Conversations on Monday: Spending Review and Autumn Statement

On Monday we turn our attentions at our Economics Conversations sessions to the UK and its government’s fiscal plans. On November 25 the Spending Review and the Autumn Statement will happen.

The Spending Review happens at the start of each Parliament, hence the last one was back in 2010, and it sets out the budgets for each department, or part of the government.

The Autumn Statement is the Autumn counterpart to the Budget, which happens each March, and hence is an annual event where the Chancellor updates plans for government taxation and spending.

There’s little doubt that as we get nearer to these events, they’ll get more and more media attention, not least after the tax credits fiasco, so it’s always good to be prepared to think about them as economists by discussing them, as economists.

See you all on Monday!

Discussions on Deaton

Slow start today to blogging; my urgent attention was directed towards preparing the discussion at our weekly Conversations slot this week, the topic being birthday boy and recent Nobel prize-winner Angus Deaton.

I’ve prepared these slides: https://www.dropbox.com/s/7n6u1wgq6eiqfq2/deaton.pdf?dl=0

Hopefully they are of use, I’ll be delighted if they generate some interesting discussion.

Deaton seems to be, by and large, a very empirical man, which means he has less inclination towards wild outspoken comments that might make a discussion spicy.

He’s advocated the use of more and more micro data in saying things at the aggregate level, the macroeconomy, so he’s far from irrelevant when it comes to us thinking about macroeconomics in the Spring, and such a focus on individual level, or disaggregate level data, does raise a question of how widely applicable any conclusions that can be drawn will be. Individual data is messy as a general rule, whereas aggregate data is that bit less messy (albeit full of puzzles due to the effect of aggregation).

Interestingly enough, this does appear to be his main criticism of the use of Randomised Control Trials (RCTs) in a lot of economic development work: do they reality apply more widely? An RCT is a trial in economics that resembles a medical trial – somehow the treatment is randomly administered in the population at large, allowing more to be learnt about the impact of that treatment than might be the case without random assignment.

Probably most controversially, Deaton has argued that foreign aid is useless – mainly because it undermines local governments, and he argues that poorer countries need their governments to function better in order for them to grow longer term.

See you at 1pm in HumSS 125!

Monday’s Conversation: Greece, EMU and Austerity

Every Monday during term time we meet in less formal circumstances to talk about economics: these are our Conversations in Economics, in which we usually reflect on some pertinent real world event, and attempt to apply some economics to it.

Last week we talked about Corbynomics in light of the Labour Party conference, and on Monday of next week we meet in HumSS 125
at 1pm to talk about Greece, EMU and Austerity.

While Greece may have fallen off our news radars in recent months, at least in terms of its economic situation (as opposed to one of the first places refugees have been arriving in the EU), it remains a place with deep economic problems, as the chart below shows:

Greek GDP since 1995

Since 2006 Greek GDP has fallen by a third in real terms. To try and make some sense of that, if a road had 9 factories on it, 3 would have by now shut down and not be producing anything (with subsequent unemployment that that would entail).

So, it’s still as important a time as ever to be talking about Greece, its situation within the EU, and the austerity it has had forced upon itself.

See you all on Monday!