[wdmmg-discuss] alpha version of "The Budgetizer"
timjph at gmail.com
Sat Jul 17 18:14:36 BST 2010
Just before budget was announced in June, Lisa, Rufus and i put
together a simple interactive tool showing the effect of different
policy options (tax rises or cuts) on the overall deficit.
That tool provided a very simplistic view, whereas in reality tax
rises are staged and effects on incomes, deficit etc. happen over
To model and visualize this in a realistic way requires a framework
to handle multiple alternative time series. Rufus and I have been
working on the first stages of this.
I've been capturing government time series include projections from
2008, 2010 (before the budget) and 2010 (after the budget), into the
google spreadsheet below. Each projection is contained in a
different sheet. At present this is only at the level of GDP, total
expenditure, total taxation, deficit etc. There's also a description
sheet which gives a bit of information about the structure.
Rufus has built an initial view of a couple of sheets here.
This is very much a first alpha visualisation - will change a lot
over the coming days - the main thing at this stage is the code to
read from multiple sheets and visusalise them as graphs.
Even with this simple view, you can see that while the annual
overspend (expenditure over receipts) falls under the post-budget
plan, the total deficit remains huge compared to GDP (compared to
where it has been over the last 30 years)
Having built this, the plan is to add features to allow users to
interactively experiment with different senarios. Even doing this
roughly is quite a lot harder as it requires projecting the
consequence of changes of policy multiple years into the future.
There are some notes for where we've got to so far here: under = 2010-07-06 =
In terms of the modelling part, I've done a bit of initial modelling
of uk taxation, which could be adapted for this - below is the model
I built to calculate the consequences of cuts for the original
There's a lot more to do to model the impact of other changes...
Comments welcome on the direction of all this!
Ultimately I see this as the start of a long term project to
construct an open model of the economy - that's good enough to be a
useful tool to explore policy options. Spreadsheets with comments on
cells as to why they are set to the values or formulas they are will
get us so far - ultimately its going to need a database behind it.
I envisage a platform that can store time series data where each
item/cell has the equivalent of a wikipedia page (description+talk)
where the number, or formula (GDP or method of calculating TAX) can
be debated. I'm thinking of two adjacent cells - a calculated one,
using the current formulas and a 'current thinking' one, driven off
the talk page - this allows things like GDP published by different
groups to be captured/references. The new spreadsheet has a bit of
that - a few very simple calculations with the difference between
that and the official figure or projection also shown.
A lot of my real job, over the last 10 years, has been the Ensembl
project (http://www.ensembl.org/): developing a database schema
overlayed by an API representing biological objects to represent
human genome data. One of the big strengths of that project has been
the API, which others increasingly use to carry out research,
analysing the standardized consistent data which the project provides
(about 1Tb per release these days). That's kind of what I think this
project should evolve towards - but are there any equivalent open
database/object/API frameworks for economics out there? I've looked
but I can't really find one. Anyone any ideas?
Dr Tim Hubbard email: th at sanger.ac.uk
Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute Tel (direct): +44 1223 496886
Wellcome Trust Genome Campus Tel (switch): +44 1223 834244
Hinxton, Cambridgeshire. CB10 1SA. Fax: +44 1223 496802
The Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute is operated by Genome Research
Limited, a charity registered in England with number 1021457 and a
company registered in England with number 2742969, whose registered
office is 215 Euston Road, London, NW1 2BE.
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