Катя (inostranka) wrote,
Катя
inostranka

Wharton | 9/18 - Macro & Stats

A few final notes from the last day of last weekend at Wharton (promise to at least attempt to keep it brief this time).

Statistics
Luck of corruption - you be the judge. In Zimbabwe, the president has won the lottery. Apparently, in some south american countries lotteries are often used for money laundering, which, again, can be deduced by analyzing the winner data.

On a topic near and dear to my heart, we talked about the importance of stating the confidence levels with each projection, especially as related to sales forecasts. What happens in my and most other companies is that I (and my esteemed colleagues) pull some sales forecast numbers out of our posteriors, which are then aggregated, smoothed out, raised a bit, projected another year out, and, finally, produced in a glossy report delivered to the investors or owners, with ten-dollar precision levels, as the gospel of truth. Of course, if we were to keep the confidence levels together with the projections, the projections would likely be in a range of plus or minus hundreds of percentages. But, alas, precise numbers look a lot more convincing, at least to non-statisticians.

Macroeconomics
Inflation is an interesting phenomenon. In Argentina, it went up to 200% per month in 1989, while in Peru (the winner in the most recent history) it reached 400% a month in 1990! I felt bad for the lonely peruvian in our class. However, the all-time winner is post-WWI Germany, with monthly inflation levels exceeding the Avogadro number (this reference was appreciated by about 10% of the class). Of course, at that level, as in the preceeding 2 examples, the total collapse of the economy is the only solution. We did talk about the reasons for inflation, as well as ways to get out of it prior to total disaster, but I wanted to be brief here.

National savings and international investment help increase the rate of growth of GDP (gross domestic product). In the US, the savings rate is fairly low relative to other industrialized countries, just 6-8%, but we usually get the benefit of net international investment on the order of another 2%. Japan, on the other hand, has about 20% savings rate, but a net outflow of international investment. This is part of the explanation for Japan's much faster growth rates prior to the mid-nineties (after that the technology boom and other associated changes have changed the picture). How do you "fix" the "problem" of Japan's faster growth? Just extend consumer credit, and they will save less, just like the americans! Finally, Singapore has a mandatory pension savings plan, of almost 40% per person, leading to incredibly high national savings plan, and, therefore, extremely high growth rate. So, what happens in Russia? Little consumer credit, and yet little saving or international investment... - not much prospect of high growth rate, at least not from the savings.
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