World Economics

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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.
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.
Using Price-Adjusted Income Data to Measure Regional Income Inequality Across the UK
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Julian Gough, World Economics, March 2018
Data for gross disposable household income for each region of the UK are published annually by the Office for National Statistics. The latest provisional data available are for the year 2015. The annual data for household income are in nominal terms only—i.e. they do not allow for differences in prices between regions of the UK, which distorts the results. A reliable deflator to correct the nominal data for differences in inter-regional price levels was derived from the regular survey of prices for calculating the Retail Prices Index, augmented by a special survey of prices of goods and services. When allowing for price level variations between nominal and real household income in different regions the greatest impact is on London. In real terms, household incomes in London are 6% lower than in nominal terms, amounting to a reduction of about £12.4 billion.
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.
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.
Measuring Natural Capital
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Dariana Tani, World Economics, December 2014
The purpose of this paper is to highlight the importance of establishing a system of natural capital accounting. Natural capital is integral to the economy and yet it is routinely taken for granted because the goods and services it provides are generally freely available. The consequence is that without prices, these resources are not being allocated efficiently within the economy and opportunities for significant gains in well-being and the possibility of long-term future growth are being lost. Recent works by the World Bank and the Inclusive Wealth Report have provided a wealth accounting framework, which gives more emphasis to environmental assets; however, due to data and methodological limitations, they inevitably failed to capture all assets of natural capital as defined by the Natural Capital Committee’s (NCC) State of Natural Capital Report.
Measuring Multidimensional Vulnerability in India
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Swati Dutta & Lakshmi Kumar, World Economics, September 2014
This paper examines the relationship between multidimensional poverty and multidimensional vulnerability. Unlike poverty, which describes the status of a household at a point of time, vulnerability captures the likelihood of a household falling into poverty, given the current status of the household. The paper has used data from the India Human Development Survey, 2005, employing a multidimensional measure both at the all-India level and the state level. The results indicate the superiority of the multidimensional measure over the one-dimensional income measure because policy can be pointed towards addressing the dimension of poverty that is lacking and that is the cause of some states’ vulnerability to poverty.
New Data on Global Differences in Family Offices
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Robert Eigenheer, World Economics, March 2014
A family office is not a specifically-defined institution per se. Rather, the family office is a broad concept to cover all financial needs of one or more wealthy families. While in the United States the first family offices were established in the nineteenth century, interest in the family office concept has recently been growing in emerging markets around the globe due to the increasing number of ultra-wealthy individuals and families in those regions. Nowadays, family offices are set up all over the world. This fact inevitably leads to the question: Are there regional differences among the structures of family offices, their services, their investment strategies, and their operational costs?
Bias in the ‘Proportionality Assumption’ Used in the Measurement of Offshoring
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Deborah Winkler & William Milberg, World Economics, December 2012
Most studies of offshoring rely on a ‘proportionality assumption’ where every sector is assumed to import each material and service input in the same proportion as its economy-wide use. We assess the bias resulting from this assumption. Since Germany collects imported inputs directly, we are able to compare the direct and proxy measures, where the proxy is constructed with the proportionality assumption. The proxy fails to accurately capture the variation in services offshoring intensity because – as a result of the proportionality assumption – it is strongly influenced by the variation in demand for domestic inputs. Estimation of the effect of offshoring on labour demand for 35 manufacturing sectors in Germany over 1995–2006 shows that the direct and proxy-based measures of services offshoring give very different results. The implication goes beyond the case of Germany: researchers must be cautious about drawing policy conclusions from estimates using the proxy of offshoring.
Editorial: Official Trade Data: Still Fit for Purpose?
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World Economics, December 2012
There is no summary available for this paper.
America’s Dangerously Opaque Public Accounting Systems
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Avantika Chilkoti, World Economics, March 2012
The current global economic crisis has highlighted the problems that result from governments’ archaic and erroneous accounting practices. The Financial Report of the United States Government is scrutinised with the same pedantry that an auditor or long-term investor uses when studying the financial statements of a listed company. What emerges is an all too clear picture of the extent and the root of America’s economic crisis. USA Inc. is found to have a net worth of minus $44 trillion, a symptom of unfunded liabilities that have grown as entitlement expenditure has rocketed. As well as changes in policy, it is the external auditing of government accounts that is suggested as a potential panacea for this global epidemic.
Measuring China’s Economic Performance
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Andreas (Andy) Jobst & Harry X. Wu, World Economics, June 2008
China is the world’s fastest growing economy and is also the second largest. However, the official estimates of the Chinese National Bureau of Statistics exaggerate GDP growth and need adjustment to conform to international norms as set out in the 1993 System of National Accounts (SNA). This paper presents and discusses the necessary adjustments. The two major contributions are new volume indices for the industrial sector and for "non-material" services. Finally, in order to measure the level of Chinese GDP in internationally comparable terms, the authors use a measure of purchasing power parity (PPP) instead of the exchange rate.
A Multi-coloured GDP -or No New GDP at All?
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Horst Zimmermann, World Economics, September 2000
This is a reply to Giles Atkinson’s article ‘Re-thinking Economic Progress’ that appeared in the first issue of World Economics (Vol. 1, No. 1, January – March 2000). Atkinson discussed proposals for the construction of ‘green’ alternatives to Gross Domestic Product (GDP). In the same issue, Amanda Rowlatt in her article ‘Extending the UK National Accounts’, discussed the role of ‘satellite accounts’, including measures of effects on the environment. Professor Zimmermann’s contention is that the concept of a ‘green GDP’ would lead to a one-sided measure which cannot be used for the many purposes for which normal GDP as a comprehensive measure can be used. A GDP corrected for depletion of environmental stocks would have to be supplemented by one corrected for changes in human capital, another one dealing with health capital, etc. Completing the set leads to the older concept of Net Economic Welfare or something similar. Only this would again be a comprehensive measure and could replace GDP.
Owner-occupiers and the Price Index
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Ralph Turvey, World Economics, September 2000
The treatment of owner-occupied dwellings in Consumer Price Indexes varies between countries and is the subject of continuing controversy. Ralph Turvey explains the alternative possible treatments and reasons for disagreement.

From Big Macs to iMacs
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Jonathan Haskel & Holger Wolf, World Economics, June 2000
The authors review recent international price comparisons to examine the veracity of claims about “rip-off Britain”. They reach three conclusions. First, methodologically, the data requirements for a meaningful price comparison are very demanding and most of the evidence does not meet these standards. Second, price differences within countries seem, in many cases, to be just as high if not higher than price differences between countries. Third, for most goods, the difference between the UK and the rest of the EU seems to be minor relative to the difference between the EU and the United States. The real puzzle is the comparatively high prices in the EU.
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.

Extending the UK National Accounts
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Amanda Rowlatt, World Economics, March 2000
The national accounts measure economic activity. The UK is developing "satellite accounts" which use the framework of the national accounts but aim to quantify other aspects of living standards. This article starts by comparing satellite accounts with the use of indicators to measure the quality of life. It then reports on progress with the UK environmental accounts, and with the household accounts, which measure the productive unpaid work done in the home. It concludes with a discussion of the scope for developing a wider range of satellite accounts for the UK.

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