F&D Magazine / Balance sheet analysis

Ian Ball on the Real Value of Hidden Assets


March 16, 2022

Ian Ball says most governments don't know what their assets are worth because they only account for cash.

In This Episode

Governments with strong balance sheets are known to recover from shocks more quickly. Yet many of them don't have balance sheets, or even know what assets and liabilities they have. The IMF estimates these often-overlooked global public assets at twice the value of global GDP. Ian Ball is a professor at Victoria University in Wellington and behind the New Zealand government’s net worth approach to determining its fiscal position. Ball published an article in Finance and Development about the benefits of digging up all government assets, hidden or otherwise. In this podcast, he sits down with journalist Rhoda Metcalfe to discuss the advantages of this basic accounting exercise that dates back to the time of William the Conqueror. Transcript

Read the article at IMF.org/fandd

IAN BALL is a principal architect of the New Zealand government’s financial management reforms.

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Bruce Edwards

International Monetary Fund

Bruce Edwards produces the IMF podcast program. He's an award-winning audio producer and journalist who's covered armed conflicts, social unrest, and natural disasters from all corners of the world. He believes economists have an important role in solving the world's problems and aspires to showcase their research in every IMF podcast.

Rhoda Metcalfe


Rhoda Metcalfe is an independent journalist and audio producer. Her reporting on the armed conflict in Colombia in the late 90s, as well as her work in Egypt, Turkey and South Africa has won several awards. She now produces podcasts and radio features from Washington DC and is a regular contributor to the IMF Podcast program.