Saturday, November 15

A tale of two suicides

We have been hearing and talking about farmer suicides in India for a long time, and now the financial crunch is pushing the middle class into suicide. What do you do when you face immense losses? so tragic that you withdraw from the human race and your own existence. Worse is when you suddenly decide to take your family with you.

But the main point I want to make is the inconsistency which I find interesting. Farmer suicides are considered to be important enough to protest against but not these investor suicides. If the idea is to help people avoid killing themselves, then the cause should not matter. But as an economist, I find this dichotomy quite interesting. As a political analyst, I find this perfectly logical, agricultural suicides are more of a vote winning factor than investor suicides.

Also, the people who moan about this are clearly on the two ends of the political spectrum, the left side will be happier to moan about the farmer suicide than the investor suicide. As a financial analyst, I would question aspects relating to loss reduction, risk databases and credit control..As an ex-columnist and a current blogger, why is it that people find farmer suicides pity worthy but investor suicides as just desserts at worst and less pity at best?

Hmm, interesting indeed.

Thursday, November 13

Does this work for you?

to become an organ donor?



What Determines Female Autonomy?

Here's an interesting question. What does drive female autonomy in developing countries? The underlying assumption is that one does want females to be autonomous as in vast swathes of the world, they are under the thumb of man and are not economically, politically, socially active and independent. And this cuts across regions, religions, the problem is the men, not the religion or region, although both factors do have a role to play (so will the theologians and political economy/geographers will attest to).

So what are the drivers to female autonomy? I bumped into this paper by Siwan Anderson and  Mukesh Eswaran in the Journal of Development Economics,which analysed the contributions of earned versus unearned income in enhancing women’s autonomy and the role of employment outside of their husband’s farm. The researchers report that autonomy helps in "long-term reduction in fertility, higher child survival rates, and allocation of resources in favour of children in the household"

The authors study thousands of families in a relatively poor area of Bangladesh and come up with some interesting results. Seems like earned wage income is more important than unearned income. In other words, if the woman is working on her husbands' farm, then it is not important and does not offer autonomy to the woman concerned. The income generated by the farm is not under the control of the woman, so her labour is not rewarded in terms of having control over its spending....

Seems like they have suggested doing poultry rearing as a very good way of providing direct income to the women. Bird Flu notwithstanding, this is a result which made me think a bit more about my ideas of getting the women into productive society. We have to do more about getting these women more funding...

I also wonder what's the situation is within the developed countries...And lo and behold, I read this rather interesting article about Asian women in the UK. I quote:

Asian women don't have personalities, they have post-traumatic stress disorder. In my experience, I argued, Asian women, being the product of patriarchal culture, are either incredibly servile or terrifyingly aggressive. In the former case, they have simply been crushed by their experience and, in the latter, they have to fight so hard for their independence that they have become brutalised by the experience and, even when they have gained their freedom, they can't stop fighting.

Hmmm, just cannot win, can you?

Technorati Tags: ,

London rooftops could be turned into allotments

Now, this is a great idea.

The unused spaces are to be converted into vegetable gardens which would grow potatoes and brussels sprouts in an attempt to feed the 2012 Olympic athletes with home-grown products.

It is thought the flat roofs in London comprise an area 24 times the size of Richmond Park - and their owners will be offered incentives to convert their space.

As environmental awareness has grown, growing vegetables on allotments has become more popular across the country, although London still produces little of its own food.

We should be thinking more along these lines, quite an interesting idea, no?

Technorati Tags: ,

Wednesday, November 12

Obama’s historic win – can a Chinese, Indian, Kadazan or Iban become Prime Minister?

Hmmm, interesting question. I had email exchanges with an Indian Muslim who was moaning about a similar thing. His point was that India can never see an Indian Muslim as a Prime Minister, to which I took exception. There is a minority currently in power as a prime minister, he is a Sikh. We have Presidents who have been from minorities, we have people leading the national cricket teams who have been minorities and the like. So India has been quite good in having minorities capable of rising to the top. But obviously, if you ask some of these benighted Indian chappies, they would want to moan. To another chap who was saying the same, I told him, i will support you if you support the election of an Indian Muslim woman. Needless to say, he did not reply. Pretty clear, no?

But here's an interesting post I read from a Malaysian Chinese politicians who was moaning about their minorities becoming a Prime Minister of Malaysia. He apparently asked in their own parliament and rather shamefully I thought, there were many answers which were "no". I quote:

However, Obama’s historic breakthrough make many Malaysians ask whether it is possible for a Chinese, Indian, Kadazan to become the Prime Minister of Malaysia although the Constitution is very clear that any Malaysian citizen, regardless of race or religion can become Prime Minister.

If such a question is asked 50 years ago, the nation’s founders like Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak, Tun Dr. Ismail, Tun Hussein Onn, Tun Tan Cheng Lock, Tun Tan Siew Sin and Tun V.T. Sambanthan would unhesitatingly answered in the positive as there is no constitutional bar - separate from the question of whether it was likely to happen.

But if the same question is asked now, there will be strong voices (as heard in Parliament today when this question was posed) who would rise up to say no.

Who is going against the Merdeka Constitution and the social contract reached by the forefathers of the major communities to achieve national independence half a century ago?

Why is Malaysian race relations and nation-building going backwards in the past 50 years as compared to the historic breakthrough in race relations in the United States with Obama’s historic victory in the US presidential elections?

Long way to go before these narrow domestic walls come tumbling down...

Technorati Tags: ,,

Tuesday, November 11

Less pensions, more children

My father's father ended up having 18 children, my father's mother belonged to a group of 12 siblings, my wife's grandpa punched out 14 odd kids and so on and so forth. At that time and age, children were considered to be god's gift, and a man's virility was considered to be measured by the number of children he had. Plus mix in the fact that there was no good birth control and no safety net, meant that there were tons of kids. But does this mean that this is the case this time and age?

Well, interestingly enough, there was this case in Italy where pensions were reformed. This reform meant that pension benefits were dramatically reduced. So if the theory holds right, then you will see a jump in the fertility of women and the number of children which are born will increase. And so this paper so determined. I quote:

simple comparison shows that unaffected individuals had on average 1.7 children, while affected individuals had on average 1.87 children. The magnitude of this difference is reduced once one controls for factors such as individuals’ age, but a difference of about 13% higher post-reform fertility remains. These empirical results are consistent with the “kids as investment good” rather than “consumption” motivation, even in modern societies. They are also consistent with the link between the expansion of pay-as-you-go pension systems and lower fertility – in this case the retrenchment of a pay-as-you-go pension system induces higher fertility.

Hmm, so when you reduce future benefits like pensions, you will see people punching out more kinds. Interesting or what? Perhaps I should try to float this idea to have more kids :).

Monday, November 10

A technical infrastructure renaissance

Now the fact that I have been generally talking about improvements in American infrastructure such as airports, highways and bridges is there, but this article made me go hmmm. IBM are proposing to, and I quote:

I.B.M.’s chief executive, Samuel J. Palmisano, is proposing a technology-fueled economic recovery plan that calls for public and private investment in more efficient systems for utility grids, traffic management, food distribution, water conservation and health care.

These are smart infrastructure projects, rather than dumb ones presumably such as roads and bridges. I further quote:

Some economists and policy experts say similar projects are a good way to improve the long-term health of the economy, potentially providing a foundation for innovation and growth across a range of industries.

Applying more computing intelligence to help transform fields like transportation, energy and health care will be “critical to solving an array of pressing public problems,” said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, a nonpartisan research group.

Hmmm, there is quite a lot to be thought about in here, but that immediately presumes that Governments are smart enough to direct and deliver large smart infrastructure projects like this. I have to beg to differ. Look at the UK Governments ham fisted attempts to roll out large complex system projects such as in the NHS, in the other government department and they are usually a spectacular failure.

Take the case of Heathrow, they made a fantastic case for building the damn terminal (under budget and under time) and made a total hash of the actually systems/people/process/baggage/flights integration. Laughing stock. So no, I am not very impressed nor interested in asking the government to do so. Mind you, IBM can do so, but hmmm, still not totally convinced, I am afraid even thought the vision is pretty good.

Technorati Tags:

Sunday, November 9

More Fraud in the EU

Remember this time last year? When the EU court of auditors refused to sign off on the EU accounts? How much you want to bet that they will refuse to sign off again this year? Not much, right?

So let me see if I understand this, for the 14th year running, there is fraud and incompetence running riot in the EU. Almost every area of its running is open to incompetence, fraud, stupidity and frankly corruption.

And then Anonymous had the teremity to argue with me to tell me that I am wrong? Listen, my dear chap, I am currently executing the world's largest financial transformation programme and am knee deep in auditors, accountants and the like. So dont tell me that its technical reasons, you pillock.

Here, read what another person says on this disgusting state of affairs. I quote:


Here we go again. Today, for the 14th year in a row, the European Court of Auditors will unveil their report, telling us that they refuse to clear the EU accounts. What's worse, no one will really seem to care. We are told that the accounts won't be cleared until 2020 - if then.

Having worked inside the Brussels nomenklatura and having being sacked for my insistence that financial controls have to be strengthened, I am not surprised to find that nothing has changed other than the arguments deployed to defend this state of affairs. What the auditors have been saying for years is that most of the payments made by the Commission from its £70 billion-a- year budget cannot be deemed legal or regular. That is, that they cannot confirm those payments have been made to the correct person for the correct purpose and for the correct amount. It stretches credulity to insist, as the Europhiles do, that this does not mean that there is fraud.

Because the payments are made to beneficiaries in the member countries it's easy enough for the institutions to put the blame on those recipients. Which is what they do, claiming that the problem is one of insufficient attention being paid to the paperwork. But who designed the paperwork that no one understands or completes? And who doesn't insist on it being completed? The institutions themselves, of course. Because this control is missing there is no way to protect against fraud or even to uncover it.

Analysis: Terror Threat Remains

For some reason (well, ok, so I have been modelling terrorism data but since that is sensitive and not yet published, cant say much about it), I have been thinking the same, it has been too long and we have been lucky too long for this. I am dead sure that we will be looking out for an attack any time now in the UK. And just when I was thinking so, I read this article. I quote:

Over the last few months, we in Britain have become a little obsessed with the economy, falling house prices and the credit crunch, but it should not be forgotten that a significant number of UK citizens have been planning to carry out attacks with the aim of causing mass casualties.

The report leaked to The Sunday Telegraph identifies three areas - London, Birmingham and Luton - which MI5 and Special Branch believe are enclaves or hot beds of terrorist activity, where "some thousands" of extremists committed to supporting Jihadi activities. It is this fact alone which will worry the security services the most.

Each of these areas has sizeable Muslim populations and while the vast majority are peace loving and regard militant Islam as an abomination, some are also in denial about the size of the threat from members of their communities.

Lets put it in this way, I am expecting an attack in the next 6 weeks...I hope to God I am wrong...

Technorati Tags: ,

An unsung hero...

One of India's unsung hero's, despite perhaps the almost constant barrage of swears and corruption and inefficiency and bribery and and and and stuff levied at them.
even though this is an advert..We keep on poking at these chaps, yes, they are Indians as well. And sometimes, perhaps just once in 100 times, lets think about the fact that they are also human beings usually dealing the worst that we throw at them.