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A Gray Area: Davis, Rival Disagree on State Ranking

August 09, 2003|Elizabeth Kelly | Times Staff Writer

Arnold Schwarzenegger says he is ready to take on the problems of the world's seventh-largest economy should Californians elect him as the state's next governor come October.

Gov. Gray Davis figures Arnold has his numbers all wrong.

The Davis administration boasts that California passed the No. 7 slot long ago. In fact, the governor announced in March 2002 that the state had leapfrogged Italy and France to become the globe's fifth-biggest economy.

So which politician hits the mark? Neither, according to Jack Kyser, chief economist for the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corp.

Kyser's latest calculations show that California -- were it an independent nation -- would rank as the No. 6 economy in the world. The state fell from No. 5 last year, largely because of currency fluctuations, Kyser said.

It now trails the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain and France, though it remains ahead of China (excluding Hong Kong), Italy, Canada and Spain.

The LAEDC bases its rankings on data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Monetary Fund.

But in politics, hard numbers can fast get squishy. When the LAEDC issued its latest rankings, Davis' office "said we did the math wrong," Kyser recalled.

Schwarzenegger may have done his own computations, Kyser surmises: "With Arnold, it's probably political spin."

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