The National Accounts Website  
 French version  

A website for everybody

Who knows what GDP is? Almost everybody. Who knows what national accounts are? Almost nobody. This is a strange paradox since GDP is only the by-product of a complex process the principal objective of which is to produce national accounts, i.e. an overall and consistent macroeconomic analysis framework.

This framework mainly derived from the Keynesian theory and its application to economic policy. Even if it does not rest on any specific economic hypothesis, it takes up its point of view, i.e. the point of view of macroeconomics. This point of view is as relevant today as in 1936 for understanding an economy, particularly in a period of crisis.

This could be sufficient to justify the existence of national accounts but the gross domestic product (GDP), their by-product, is also important by itself. GDP is important because it has been largely adopted by the media and the economists, GDP is important because it is used for the functioning of the European Union, in particular within the framework of the limitation of the public deficits and of the burden-sharing of the Union budget between the various Member States. Therefore, GDP is certainly the best ambassador of the national accountants.

The gross domestic product and the other results of the national accounts are very often present in the political debate, in particular at the time of national elections and they are unanimously recognized as objective measures indisputably reflecting economic reality.

However, on the contrary, national accounts and more precisely gross domestic product are often criticized, often rightly, sometimes wrongly, in particular because they do not measure correctly the welfare of a nation and they do not sufficiently take into account environmental issues. In fact, national accounts are based on some fundamental principles that are sometimes controversial. Therefore, it is important to know these fundamental principles to be able to judge the real scope of their results and to forge a better founded and more balanced opinion. The aim of this website is precisely to present in a very simple manner these principles.

The author

The author of this website, Francis Malherbe, is an expert in national accounts.

Author of a national accounts handbook (Dunod, Paris, 1992), he had a long experience in Africa, France and Eurostat (European Commission). He actively participated to the review process of the UN System of National Accounts (2008 SNA) and of the European System of Accounts (ESA 2010). He was also in charge of the verification of the national accounts of several european countries. He is presently an international consultant in national accounts.

National accounts
Keynesian theory

 French version