schooling in Myanmar (Burma)

April 28th, 2017

The World Bank gives low marks to schooling in Myanmar, a Southeast Asian country known also as Burma.

Myanmar has suffered from low school enrolment and completion rates (one third of 1.2 million students enrolled in grade 1 made it to grade 11, and only one third of those passed the school leaving exam); poor learning outcomes (9 percent of a third grade class in Yangon [the country’s largest city and former capital city] cannot read a single word); and inequalities in access and quality (net primary enrolment as low as 69 percent in poorer areas compared to 85 percent average nationally). [Emphasis added.]

World Bank, Myanmar: Public Expenditure Review, September 2015, p. 39.

The government of Myanmar provides a different, positive spin on schooling in the country.

Myanmar’s population is highly literate, with relatively high participation in primary schools, but there is a significant drop in participation in education in later school years. Over 95 percent of youth are literate. Only about 20 percent of children participate in pre-primary levels of education, but net attendance at primary school is roughly 90 percent. [p. 27]

Myanmar is piloting a new education stipend with the assistance of the World Bank that is conditioned on enrollment and attendance, and that uses community based targeting mechanisms to identify beneficiaries. [p.42]

Republic Of the Union Of Myanmar, Myanmar National Social Protection Strategic Plan, December 2014.

The focus in the government’s report is entirely on participation in schooling. There is no discussion of quality, or any need to improve it.

Trump and the nuclear option

April 27th, 2017

“Given his volatility and inexperience, that is what keeps me awake at night especially as, during the campaign, he asked what the point of nuclear weapons was if you could not use them,” says Malcolm Rifkind, a former British Conservative party foreign and defence minister.

Demetri Sevastopulo and Courtney Weaver, “100 days in the court of King Donald“, FT Magazine, Financial Times, 29 April 2017 (gated paywall).

For more on the fear of Trump’s access to a nuclear button, see this TdJ post of 28 November 2016.

Donald Trump’s first 100 days

April 26th, 2017

Franklin D. Roosevelt, while confronting the Great Depression of the 1930s, invented the idea of a president’s first 100 days. Op-Ed Columnist David Leonhardt explains how Donald Trump’s first 100 days have been so spectacularly devoid of success. Read the rest of this entry »

official statistics and China’s GDP growth

April 24th, 2017

China’s official GDP estimates are distrusted by many, who think that the government is overstating the country’s true rate of economic growth. Columbia University’s Xavier Sala-i-Martin teamed up with two economists from the New York Fed (Hunter Clark and Maxim Pinkovskiy) to examine satellite data on variation over time of nighttime light emissions – a proxy for GDP growth. They find that the official statistics on average do not overstate China’s growth rate; in fact, in recent years they understate it.

For analysts of the Chinese economy, questions about the accuracy of the country’s official GDP data are a frequent source of angst, leading many to seek guidance from alternative indicators. These nonofficial gauges often suggest Beijing’s growth figures are exaggerated, but that conclusion is not supported by our analysis, which draws upon satellite measurements of the intensity of China’s nighttime light emissions—a good proxy for GDP growth that is presumably not subject to whatever measurement errors may affect the country’s official economic statistics. ….

The chart below presents the path of official Chinese GDP growth alongside our modified Li Keqiang Index (with the weights determined by the nighttime lights regression). We place a 95 percent confidence interval around our prediction.

Is Chinese Growth Overstated?

Hunter Clark, Maxim Pinkovskiy, and Xavier Sala-i-Martin, “Is Chinese Growth Overstated?“, Liberty Street Economics, 19 April 2017.

The authors’ full working paper on which this article is based, “China’s GDP Growth May be Understated” (NBER No. 23323, issued in April 2017), can be downloaded here.

economic ignorance and trade wars

April 23rd, 2017

It is sad (and dangerous) that policymakers in the current US government display an ignorance of basic economics. A column like this, written by Columbia University economist Jeffrey Sachs, would not be necessary if Mr Trump and his advisors had even a minimal understanding of economic principles taught in economics 101. Read the rest of this entry »

rise of the robots

April 23rd, 2017

Technological change in general is a good thing. After all, it means that we can produce more output with fewer hours of work, giving us more leisure and more goods to consume. Nonetheless, for some individuals, the change can be stressful. Workers may find themselves unemployed, or underemployed, unable to adjust to a changing job market. Leisure is not very pleasant when it comes in the form of involuntary unemployment with less income. Read the rest of this entry »

the long lives of South Koreans

April 22nd, 2017

I somehow missed this interesting column from Bryan Harris, chief of the FT’s Seoul bureau. Asia is amazing. The continent is changing rapidly, and not just in China. Read the rest of this entry »

Liberia’s for-profit public schools

April 22nd, 2017

Liberia’s primary and secondary schools are dismal, even by the standards of sub-Saharan Africa. A new education minister in 2015 decided to address the problem by outsourcing education to private, for-profit companies.

FT Africa editor David Pilling visited Liberia, to see how the experiment is progressing, and filed a long report. He found that the results are not very impressive. But perhaps it is too early to judge such revolutionary changes in provision of free, public schooling. Read the rest of this entry »

Chinese wine is improving

April 20th, 2017

It is unfortunate that Chinese wine drinkers seem to be deserting the produce of their own vineyards for imported alternatives. In my experience, the quality of the best Chinese wine has recently turned a corner — in the right direction. ….

There is one potential handicap, however. The countries that have had the most success in establishing export markets in the modern era have had a USP. New Zealand has carved a niche for the world’s most valuable per-bottle prices by offering uniquely, refreshingly fruity Sauvignon Blanc. Australia saw massive success with its friendly Chardonnay and rich Shiraz. Argentina has blitzed North America with its bold Malbec.

But Chinese vineyards are dominated by the red Cabernet and Merlot grapes that grow in abundance all over the wine world — not least in Bordeaux, which produces massive quantities of inexpensive examples every year, typically made by co-ops that do not have the debt that recent investors may be saddled with.

The reaction of many Chinese producers to market trends has been to acquire foreign vineyards and wineries. …. One thing seems sure: Chinese influence in the world of wine will only increase.

Jancis Robinson, “China’s strides in the wine race are yielding robust results“, Financial Times, 20 April 2017.

Janice Robinson writes a weekly column on wine for the Financial Times, and is editor of The Oxford Companion to Wine.

A much longer, ungated version of the column is available here.


time for a BC renters rebate?

April 20th, 2017

We have an election coming up on May 9th here in British Columbia, and things are heating up. The NDP (centre left New Democratic Party) is polling very close to the incumbent Liberals. Lindsay Tedds, who teaches economics in the University of Victoria School of Public Administration, has written a blog on the NDP platform, comparing it to the Liberal platform.

Because I have a particular interest in the subject (like Professor Tedds, I’m a renter), I will copy and paste most of what she says about the NDP proposal for a Renters Rebate. For a look at proposed changes in other subsidies and taxes, see her full blog. I have added her to my blogroll, something I should have done long ago.

A key point is that in Canada, as in most countries, homeowners receive a lot of subsidies, whereas renters receive nothing. This makes no economic sense, especially since homeowners on average are much wealthier than renters. (See the first chart in the blog to see just how wealthy BC homeowners are. In Greater Vancouver and in Victoria, average incomes of homeowners are nearly double those of renters.) Read the rest of this entry »