Sovereign Wealth Center

Weighing the True Wealth of Nations — and Deciding How to Manage It

January 26, 2015 by Dag Detter, Stefan Fölster

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Most nations’ public assets exceed their public debt. Although managing public debt, via central bank bond purchases and other actions, became a matter of great concern during the 2008-’09 financial crisis and its aftermath, the oversight of public assets such as state-owned corporations, natural resources and infrastructure remains opaque and largely ignored. Our research shows that improving the world’s management of such assets would result in annual returns greater than the combined yearly investment in transportation, power, water and communications and other infrastructure. The truth is that most governments know a lot about their debt but much less about their assets. Many countries even prohibit publishing assessments of what they control, citing national security. The U.S. and Germany chose not to participate in a recent Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development initiative to value corporate public assets among its member countries. Better understanding is a first step toward…

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