If the Asian Growth Model is not Working Anymore

In 1981 poverty rate in China was 64% of the population, in 2004 the rate was 10%: it means that 500 million people stepped out of poverty (look here and here). China and South-East Asia economies were propelled by export demand and by someone else’s debt. What now? In the words of FT columnist Michael Pettis

The assumption that implicitly underlay the Asian development model – that US households had an infinite ability to borrow and spend – has been shown to be false. This spells the end of this model as an engine of growth.

It seams like bad news for economists pointing at free trade and export-led growth as a practical receipt for development.  It seams like bad news for everybody. People in developing countries need to increase their income, and it is difficult to think how they could find the money in their neighborhoods.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Economic Gains Do Not Mean Political Gains

In this post Dani Rodrik explains why trade theories suggest that the U.S. should liberalize trade for agricultural products (especially cotton and sugar) and abolish visa restrictions on on highly-skilled foreign workers. This will produce gains for the U.S. society as a whole and probably for the poorest part of the world population, that happens to be made up of farmers. (Of course India will probably see some of its engineers flee the country, but that is not exactly a win-win game).

But countries are not ruled by trade theories. Usually they are ruled by people seeking to keep power as long as possible. And sometimes people rely on minority groups within their society to keep themselves in power.  Have a look at this paper, “The Diminishing Effect of Democracy in Diverse Societies” by Gilat Levy and Oriana Bandiera (London School of Economics and Political Science). Indeed, this can explain why western Europe heavily defends its farmers (4-5% of the population) sacrificing the common good.

An interesting theory should consider not how much a single group benefit or not from trade liberalization but how much influence the group affected by the new policy has on the decision making process. A reduction of trade barriers can help to tackle chronic poverty (have a look at the “Industrial Development Report” by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization). But barriers are not where they are because governments think they are irrational from a political (not economic) point of view.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The Dirt Floats

The Kosovo Liberation Army (Albanian acronym UÇK) supposedly run, during the conflict of 1999, torture camps in northern Albania. According to an investigation conducted by Altin Raxhimi, Michael Montgomery and Vladimir Karaj and published (here) by the Balkan Investigative Journalism Network at least 18 people were killed in one of those, a factory compound in Kukës, Albania. Eyewitnesses say prisoner were mainly alleged Kosovo Albanian collaborationist. But as well Serbs and Roma were held in the camp.  And women.

Kosovo’s Prime Minister, Hashim Thaçi, who was then the political director of the KLA, and Agim Çeku, former Prime Minister and former chief of the KLA headquarters, told the BBC they were not aware of any KLA prisons where captives were abused or where civilians were held.

The same sources that witnessed the base in Kukës, told us that the interrogators in Kukës were KLA officers who had been involved in the capture of suspected collaborators.
Both our sources concerning the base, identified several KLA officers involved in the abuses at
Kukës.
One of them is currently in a top position in the judicial system in Kosovo.

After ten years, the history of the ex-Yugoslavia conflicts (so far mainly written by journalists) is still incomplete. Because the people who fought those wars are now ruling that very same land (nationalism is still an effective language to speak). And because the Balkans are the very same mirror and unconscious of Europe (Rada Iveković, 1999). The 1990s wars tell Europe where its own states are coming from: murders and  deportations. And Dorian does not like portraits.

Monday, 11 May 2009

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RSS Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science