Domestic Abuse in Central Africa

Africa Review has a scary graphic on attitudes towards domestic violence in Central Africa:


I don’t know what the answer is but I assumed these numbers would be correlated with women’s education.  A cursory look at female literacy rates for these countries, however, doesn’t seem promising.  For 2011, 25.4% of adult females were literate in Chad, 44.2% in the CAR, 57% in Congo, D.R., and 78.4% in the Republic of Congo.

The Interwebs are not just for plumbing lessons!

Interesting NYT OP-ED, asking that poor people in developing nations be allowed to just hook up to the internet and have fun!

Here is a nice chunklet:

The Indian government has several valiant plans to bring Internet access to the villages, but they largely center on connecting government offices for ID databases and for software simulation to teach citizens skills like plumbing. Wouldn’t it be better if the poor were offered direct connectivity over their phones, free or cheap, and were left to decide what they wanted to do with it?

Mr. Zuckerberg’s belief that connectivity is a human right is honorable. Where he and his allies err is in imagining that fun is not, and in underestimating the power of entertainment to transform society. Chatting with friends online may not save the world, but if it can get more people to log on, the rest will follow.

Many years ago, when I worked for a lifestyle magazine, I was given my worst assignment ever. I had to call some of the richest people in southern India and ask them what they usually had for breakfast. The first man I called told me, “I don’t eat gold biscuits.” It was a well-deserved reprimand for presuming that rich people were somehow different from other humans.

It is equally ridiculous to presume that what poor people want from the Internet is lessons in plumbing.

The conflict between what the donors want and what the recipients want seems to almost be universal.


Details, Details…

There is a new NBER Working paper this week called “Was Stalin Necessary for Russia’s Economic Development?”by Anton Cheremukhin, Mikhail Golosov, Sergei Guriev, and Aleh Tsyvinski.

Admittedly I haven’t read the paper yet so my opinion may change, but I would be very concerned about writing a paper that claims:

1. To be able to measure TFP during Soviet Russia from 1928-1940 and Tsarist Russia from 1885-1913 (personally, I find measuring TFP under the best of circumstances extremely dubious.  See this paper by Jesus Felipe for some reasons why).

2. That “Stalin’s economic policies led to welfare loss of -24% of consumption in 1928-1940, but a +16% welfare
gain after 1941.”  Really, a 16% welfare gain?

They do add this helpful caveat though:  “[the welfare] number that does not take into account additional costs of political repression during this time period.”  It is statements like this which make economists so beloved by other social scientists. 

Nigeria’s magic middle class

Interesting article from Reuters about Nigeria’s booming (and treacherous) property market advises selling to the “middle-class”.

But as far as I can tell, the numbers just don’t add up:

the top-end range is dominated by well established players and developers should target middle-income workers in major cities, such Lagos, Abuja and the oil-hub Port Harcourt. The most popular units fall in a price bracket of 20-35 million naira ($123,000-$214,100), developers and estate agents say.

Nigeria’s middle class make up around 23 percent of the population and earn around 80,000- 100,000 naira ($490-$610) per month, according to report by investment bank Renaissance Capital.

“If you know the market, the people, focus on middle class and cherry pick your deals, you can clean out,”

Is Reuters trolling us? Or are they victims of yet another Nigerian scam? Let’s break it down.

$600 / month = $7200 / year, so a $140,000 house would be 20 times annual income and a 214,000 house would be 30 times annual income.


So a 10% downpayment would be two years income at the least? For this to work, mortgages must be cheap and easy, right?

there remains a problem with that huge latent demand. No mortgages. Unless you are willing to pay a 25 percent interest rate.

The mortgage debt-to-GDP ratio in Nigeria is under 0.5 percent, compared with 72 percent in the U.S. and over 30 percent in Malaysia and South Africa, government figures show.  

Never mind.

So developers can get rich by selling to people who can amass 20-30 years of annual income in personal savings? Good luck with that strategy. I’d hazard a guess that selling to the rich, to foreigners, to government, and to foreign firms is still the path to big money in the Nigerian property market.

PS: there is another great line in the piece: Nigerian banks don’t like giving out mortgages, which for clarity I think should have “to Nigerians” appended at the end.



Sábado Gigante

A Mexico news round-up:

1. Mexico’s Economy Has Yet to Grow in 2013

2. Mexico is re-instating driving exams to get a driver’s license

3. State Legislator Hacked to Death During an Interview. “Armed men in a Mexican state struggling to contain gang violence hacked to death a member of the state legislature with a machete while he was being interviewed by a journalist.” !!

4. A good slideshow of Mexican police evicting the teacher’s union from the Zocalo.

Grito Grumbles

Pity poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to EPN???

El Tritanicos are again sinkng, perhaps this time before reaching the harbor of the World Cup (3 coaches in a week, really?), and I’m hearing from my Mexican friends that Presidente EPN will replace the traditional “Viva Mexico” grito on independence day (Monday the 16th), with “IVA Mexico” in honor of the new round of higher consumption taxes (IVA is what we’d call VAT).

Here’s a sample of the sentiment in some parts of Mexico (clic the pic for a more glorious image):


Forecasting Rain in India

Mark Rosenzweig and Chris Udry have an interesting new NBER working paper called “Forecasting Profitability.” As a side note, the title really needs work though in terms of catchiness–the current one sure doesn’t hook potential readers.  If it wasn’t for Marc Bellemare, I would have passed the paper right up.

So..what makes this paper interesting is it studies whether rainfall forecasting ability affects Indian farmers decision to invest.  According to their calculations, uncertainty causes “Indian farmers to under-invest by a factor of 3 compared to optimal investment levels.”  Some of this uncertainty is reduced when the farmers can rely on good weather forecasters.  Now forecasting is not equally precise in all parts of the country and farmers know this.  When forecasters are good, farmers pay more attention and are more likely to respond by increasing investment.


Crime in Latin America

InsightCrime has had some great articles recently on crime & violence in Latin America.  Here is a link to the ones I found most interesting:

1. Southern Pulse: The Politics of Corruption in Guatemala

2. How Street Gangs Have Complicated Mexico Security

3. The Mara Women: Gender Roles in Central American Street Gangs

4. Brazil’s Military Police: Calls for Demilitarization

A Powerful Slideshow on the US-Mexico Border


The NY Times has put together an amazing slideshow from readers’ personal photos of the US-Mexico border.  There are some really sad ones, like this one, where each cross indicates a life lost in the crossing:


or others, like the following separating Tijuana and San Diego, which show just how ridiculous the idea of a fence is:


The whole series is excellent and definitely worth checking out in full.

EPN’s has big plans

President Enrique Pena Nieto, on the heels of getting his educational reform through the legislature, has ramped up his plans to overhaul the Mexican economy.  And man does he have big plans.

Here is a list of some of the biggest proposed changes.

1. The creation of the country’s first nationwide pension and unemployment insurance, financed by closing loopholes on corporate taxes.

2.  The levy of a carbon tax on fossil fuels to fight climate change.

3.  A tax on sugary soft drinks to fight Mexico’s soaring obesity rates.

4. A decision to drop the unpopular proposed sales taxes on food and medicine because the tax burden would be hardest on the poor.  However, he is planning on slowly phasing out subsidies on gasoline.

5.  Create incentives for people to move out of the informal sector.

6.  Create a rainy day fund for years when there are “excess tax revenues.”

I’m curious what long time leftist leader Andrés Manuel López Obrador  (or AMLO) has to say about these new plans.  Maybe he’ll be more amenable than he was to the proposed energy reform, which he denounced as “treason” and “a filthy, shameless robbery.”