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On the Accuracy of Economic Observations: Do Sub-Saharan Trade Statistics Mean Anything?


  • Yeats, Alexander J


African governments are being urged to promote commodity exports, yet without reliable trade statistics it is difficult to formulate appropriate policies to achieve this goal. This article assesses the accuracy of U.N. trade statistics by comparing the declared value of African exports, plus a transport and insurance cost factor, with partner countries' reported import values. The results show that major discrepancies often exist between the two, with false invoicing and smuggling apparently responsible for much of the difference. Although major disparities exist in data on trade with developed countries, the average differences in intra- African trade statistics are substantially larger. Statistical tests show that these data cannot be relied on to indicate the level, composition, or even direction and trends in African trade. Copyright 1990 by Oxford University Press.

Suggested Citation

  • Yeats, Alexander J, 1990. "On the Accuracy of Economic Observations: Do Sub-Saharan Trade Statistics Mean Anything?," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 4(2), pages 135-156, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:wbecrv:v:4:y:1990:i:2:p:135-56

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Bown, Chad P. & Crowley, Meredith A., 2006. "Policy externalities: How US antidumping affects Japanese exports to the EU," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 22(3), pages 696-714, September.
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    4. James Harrigan & Haiyan Deng, 2010. "China's Local Comparative Advantage," NBER Chapters,in: China's Growing Role in World Trade, pages 109-133 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Jozef KONINGS & Hylke VANDENBUSSCHE, 2009. "Antidumping Protection hurts Exporters: Firm-level evidence from France," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2009017, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    6. Robert M. Feinberg & Kara M. Reynolds, 2006. "The Spread of Antidumping Regimes and the Role of Retaliation in Filings," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 72(4), pages 877-890, April.
    7. Blonigen, Bruce A. & Bown, Chad P., 2003. "Antidumping and retaliation threats," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 249-273, August.
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    15. Bastos, Paulo & Silva, Joana, 2010. "The quality of a firm's exports: Where you export to matters," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 82(2), pages 99-111, November.
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    17. Prusa, Thomas J., 1992. "Why are so many antidumping petitions withdrawn?," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 33(1-2), pages 1-20, August.
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    20. Bodhisattva Ganguli, 2008. "The Trade Effects of Indian Antidumping Actions," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 16(5), pages 930-941, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Yeats, Alexander J., 1991. "Do natural resource-based industrialization strategies convey important (unrecognized) price benefits for commodity-exporting developing countries?," Policy Research Working Paper Series 580, The World Bank.
    2. Fielding, David & Shields, Kalvinder, 2001. "Modelling macroeconomic shocks in the CFA Franc Zone," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 199-223, October.
    3. Volker Treichel, 2010. "Putting Nigeria to Work : A Strategy for Employment and Growth," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2463.
    4. Rafat MAHMOOD & Eatzaz AHMAD, 2015. "Measurement Of Import Smuggling In Pakistan," Pakistan Journal of Applied Economics, Applied Economics Research Centre, vol. 25(2), pages 135-159.
    5. Jan Willem Gunning & Paul Collier, 1999. "Explaining African Economic Performance," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 37(1), pages 64-111, March.
    6. Shaar, Karam, 2017. "Reconciling International Trade Data," MPRA Paper 81572, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Temesgen Worku & Juan P. Mendoza & Jacco L. Wielhouwer, 2016. "Tariff evasion in sub-Saharan Africa: the influence of corruption in importing and exporting countries," International Tax and Public Finance, Springer;International Institute of Public Finance, vol. 23(4), pages 741-761, August.
    8. Edwards, Lawrence & Jenkins, Rhys, 2014. "The margins of export competition: A new approach to evaluating the impact of China on South African exports to Sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 36(S1), pages 132-150.
    9. Patricia Sourdin & Richard Pomfret, 2012. "Trade Facilitation," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 14596.
    10. Ng, Francis & Yeats, Alexander, 1997. "Open economies work better! did Africa's protectionist policies cause its marginalization in world trade?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 25(6), pages 889-904, June.
    11. Yeats, Alexander J., 1991. "Can preshipment inspection offset noncompetitive pricing of development countries'imports? The evidence from Madagascar," Policy Research Working Paper Series 610, The World Bank.
    12. Cramer, C., 2002. "Homo Economicus Goes to War: Methodological Individualism, Rational Choice and the Political Economy of War," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(11), pages 1845-1864, November.
    13. Bagachwa, M. S. D. & Naho, A., 1995. "Estimating the second economy in Tanzania," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 23(8), pages 1387-1399, August.
    14. M. del Mar Rubio Varas & Mauricio Folchi, 2005. "On the accuracy of Latin American trade statistics: A nonparametric test for 1925," Economics Working Papers 879, Department of Economics and Business, Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

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