Tuesday, October 27

Relative Priorities

When is a mobile phone more important than food? Or when is having a satellite dish antenna based TV system more important than having a better house? When you are talking about Iraqi Refugees


On the other hand, the World Food Programme has announced that it will let Iraqi refugees in Syria know that food aid is available over sms on mobile phones.

Iraqi refugees in Syria will this week start receive U.N. text messages they can redeem for fresh food in local shops, the World Food Programme said on Tuesday.

The "virtual vouchers" worth $22 per family every two months will supplement traditional aid which rarely includes perishable goods, WFP spokeswoman Emilia Casella said, announcing the pilot project supported by the mobile company MTN.


The Syrian pilot will initially reach 1,000 beneficiaries in and around Damascus, and may be extended, the WFP said. Casella described it as a way to help refugees eat a more diversified diet while also supporting local farmers and businesses.

"We are not giving food away, we are actually creating an additional market for local shopkeepers," she said.

Quite an interesting situation, eh? where entertainment and communications are of higher priority than food and shelter. World is definitely changing for the better? (I think)

Why doesnt education actually help Africans?

This paper made me sit up. If a country like Nigeria, which contains 1/5th of the population of the entire African continent, one of the best educated countries, with perhaps one of the best resourced landscapes shows a return for education of approximately 2-3% (the increase in personal  income for every additional year of schooling) compared to approximately 10% for the USA, then its not surprising that quite a lot of the educated middle class of Nigeria (and rest of Africa) is trying to emigrate out of Africa into the western nations.

The abstract of the paper is as follows:

In the last two decades, the social and economic benefits of formal education in Sub-Saharan Africa have been debated. Anecdotal evidence points to low returns to education in Africa. Unfortunately, there is limited econometric evidence to support these claims at the micro level. In this study, I focus on Nigeria, a country that holds 1/5 of Africa's population. I use instruments based on the exogenous timing of the implementation and withdrawal of free primary education across regions in this country to consistently estimate the returns to education in the late 1990s. The results show the average returns to education are particularly low in the 90s, in contrast to conventional wisdom for developing countries (2.8% for every extra year of schooling between 1997 and 1999). Surprisingly, I find no significant differences between OLS and IV estimates of returns to education when necessary controls are included in the wage equation. The low returns to education results shed new light on both the changes in demand for education in Nigeria and the increased emigration rates from African countries that characterized the 90s.

Are you going to blame bad governments? corruption? bad technology? health problems? Geo political issues? Or what have you? At end of the day, the policy prescription has always been to increase the spend in education. See this graph for the implementation of free education in Nigeria:

The author states that the African continent lost 60,000 professionals in just 5 years between 1985 and 1990. That is a huge migration and loss for the countries concerned, specially when you consider how difficult it would be to train a lawyer, doctor, university lecturers in countries with resource constraints. And if this happens constantly, then the continent will be going into reverse! If this is what happens when you are educated, then its obvious that the enrolment rates are going to fall and economic development will fall.

Monday, October 26

Does greater education actually increase generational conflict?

This was quite an interesting if controversial paper. Its basically explained by the following chart.



As the authors state:

The flow chart illustrates the transition to a vicious cycle of population aging and a decline in public education. In the early phases of industrialization, compulsory schooling regulated child labor and promoted technological progress, thereby discouraging fertility. A major education reform was eventually triggered by the rise in the young's demand for skill acquisition. However, the increased population share of the old enlarged their political power to curtail the government budget for education. The resulting positive response of private education induced further fertility decline.

The authors review the Japanese, USA, British, French, German situations with respect to economic development, ageing, public education, child labour, poverty, etc. The basic premise is given above. I am not sure that this has been thought before but this requires much thought. Actually, what else can one do? Public education is required. Its important to educate society as the economic development happens to move from labour and agriculture intensive sector to intellectual property / knowledge sector employment. Increased automation will anyway force people to work on higher value add jobs or get demoted out of the labour market.

But running the statistics on the overall education spend on the OECD countries here, I am not sure that the level of educational spending is falling. I think this needs to be reviewed a bit more

Sunday, October 25

Seafood medley

I was sort of told off last week from one of my chaps in India that I have stopped blogging and I should start it off. Well, here’s a tentative dip back into the wide world of blogging, lol.

Yesterday we were shopping for the Halloween Birthday party for the 2 witches at home (Joey’s birthday is 31st Oct and Diya’s birthday is 1st Nov) so we mix it up on Halloween day and then have decided to have a costume party :). Anyway, had quite a lot of fun with Karn in shopping for Halloween decorations.

Then we went to place an order for the cake at Waitrose. BTW, guys, Waitrose makes the bestest and greatest cakes :) Here’s one from last year when Ma was here and we celebrated her birthday. She is as ferocious and old as dinosaurs :)



So there Kannu told me off for not having cooked for a long time. Ok, so asked him what he wants to eat and he expressed a desire for Salmon. So, went off to get a good set of Salmon fillets, then got some mussels and large prawns, some spring onions, some sugar snap peas (no spinach, they were all a bit limp), a small tin of 4 cheese sauce and some mushroom soup. It was a quick meal, heated up the soup, then cooked the mussels in some butter and garlic, tossed the prawns in some lemon and garlic. Grilled the fillets for 15 minutes. Boiled up some water with some vegetable stock and plonked the spring onions and sugar snap peas into it to steam a bit. Then all served up on a nice warm plate. He gobbled it all up and then, surprise of surprise, he kissed me, hugged me and said, thanks Dad for a great meal. Now we are talking, nice to know that his old dad can still get him up and going :)

Then we went for dessert. Ma (whom I met last weekend in Mumbai) made some of my favourite laddu’s. Sesame Laddu’s and Coconut Laddu’s. This tin was full up when she gave me last weekend and over the past week and here, you can see the depredations on this.