular interest are proposals for the construction of green alternatives to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which it is hoped will provide policy-makers with a consistent and summary signal of "true" trends in the economy both now and into the future. This paper reviews the green accounting debate over the past decade. the author argues that, while initial expectations have, at times, been overstated, there are encouraging signs for policy-makers attempting to make sense of their commitments to sustainable development. One such indication is the increasing emphasis on improved measures of saving, providing a better link between actions in the present and their implications for the future.

False Perspective: The UNDP View of the World
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David Henderson, World Economics, March 2000
Despite some searching and unanswered criticisms of its treatment of statistical evidence, the UNDP Human Development Report has become established as a widely-quoted and influential survey of the world scene. The 1999 Report, reviewed here, focuses on ‘globalization’. This is described as a dominant influence on the recent economic fortunes of developing countries in particular, and as a primary cause of continuing poverty and growing inequality in the world. The author argues that the Report provides neither argument nor evidence in support of this thesis; that it takes no account of other factors that have strongly influenced economic performance; that its main prescription for the world, of reforms in ‘global governance’, is largely beside the point; and that its whole approach is crudely anti-liberal. The author concludes by placing the Report, as also the economists who have aligned themselves with it, in the wider context of anti-liberalism today.

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