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Sovereign debt
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Measuring Greek Debt: The Difference between Market and Credit Perspectives
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Colin Ellis, World Economics, September 2018
It is likely to be several decades before data on government assets, off-balance sheet and contingent liabilities are consistently available across a wide range of countries. In the absence of data, GDP is a readily available scaling factor, but official sector agencies such as the IMF and private sector analysts recognise the insufficiency of debt–GDP ratios. Some commentators claim that, using international standards, Greek government debt could be only around 75% of GDP, compared with official figures of around 180%. Fundamentally, such discrepancies reflects debt valuation variations related to the difference between market risk and credit risk.
Debt, Economic Growth and Data Adequacy
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Vighneswara Swamy, World Economics, June 2018
The effects of government debt on economic growth has become of immense importance in the backdrop of the Eurozone sovereign debt crisis and Reinhart & Rogoff’s related research. This study is based on a sizeable dataset which extends the horizon of analysis to country groupings and makes it inclusive of economic, political, and regional diversities. The study overcomes issues related to data adequacy, coverage of countries, heterogeneity, endogeneity, and non-linear relationships by conducting a battery of robustness tests. An increase in the debt-to-GDP ratio is found to be associated with a reduction in average growth, but the relationship is nonlinear.
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.
The Universal Credit Rating Group: Measuring Debt Ethically
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Daniel Cash, World Economics, December 2016
The Universal Credit Rating Group (UCRG) is a collection of rating agencies that are aiming to redress what they see as an imbalance in the provision of credit ratings across the global economy. This article describes the UCRG and discuss as its chances of succeeding in its goal of offering a viable opposition to the Big Three rating agencies. What is proposed by this article, is that although the Group provide a welcome narrative, the foundation to their endeavour is potentially lethal to their chances of success.
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.
Why is the Chinese Saving Rate so High?
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Guonan Ma & Wang Yi, World Economics, March 2011
China’s saving rate is high from many perspectives – historical experience, international standards and model predictions. Furthermore, the average saving rate has been rising over time, with much of the increase taking place in the 2000s. What sets China apart from the rest of the world is that its rising aggregate saving has reflected high savings rates in all three sectors: corporate, household and government. Our evidence casts doubt on the proposition that distortions and subsidies account for China’s high saving rate. Instead, we argue that tough corporate restructuring (including pension and home ownership reforms), a marked Lewismodel transformation process (where the average wage exceeds the marginal product of labour in the subsistence sector) and rapid ageing process have all played more important roles. Such structural factors suggest that the Chinese saving rate may peak over the coming years.
The Power of Price Indexes
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Raymond Cheung and Mike Waterson
World Economics, March 2011
Price indexes are the most important of all economic indicators simply because they are the tool used to calculate the real size, speed and direction of all forms of economic activity. Price indexes are compiled almost everywhere, but with major differences in method and sampling procedures. Some methods and procedures have led to significant errors. Even in the case of a country as advanced as Japan, critics have calculated that imperfections in method have led to a rate of price inflation around 1.8% per year above the level a true cost of living index would have shown. Further research undertaken by World Economics has attempted to make estimates for changes in discounting and promotional practices at the retail level. The conclusion is that, in reality, the overestimation of price changes by the Japanese CPI in recent years may well have been in excess of 2% per annum, and could have been significantly more. Different CPI assumptions change economic growth estimates dramatically. Using World Economics estimates, adding in a minimum figure for marketing and retail changes seen in recent years suggests, contrary to official data, that Japanese consumption growth exceeded that of the US.
Greek Economic Statistics: A Decade of Deceit
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Brian Sturgess, World Economics, June 2010
This paper looks at the recent problems in official Greek economic data on public finances, whose reliability has been impaired by inappropriate accounting methods, the application of poor statistical methods and deliberate misreporting. Data on deficits and debt have been misleading from before Greece’s eurozone entry, but despite a regular supply of public information about the problems, the rating agencies did not respond by downgrading Greek public debt until it was too late. These agencies reacted to, rather than leading, market tends that were already under way. The issue casts doubt on the fitness for purpose of the European Statistical System where the powers of Eurostat, the statistics arm of the European Commission have been inadequate to effectively monitor the fiscal status of eurozone countries. These powers, at present limited by the principle of subsidiarity to administering a Code of Practice, must be strengthened closer to approximating a power of audit.

Displaying: 1-8 of 8