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Economy & Business Environment Blog

Bart van Ark

Bart van Ark is executive vice president, chief economist & chief strategy officer of The Conference Board and is University of Groningen's chair in Economic Development, Technological Change and Growth.
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Posts by Bart van Ark

Making dollars—and sense—out of the New Digital Economy

May 17, 2016 | No Comments »
More on: Economic Indicators & Forecasting

As the economy continues to digitize at an unprecedented pace, why don’t we see faster economic growth and productivity increases? The answer is that the diffusion process of technologies from the New Digital Economy—characterized by rapidly increasing spending on cloud computing, data analysis, and other services in a world of ubiquitous, Internet connections – has only just begun. In a new report on the digital economy, The Conference Board incorporates a suite of economy-wide, industry-specific, and firm-level data alongside interviews with executives in a dozen major companies to examine the progress of the New Digital Economy. In another blog we report on some of the metrics, in particular rapid price declines in ICT assets and services and an ongoing shift from investment in ICT assets to spending on ICT services, underlying our view that the productivity effects have yet to come.

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The New Digital Economy is not paying off in terms of higher productivity—yet

May 17, 2016 | No Comments »
More on: Economic Indicators & Forecasting

Despite rapid digital innovation, booming spending on digital services, and spectacular tech-price declines, the New Digital Economy of mobile, broadband, and cloud has had little visible impact thus far on hard measures of growth, productivity, or profits. Optimists argue we just need to be a little more patient. Pessimists suspect that, behind the techno-utopian buzz and bluster, there’s no “there” there. Who will turn out to have had it most right?

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Blaming the productivity slowdown on measurement issues takes our eyes off the ball

July 22, 2015 | No Comments »
More on: Economic Indicators & Forecasting, Growth, Productivity & Competitiveness, Innovation, Labor Markets, Productivity & competitiveness, Sustainability, innovation & growth

The productivity slowdown does not result primarily from the mismeasurement of technology output, but from our failure to invest effectively in innovation.

Concerns about a global productivity slowdown are rapidly spreading, as it is increasingly identified as one of the possible causes of the mediocre global growth performance. In a series of reports by The Conference Board we discuss the issues (only for members) and have provided the accompanying measures (publicly available) in detail. A recent report by the OECD is addressing the topic as well.

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The benefits of lower oil prices are largely behind us, while more risks are ahead

April 15, 2015 | No Comments »
More on: Economic Indicators & Forecasting, Energy & Sustainability, Global economic outlook, Growth, Productivity & Competitiveness, Innovation, Sustainability, innovation & growth

The drastic decline in oil prices that began in summer 2014 has left clear winners and losers among countries, sectors, and industries. Overall, we are not as bullish as some others, such as the IMF in yesterday’s World Economic Outlook , on the aggregate growth impacts on economies around the world. In a new report on oil prices by The Conference Board, we show that (1) the decline’s effect on consumers is largely past, (2) oil producers are still the wild card, and (3) we need to prepare for a long spell of volatility.

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Can the world get by with 3 percent average growth?

November 12, 2014 | No Comments »
More on: Business Scenarios & Strategic Planning, Economic Indicators & Forecasting, Global economic outlook, Growth, Productivity & Competitiveness, Productivity & competitiveness

Today’s annual release of The Conference Board Global Economic Outlook projects global economic growth in 2015 at 3.4 percent, just a fraction faster than 2014’s 3.2 percent growth. This will make 2015 the fourth year in a row of modest and disappointing growth.  Job growth, business investment, and productivity growth continue to be weak. Factoring in rising geopolitical tensions, we see a new pessimism emerging about long-term growth potential. Indeed, we may see a mere 3 percent average annual growth between now and 2025.

What does this projection mean for the global economy? More »


Are pessimistic growth forecasts worse than optimistic ones?

November 10, 2014 | No Comments »
More on: Business Scenarios & Strategic Planning, Economic Indicators & Forecasting, Global economic outlook, Growth, Productivity & Competitiveness, Productivity & competitiveness

“The only function of economic forecasting is to make astrology look respectable,” said the late John Kenneth Galbraith. As The Conference Board prepares to release its annual Global Economic Outlook this week, we’re reminded once more of the limitations of our profession.

Today more than ever, forecasters not only struggle for accuracy, but to avoid completely missing the next big thing. Will we finally emerge from the global economic and financial crisis into a new period of high growth? Or are we heading toward a long period of what is now often called secular stagnation? More »


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