12 Dec 2008
The contribution of economic geography to GDP per capita
This article examines how much of the dispersion in economic performance across OECD countries can be accounted for by the proximity to areas of dense economic activity. To do so, various indicators of distance to markets and transportation costs are added as determinants in an augmented Solow model, which serves as a benchmark. Measures of distance to markets are found to have a statistically significant effect on GDP per capita. And the estimated economic impact is far from negligible. The reduced access to markets relative to the OECD average could contribute negatively to GDP per capita by as much as 11% in Australia and New Zealand. Conversely, a favourable impact of around 6-7% of GDP is found in the case of two centrally-located countries: Belgium and the Netherlands. The paper provides also some tentative evidence that spending on R&D and human capital might have a stronger effect on GDP per capita in countries with a higher degree of urban concentration.
12 Dec 2008
By Hansjörg Blöchliger and Claire Charbit
Fiscal equalisation is a transfer of fiscal resources across jurisdictions to offset disparities in revenue raising capacity or public service cost. It covers on average 2.5% of GDP or 5% of total government expenditure across OECD countries. Equalisation reduces fiscal disparities by two-thirds on average and in some countries levels them virtually out. Strong equalisation comes at a price: on average, around 70% of a jurisdiction’s additional tax income must be dedicated to an equalisation fund. The equalisation rate is generally higher for jurisdictions with low fiscal capacity, reducing their tax effort and likely to slow down regional economic convergence. Cost equalisation is larger than revenue equalisation in terms of GDP despite smaller cost disparities, pointing at inefficiencies in the distribution formulae. Fiscal equalisation can be pro-cyclical but most countries succeed in reducing fluctuations of entitlements, sometimes at the cost of sub-central budget needs. Fiscal equalisation is very country specific, and data and analysis must be taken with care.
12 Dec 2008
The incidence of carbon pricing
Russia, Norway and the Middle East are three regions that have distinct histories in energy policies. Current situations will make it more challenging for Russia and the Middle East to implement greenhouse gas abatement than it will be for Norway, even though all three are major energy producers. Relative to the world as a whole, Russia is most heavily impacted, with the Middle East less so but still significantly affected. Norway’s potential economic loss is only a little larger than the world average.
This asymmetry implies that if the differences in impacts are not broadly understood, then international negotiations may be subjected to bargaining under asymmetric information. If so, they may not be able to reach agreement. The result reported here is thus a step in overcoming information asymmetries and facilitating successful negotiation. The results also have clear implications for the speed at which Russia undertakes energy market reforms, and for the manner in which Middle Eastern countries implement diversification of their economies.
12 Dec 2008
Economic resilience to shocks
Cyclical fluctuations in economic activity have moderated over time but the extent and dynamics of volatility remain different across OECD countries. A reason behind this heterogeneity is that countries exhibit different degrees of resilience in the face of common shocks. This paper traces divergences in resilience back to different policy settings and institutions in labour, product and financial markets. Using pooled regression analysis across 20 OECD countries over the period 1982-2003, the paper identifies the impact of policy settings on two dimensions of resilience: the impact effect of a shock and its subsequent persistence. Policies and institutions associated with rigidities in labour and product markets are found to dampen the initial impact of shocks but to make their effects more persistent, while policies allowing for deep mortgage markets lower persistence and thereby improve resilience. Combining these two dimensions of resilience, the paper then uses the estimated equations to derive indicators of resilience for the OECD countries concerned, based on their current or recent policy settings. Three groups of countries emerge. In English-speaking countries, simulations suggest shocks have a significant initial effect on activity but this impact then dies out relatively quickly. By contrast, in many continental European countries the initial impact of shocks is cushioned but their effect linger for longer, with the cumulated output loss tending to be larger than in English-speaking countries. Finally a few, mostly small, European countries combine cushioning of the initial shock with a fairly quick return to baseline.
12 Dec 2008
Globalisation and OECD consumer price inflation
Over the past 25 years inflation has moderated considerably in all OECD economies. At the same time, the production of many goods and services has become increasingly internationalised and the level of trade between the OECD and non-OECD economies has risen markedly. This paper investigates the extent to which the observed changes in the inflation process can be attributed to the increasing integration of non-OECD economies into the global economy.
The results of the analysis show that i) import prices have become a more important driver of domestic consumer prices since the mid-1990s; ii) the sensitivity of inflation to domestic economic conditions has declined whereas the sensitivity to foreign economic conditions has risen, working through import prices; and iii) the strong GDP growth in the non-OECD economies over the past five years has contributed to the growth of real oil and metals prices. A scenario analysis shows that globalisation has put upward pressure on inflation via higher commodity prices and downward pressure via lower non-commodity import prices with the latter effect having dominated in most OECD economies.
12 Dec 2008
The macroeconomic policy challenges of continued globalisation
This article investigates the macroeconomic policy challenges associated with a prospective continuation of international trade and financial integration over the next two decades, making use of a global macroeconomic model newly developed by the OECD. The analysis has several important policy implications. First, with the shares of non-OECD economies in world output, trade, and capital markets rising substantially, global economic developments would become much more dependent on developments in these economies than they used to be. Second, the sustainability of existing global current account imbalances will depend in part on the future build-up and composition of international assets and liabilities. While the imbalances could be sustainable for some time if economic integration continues at its current pace, a slowdown of the globalisation process would raise the likelihood of a disruptive adjustment in financial markets. Third, the increase in trade and financial linkages implies that macroeconomic shocks in a given country or region have a larger impact on other economies in the future than they do today. Policymakers in the OECD may have to act more promptly and more vigorously to economic "shocks" in the non-OECD economies in order to limit the impact on OECD economies.
12 Dec 2008
Publicly provided services and the distribution of households' economic resources
Conventional income distribution statistics subtract taxes from household income but do not take into account the distributional effects of the services financed through these taxes. As many of the functions of government are available to the population free of charge or at a subsidised rate, this means that income distribution figures exaggerate the degree of inequality in the distribution of resources. This article examines the extent to which this is the case, and assesses whether statements about the relative inequality prevailing in different countries are reliable. Estimates of the impact of government services on the static distribution of household income, based on two different approaches, show that publicly-provided goods and services significantly narrow the dispersion of income inequality across countries with only small changes in the ranking of individual countries, and that the effects are larger when looking at the extremes of the distributions.
12 Dec 2008
Improving the efficiency of health care spending
There are no ready-made data on hospital outputs and inputs which would allow comprehensive international comparisons of hospital efficiency to be carried out. This paper, therefore, relies on selected evidence to compare hospital efficiency in a sub-set of OECD countries, based on three different approaches relying on, respectively: i) unit costs for standard hospital treatments; ii) overall efficiency levels in a set of paired countries; iii) within-country dispersion in individual hospital efficiency. The analysis suggests substantial cross-country differences in hospital performance. Although country coverage varies between the different approaches, making it difficult to assess the extent to which comparisons provide a consistent picture of national efficiency levels, cross-checks between the different indicator sets tend to support the robustness of the country rankings.
12 Dec 2008
Globalisation and employment in the OECD
This article reviews some of the possible changes that may occur in the national labour markets of many OECD countries as a result of the internationalisation of production by multinational companies, with a particular focus on the impact of outward foreign direct investment (FDI) from OECD countries on employment in the home country of the investing firms. Existing studies suggest that the overall impact of trade and the internationalisation of production on aggregate labour market outcomes has been comparatively small, although particular skill and occupational groups have been affected more strongly. The empirical findings in the paper suggest that the aggregate employment impact of outward FDI varies across industries and countries. For manufacturing industries with strong commercial links with the non-OECD economies, there is evidence that domestic employment has become more sensitive to movements in domestic labour costs. At the country level, the growth of outward investment is found to have a significant positive effect on domestic employment growth in the United States. In contrast, there is a negative association in Japan, especially from outward investment in China.