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Measuring Underground (Unobserved, Non-Observed, Unrecorded) Economies in Transition Countries: Can We Trust GDP?

  • Feige, Edgar L.
  • Urban, Ivica

Abstract This paper compiles alternative estimates of underground economies in twenty five transition countries during the transition decade and finds a disturbing lack of convergence between them, calling into question the reliability of GDP figures (which in varying degrees now include non-transparent imputations for the “non-observed economy”) as well as the macro model estimates of the unrecorded economy. A corollary of this finding is that substantive results from many studies examining the consequences of the radical transition from planned to market economies must be viewed with considerable skepticism. Underground (unobserved, non-observed, unrecorded) economic activities play a major role in transition economies. Evaluations of the success and failure of the transition experience should be based on estimates of total economic activity (TEA) namely, recorded plus unrecorded economic activity. We examine the conceptual and empirical relationships between new National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) methods for obtaining “exhaustive” measures of total economic activity and the two most popular macro-model approaches (electric consumption and currency ratio models) for estimating the size and growth of the unrecorded sector. Our updated empirical results detailing the size and trajectory of unrecorded activities obtained from different estimation methods reveal a disturbing lack of convergence. Until these important differences are resolved, investigations of the relationship between economic reforms and economic outcomes during the transition decade must be viewed with considerable caution. Given the shortcomings of conventional macro model estimates of the underground economy and the lack of transparency and consistency of NOE estimates, it is high time that the profession acknowledges how little we really know about underground economies and their causes and consequences.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 7345.

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Date of creation: Nov 2007
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:7345
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  1. Richard D. Porter & Ruth Judson, 1996. "The location of U.S. currency: how much is abroad?," Federal Reserve Bulletin, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.), issue Oct, pages 883-903.
  2. Gerxhani, Klarita, 2004. "Tax evasion in transition: Outcome of an institutional clash? Testing Feige's conjecture in Albania," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 48(4), pages 729-745, August.
  3. Michael Alexeev & William Pyle, 2001. "A Note on Measuring the Unofficial Economy in the Former Soviet Republics," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 436, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  4. Michael Alexeev & William Pyle, 2003. "A note on measuring the unofficial economy in the former Soviet Republics -super-1," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 11(1), pages 153-175, March.
  5. Johnson, Simon & Kaufmann, Daniel & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 1998. "Regulatory Discretion and the Unofficial Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(2), pages 387-92, May.
  6. Feige,E.L., 2003. "The dynamics of currency substitution, asset substitution and de facto dollarization and euroization in transition countries," Working papers 3, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  7. Brian M. Doyle, 2000. ""Here, dollars, dollars ..."estimating currency demand and worldwide currency substitution," International Finance Discussion Papers 657, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (U.S.).
  8. Edgar L. Feige, 2005. "A Re-Examination of the 'Underground Economy' in the United States; A Comment on Tanzi," Macroeconomics 0501021, EconWPA.
  9. Nauro F. Campos & Fabrizio Coricelli, 2002. "Growth in Transition: What We Know, What We Don't, and What We Should," William Davidson Institute Working Papers Series 470, William Davidson Institute at the University of Michigan.
  10. World Bank, 2002. "Transition, The First Ten Years : Analysis and Lessons for Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 14042.
  11. Edgar L. Feige, 2005. "The Underground Economy And The Currency Enigma," Macroeconomics 0502004, EconWPA.
  12. Helmut Stix, 2001. "Survey Results about Foreign Currency Holdings in Five Central and Eastern European Countries," CESifo Forum, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 2(3), pages 41-48, 02.
  13. Friedman, Eric & Johnson, Simon & Kaufmann, Daniel & Zoido-Lobaton, Pablo, 2000. "Dodging the grabbing hand: the determinants of unofficial activity in 69 countries," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 459-493, June.
  14. Feige, Edgar L., 1990. "Defining and estimating underground and informal economies: The new institutional economics approach," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 18(7), pages 989-1002, July.
  15. Mária Lackó, 2000. "Hidden Economy - an Unknown Quantity? Comparative Analysis of Hidden Economies in Transition Countries, 1989-95," The Economics of Transition, The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, vol. 8(1), pages 117-149, March.
  16. Trevor Breusch, 2006. "Size, Causes and Consequences of the Underground Economy: An International Perspective Edited by Christopher Bajada and Friedrich Schneider," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 82(259), pages 492-494, December.
  17. Ratna Sahay & Jeromin Zettelmeyer & Eduardo Borensztein & Andrew Berg, 1999. "The Evolution of Output in Transition Economies: Explaining the Differences," IMF Working Papers 99/73, International Monetary Fund.
  18. Edgar L. Feige & Ivica Urban, 2003. "Estimating the Size and Growth of Unrecorded Economic Activity in Transition Countries: A Re-evaluation of Electric Consumption Method Estimates and their Implications," Macroeconomics 0311010, EconWPA.
  19. Simon Johnson & Daniel Kaufman & Andrei Shleifer, 1997. "The Unofficial Economy in Transition," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 28(2), pages 159-240.
  20. Manik L. Shrestha & Adriaan M. Bloem, 2000. "Comprehensive Measures of GDP and the Unrecorded Economy," IMF Working Papers 00/204, International Monetary Fund.
  21. Feige,Edgar L. (ed.), 1989. "The Underground Economies," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521262309.
  22. Seitz, Franz, 1995. "The circulation of Deutsche Mark abroad," Discussion Paper Series 1: Economic Studies 1995,01e, Deutsche Bundesbank, Research Centre.
  23. Oleh Havrylyshyn, 2001. "Recovery and Growth in Transition: A Decade of Evidence," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 48(4), pages 4.
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