Why the National Accounts matter: podcast chat with Brendan Markey-Towler

This century’s great trends in the Australian economy are evident in the National Accounts data (Chart 1): 

  • a halving of the relative economic contribution of domestic manufacturing, partly due to the car industry shutdown; 
  • the periodic resources booms which have propelled the mining sector to a higher average share, but one which is volatile and dependent on commodity prices; and
  • the continued growth of the post-industrial economy and services sectors, with ever-growing health care and social assistance (e.g. NDIS) and professional services industries.  

On his Substack Australian Economy Tracker, fellow Queensland economist Brendan Markey-Towler has commented regarding the Australian economy over the last decade as follows:

“To put it somewhat tritely: Australia is less and less a country that derives its wealth from making and building things, still a country that makes its wealth by digging stuff out of the ground and renting houses, and more and more a country that consults and cares.”

I spoke with Brendan about his Substack article earlier this week and our conversation is now available as my latest Economics Explored podcast episode “GDP & the National Accounts: What they are and why they matter”, available on all good podcasting apps, including Google Podcasts and Apple Podcasts. Please give it a listen and let me know what you think about the conversation.

Among other things, we talked about the contribution to the development of GDP and the National Accounts made by Colin Clark, whose UK National Accounts estimates were used by John Maynard Keynes in his General Theory. Clark spent the 1980s as a research fellow at UQ and earlier was a Queensland public service mandarin in the 1940s.

I was very impressed by Brendan’s enthusiasm for the National Accounts. He reminded me just what an outstanding intellectual achievement they are and how important they are to understanding our short-run economic performance and longer-term trends. 

Please feel free to comment below. Alternatively, you can email comments, questions, suggestions, or hot tips to contact@queenslandeconomywatch.com. Also please check out my Economics Explored podcast, which has a new episode each week.

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