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Apples, oranges and lemons: public sector debt statistics in the 21st century

Seiferling, M; (2020) Apples, oranges and lemons: public sector debt statistics in the 21st century. Financial Innovation , 6 , Article 37. 10.1186/s40854-020-00193-2. Green open access

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Abstract

In both academic research and policymaking, public sector debt and debt-to-GDP ratios are relied on for a multitude of important economic, political and socioeconomic decisions, especially as public sector balance sheets expand to an unprecedented size in the midst of the 2019–2020 COVID pandemic. The reliance on available data from reputable sources often overlooks the question of whether the denominator in this ratio is accurately measured or how well the denominator is understood by the audience interpreting it. Building on past work in international financial statistics, and making use of a unique and newly created dataset on media reporting of public sector debt, the purpose of this article is to examine the quality, accuracy, interpretation and overall meaningfulness of public sector financial statistics. The main findings suggest that i) most of the world’s governments still do not seem to feel sufficient pressure to voluntarily provide comprehensive financial statistics based on well-defined modern methodological frameworks and ii) high profile financial statistics, which are reported, have become increasingly numerous and complicated, making it difficult for non-experts to know which is most appropriate in the context of their analysis.

Type: Article
Title: Apples, oranges and lemons: public sector debt statistics in the 21st century
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1186/s40854-020-00193-2
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1186/s40854-020-00193-2
Language: English
Additional information: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/.
Keywords: Public finance statistics, Economic measurement, Public debt, Government debt, Politics of statistics
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of S&HS > Dept of Political Science
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10112146
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