Last year we were scrambling around in response to the impact of the 26.3 per cent real GDP growth rate that was the headline from the 2015 National Income and Expenditure Accounts (NIE). So where do we stand one year on? Long post, with too much mind-numbing detail, below the fold.
[Attention conservation notice: Rampant self-promotion]
Irish economy readers might be interested in this work. Together with colleagues at the Bank of England we’ve built a model of financial balances for the United Kingdom. The basic question we’re trying to answer is: how can large open economies deal with persistent imbalances now and into the future? This is the first model of its kind for the UK and something we hope to build on in the future. We summarise the findings in this Bank Underground blog.
It was way back in April 2009 that Barry Eichengreen and I first compared the world industrial output collapses of 1929 and 2008. The situation looked pretty alarming at that stage, but it turned out that we were a good leading indicator of recovery: the world economy started turning around almost immediately afterwards, thanks to a coordinated reflationary macroeconomic policy response. Then 2010 happened, reflation turned to austerity in Europe, and the global recovery slowed, to the point where at times it seemed to be petering out almost altogether.
And in August of this year, the inevitable happened: measured in terms of industrial output, our current recovery was overtaken by that of the interwar period. Pretty dismal stuff. Let’s hope that we can at least avoid the famous 1937-38 double dip, visible at the end of the interwar series.
Eduardo Porter, one of the most highly respected economic analysts in the US media, has an interesting, thoughtful new article on European immigration pressures. He argues that European economies and societies need to prepare for large-scale immigration from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. These regions are close to Europe, are notably poor by world standards, and have a forecast population increase of three billion in coming decades, on top of the large increases which have already occurred in the recent past. Porter argues that attempts to stop completely this migration pressure will not succeed, and instead Europe should try to adjust to an inevitable large inflow.
Yesterday, the First of July, was Canada Day.
Discussing the crisis in the Eurozone with some visiting Canadian relatives led to the question How stable is the Canadian currency union?
At first sight it seems to be much more stable than its European counterpart. The Canadian banking system is renowned for its solidness. It is dominated by five national banks that operate coast to coast, supervised by the much-admired Bank of Canada. There is a large national budget that includes important elements of inter-provincial fiscal equalization. Internal labour mobility is relatively high.
But on the other hand the provincial governments are not constrained in their borrowing, there are enormous differences between the economic structures of the provinces, and there is always the Quebec question.
In fact, to a surprising extent, the stability of the Canadian union appears to depend on the fact that, as the author of this article puts it,”there are no Greeces here”. He draws attention to flaws in the design of the Canadian currency union that could come home to roost some day.
Michael O’Sullivan’s latest Dublin Review of Books piece is here, and it is well worth reading.
In between grading exam papers I have been wading through the Piketty book. Its a bit like walking through a muddy field. The going is sometimes a bit stodgy, but you eventually get there. There have been many reviews and commentaries on the book – one of the best I think is by Debraj Ray (http://debrajray.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/nit-piketty.html ), who also wrote what I believe to be the best textbook on Development Economics in 1998, which, alas, I don’t think was ever updated.
Ray is sceptical about Piketty’s “Fundamental Laws of Capitalism”, but believes that the book makes a major contribution in highlighting the concentration of top incomes, arising from both an increasing share of income accruing to capital and also the phenomenon of very high returns to human capital at the top of the wage distribution.
All of this I am sure is very familiar to readers of this blog – Piketty’s must be one of the most reviewed economics books of the last 30 years. But what seems to get less coverage is what has been happening to the approximately 75% of the world population not covered by the Piketty book. A recent World Bank study by Lakner and Milanovic (covered here in Vox http://www.voxeu.org/article/global-income-distribution-1988 ) shows that over the 1988-2008 period, growth for the bottom 75% of the world (with the exception of the very bottom 7% or so) has been well above average, thus contributing to an overall compression of the world income distribution. There have basically been three broad changes in world income distribution over the last 30 years. Yes, the top 1% have seen high growth, while those between about the 75th and 99th percentiles have done relatively poorly – these are the phenomena covered in Piketty. But the vast majority of the bottom 75% have also done relatively well, particularly those just above the median – effectively the Chinese and Indian middle classes are catching up with lower income groups in the OECD countries. The net effect of these three changes is a fall in overall world income inequality. The data stops at 2008 but my guess is that developments since then have probably only accentuated these trends. And further globalisation is likely to have the same effect.
The piece finishes off with some speculation about the political implications of all this, which I am not quite so convinced by. But overall, given that inequality seems to be flavour of the moth these days, it is interesting to get a more global view.