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Of Dark Matter and Domesday

Kirk Hamilton's picture

As surprising as it may seem, there is a deep dark secret at the core of the System of National Accounts (SNA) – the accounts used by Finance ministries worldwide to measure economic performance. The numbers don’t add up. We can see this in the table below, showing the net worth of Brazil and its composition in 2005. The final two lines in the table report a measure of Brazil’s net national income and the implicit rate of return on wealth (the ratio of income to net worth). The return to Brazil’s produced and natural capital is over 18%! As good economists, we should all be investing our pension funds in Brazil. Why? Because financial market data tell us that the long run real rate of return across the broad range of assets averages only about 5% a year.
 

Table – Net worth and net national
Income (NNI) in Brazil, 2005, $million
Produced capital  1,909,259
Natural capital 1,713,939
Net financial assets -117,221
   
Net worth 3,505,978
   
Adjusted NNI 636,356
Implicit rate of return 18.2%
Source: The Changing Wealth of Nations
World Bank (2011)