Saturday, April 30, 2005

My home-made Chinese dumplings

Invited to Cheyok and Joel's home party. (I guess "home party" is a Japanese English. Google "home party". You'll see two of the first ten websites written in Japanese...)

Brought home-made gyoza, or Chinese dumplings. Incredibly popular among guests. :) The third time I cooked them for someone else. (My blog posts in archives for the first time and for the second time.) They're always popular.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Daron Acemoglu

Daron Acemoglu won the John Bates Clark Medal, the prize given each other year to the greatest economist under the age of 40, which is a good indicator of who will win the Nobel Prize in Economics in the future.

I knew this news by visiting LSE's Economics Department website (see the NEWS section). LSE seems to be proud of him as he's the first former LSE PhD student winning this prize.

The award is given by the American Economic Association, whose website describes Professor Acemoglu's contributions.

What's weird to me is that this description only very briefly mentions yet another big contribution Acemoglu does to the field of political economy. He, along with James Robinson, came up with an economic theory of democratization, which is succinctly summarised in Chapter 2 of their forthcoming book. (See 18th January 2005 in my blog archives for the discussion on their theory.)

I believe this work also deserves a lot of attention.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Jeffrey Sachs

Attended Jeffrey Sachs's public lecture at Queen Mary, University of London. He's delivering the same public lecture at LSE next week, too, but I've just got bored with LSE's lecture theatre. :)

A sixth of the world's population (1.1bn) live in absolute poverty, with their (imputed) income less than 1 dollar a day. People in Washington, D.C., say it is all about corrupt politicians and government officials. Professor Sachs says it's not only about that.

Poor people, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, are too poor to be part of global economic development. Compare them with the poor in China and Indian; they have been becoming part of it and starting to enjoy the benefits. What causes this difference?

African people are vulnerable in three ways. First, they are vulnerable to crop failure. Compare them to Asians. Asia has become self-sufficient in food thanks to the Green Revolution, which requires the use of irrigation and fertilizer. Africa has failed to do so because of lack in both. Africa does not have the Himalayas, which ensure high water tables across Asia along with the monsoon. In Africa, rainfall evaporates very quickly; just a short spell of no rain causes serious damage in crop yielding. They need irrigation, but they simply cannot afford it. In addition, with the population rapidly increasing, they no longer fallow land, preventing nitrogen in the air from being fixed to the ground. If they could afford fertilizer, crop yield will triple. But they simply can't afford it. It is possible to make it happen, though, if donors give money to them.

Second, they are vulnerable to disease. Malaria is transmitted far more quickly in Africa than anywhere else because Africa provides the most favourable environment for malaria virus. But it is 100% curable. They can't afford drugs or can only afford the previous generation of drugs that are no longer effective. They can't afford preventive measures, either. They don't have cash to buy insecticide or bed nets. If donors give them such things, poor Africans will no longer be vulnerable to disease.

Finally, they are vulnerable to isolation. Many Sub-Saharan African countries (along with Afghanistan, Bolivia, and Nepal in other continents) are landlocked. It is difficult for them to trade with countries overseas. On top of that, however, these countries often lack in transportation and communication infrastrucre inside the borders as well. If there is no paved road, transporting crops to the nearby market is very costly. If there is no phone, you have to walk to a faraway town, only to find there is nothing to buy today. But they simply cannot afford such infrastructure. Again, giving them aid money solves the problem.

So what we need is simply more money. At the end of his lecture, he stresses the recent movement by EU countries (UK, France, and Germany among others) to set a timetable for reaching the 0.7% target in foreign aid. (In 1970, rich countries agreed to aim for providing foreign aid equal to 0.7% of their GDP. Except some countries -Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Luxemburg - they have failed to achieve it.)

He has very few words on how to ensure that aid money will be properly spent. But his succinct summary of causes of poverty (vulnerability to crop failure, disease, and isolation) is revealing to me. Also what strikes me is his idea that there is a jump between absolute poverty and the process of economic development due to capital accumulation (physical and human). Absolute poverty prevents people from saving. In this situation, the market force does not work. It's not about too many regulations imposed by the governments.

Professor Sachs has been an advisor to the governments of many countries and visiting many poor countries around the world. His talk seemed to come from these expeeriences, not from academic works. It made me realise that my view on development has been a bit confined by mainstream development economics. (Professor Sachs is no longer part of it.) This way, the lecture was worth attending for me. (Plus, it may give me an idea useful to my research...)

The lecutre, by the way, is part of his book launch tour (see his new book website and a book review by The Economist magazine - subscription required). He also held signing after the lecture. He's like a novelist.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Lesser-known "Good" Dictators - Part I

I started investigating what actually happens behind the dataset by reading area studies journal papers available at Jstor. During the course of this investigation, I realised there are lesser-known "good" dictators, good in the sense that investment, the most robust determinant of economic growth, is somehow encouraged under their rule.

So I decided to take notes of them in this blog. Today you'll know three "good" dictators from Bangalesh, Burkina Faso, and Burundi. All the economic figures come from the Penn World Table version 6.1.

Ziaur Rahman aka Zia (Bangladesh, 1975-81)

Under his rule, the share of investment in GDP went up from 6.82% in 1975 to 13.08% in 1981. Although the economic growth rate was volatile, real GDP per capita also went up from 963.43 US dollars to 1059.29 dollars (both in 1996 value). His economic policies are discussed in

Syed Serajul Islam (1986) "Relative State Autonomy and Development Strategy in Bangladesh, 1975-1981," Pacific Affairs, 59(4), pp.563-576.
4o percent of the industries nationalised by the previous government were handed over to private entrepreneurs. The constitution was amended so that acquisition, nationalization or requisition of property could now take place "with compensation only."

This move, however, was applied only for industries losing money; he retains control of profitable sugar industry, for example. Behind this profit-maximization objective, argues the author, lies his reliance on the military's support; the defense budget shot up after he seized power in 1975.

Thomas Sankara (Burkina Faso, 1983-87)

Under his rule, investment as a ratio of real GDP picked up from 7.37% in 1983 to 12.91% in 1985 (then declined to 10.25% in 1987). Although his political ideology was rather left-wing, "private investment in manufacturing industries, in construction and in agricultural input supply sectors was encouraged... [T]he economic policies ... under Sankara resembled the approach advocated by the World Bank in terms of regulating the public sector" including cuts in pay and number employed in public administration (Mike Speirs (1991) "Agrarian Change and the Revolution in Burkina Faso," African Affairs, 90(358), pp.89-110).

Jean-Baptiste Bagaza (Burundi, 1976-87)

Under his rule, the share of investment in GDP steadily went up from 3.48 percent in 1976 to 12.86 percent in 1984. Although the economic growth rate during this period were more volatile (so real GDP per capita in 1987 was almost the same as in 1976), he must have done something to create a good investment climate in Burundi. Unfortunately, information on his rule is very scarce. The only piece of information I found is on page 35 of
Rose M. Kadende-Kaiser and Paul J. Kaiser (1997) "Modern Folklore, Identity, and Political Change in Burundi", African Studies Review, Vol.40, No.3, pp.29-54:
"Closely allied with the army, Bagaza carefully controlled ethnic relations, not permitting Hutu and Tutsi to emphasize their ethnic identities through fear and repression. During this period, the army and government became increasingly under the control of Bagaza's political confidants, many of whom were Tutsi from the south. ... There was relative calm in the country during the Second Republic..." (Note: the Second Republic refers to the period of Bagaza's rule)
I'm unable to find any more than this. If you know about Bagaza's economic policies, let me know.

Monday, April 04, 2005


I cancelled the conference presentation at SMYE2005. The monetary cost of doing this: 40 euro for conference registration fee already paid and 13 pounds for The Rough Guide Switzerland (I didn't buy one online).

My supervisor's advice was two-fold.

Number one: Never present what you're not convinced about.
Otherwise it hurts your reputation as a researcher. Cancellation of conference presentation is less hurting than presenting something dubious.
Number two: Successful PhD students are those who worry little and write a lot.
I was told I always worry too much. Before worrying, just write up a draft! That's what he said.

It's true that I'm a guy who worries too much not only about research but also about everything about my life (as pretty much obvious for long-time readers of this blog). I know this just wastes my precious time. But that's my personality, difficult to change. As long as research is concerned, however, I MUST change this.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

No Sunday for me.

Went to the School, preparing a bit for tomorrow's meeting with my supervisor. See 31st March.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Saturday lunch at Hackney

Had a Turkish lunch with Linus at Bursa Inegol Koftecisi (6 Morning Lane, Hackney E9). Brilliant pide bread and juicy chicken shish with friendly staff and Turkish customers.

Hackney is a distinct place in London, different from any other districts in London. Even McDonald's has got a different atmosphere with a special burger called Curry Chicken Burger.

London Bus drivers

London Bus drivers are sometimes mental.

I was waiting for a bus to come at a bus stop near Bethnal Green tube station today. As happens very often with London Buses, two buses came at the same time.

(Digression: You might think this was due to jammed traffic. You are wrong. The bus stop near my home in London is the second bus stop from the one end of a bus route. So buses coming from that end of the route shouldn't be affected by traffic congestion. Still, I sometimes see two buses coming in a row. It's not traffic. It's drivers. What happens in bus garages is likely to be that a bus driver is having a chat with his colleagues, forgetting his departure time. Then the driver of the next bus comes to him and says, "Why are you still here? It's time for me to leave the garage!" So they come together.)

Anyway, I chose to get on the second bus as there were a lot of people queuing to ride on the first bus. (Another reason is that the second bus often overtakes the first one before I end the 10 minute bus journey to my home.) The driver of the second bus didn't open the entrance door. I knocked the door. He ignored me. When the first bus left the bus stop, this second bus also left.

What's the point of this? Why are passengers not allowed to get on the second bus in a row? My jaw dropped into the underground...

Friday, April 01, 2005


The following is the email message I sent to my supervisor:

I found that my argument that the way to select chief executives in the government matters for the economy was totally wrong. The direction of causality is very likely to be opposite, which is nothing new or surprising. My paper was accepted to present at a conference in three week?s time (at Summer Meeting of Young Economist 2005 in Geneva), and I wonder whether or not I should cancel it. The detailed conference program hasn?t been announced yet, so the cancellation will probably be accepted if I say so as soon as possible. And, for a longer-term concern, I wonder how I will continue on this topic...
His response:
These sort of ups and downs are part of research so don't worry too much.
We're going to talk about this next Monday...