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GDP and the System of National Accounts: Past, Present and Future

Nicholas Oulton ()

No 1802, Discussion Papers from Centre for Macroeconomics (CFM)

Abstract: China became the world’s largest economy in 2014”. “UK GDP grew by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2017”. “In the eurozone, inflation as measured by the Consumer Price Index was 1.4% in the year to May 2017”. Any scanner of websites that cover business news can read statements like these on any day of the week. Each statement relies on modern economic statistics whose basis is the System of National Accounts (SNA). In this chapter I briefly outline how the SNA came to have such a powerful (if background) role. I then go on to discuss some of the many criticisms levelled at the SNA, and in particular at GDP, its centrepiece. These criticisms fall into two groups. The first group raises doubts about how accurately GDP is measured. The second is more about the re levance of GDP (and the SNA) as a guide to policy. Even if GDP is measured accurately, is it measuring anything which thoughtful people should be interested in?

Date: 2018-01, Revised 2018-06
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