Priorities, priorities

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Mexico’s President has been battling corruption rumors for years.  I guess now instead of trying to actively combat corruption, he is instead spreading it around more!

Santiago Perez of the WSJ reports that the Mexican government “recently carried out one of the region’s biggest government giveaways: a $1.3 billion program to hand out close to 10.5 million flat-screen television sets to the country’s poor.” Looks like they have their priorities straight.

There are at least two major problems with this program:

First, and not surprisingly, “the process was riddled with corruption in its latter stages…Some contracts to purchase hundreds of thousands of TVs were awarded in no-bid procedures, and a high-ranking Mexican official asked for kickbacks during the process.” 

Second, “critics of the program say the government shunned less expensive alternatives, designed by the previous administration of President Felipe Calderón, for switching the country to digital television. Gustavo Rivera, executive director of Opciona, a Mexican anticorruption advocacy group [notes] ‘It was an overly expensive and flawed plan that showed either negligence or corruption.'” Or both!

 

 

 

 

The market speaks

Bloomberg just published an article arguing that Trump lost last night’s debate according to at least one important metric:  the Mexican peso market.  The peso/$ exchange rate has been hovering right at 20, an almost 50% depreciation since 2014.  But this what happened to the peso after the debate:

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The peso increased in value by 1.5%, which is a relatively large jump in such a short period of time.  While many currencies increased in value after the debate, Bloomberg reports that the peso showed “the biggest gain across 24 emerging-market currencies.”

As for the Mexican government’s opinion about a Trump presidency, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo said last week that “the country’s government is prepared to ‘talk to the devil’ to defend Mexicans in the United States if Donald Trump wins the presidency in November.”

 

Irony fail, Saudi Arabian version

I learned two funny facts this morning about Saudi Arabia.  First, the government is running for the UN Human Rights Council.  Oh the irony. It’s hard to know where to start with that one!

But it gets even better than that folks.  The second fact is that the brochure advocating their candidacy cites women’s rights in SA.  Seriously–you can’t make this stuff up.  And look at the photo that goes along with the supposed women’s rights:

saudiarabia

Besides the photo, there are some really funny statements in the brochure, like “The Government allows women to achieve a number of accomplishments.” [my emphasis on the most insulting parts of the sentence]

Also, there is the ridiculous statement that “Saudi law does not differentiate between men and women. This ensures them freedom of action and the running of their own affairs independently and without any restriction.”  Even if that were true, which it is absolutely not, the statement is incredibly insulting and patronizing.  The government lets women run their own affairs.  Gee thanks.

h/t to Hillel Neuer (@HillelNeuer) for this morning’s irony fail.

 

There I fixed it: China edition

“A 700-year-old “wild” stretch of China’s Great Wall has been covered in a smooth, white trail of cement under orders from Suizhong county’s Cultural Relics Bureau”

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Nice!

I gotta think that the Suizhong county commissioner had a brother in law that runs a cement company, no? Or a son that likes to skateboard? Or maybe this restoration expert now travels the world working her magic?

In any event, now that it has been started, they pretty much have to re-finish the whole wall, right? Just think of the jobs and growth!

 

 

The Market Speaks, Mexico Edition

The NY Times has a video on the plight of Mexico City organ grinders.  Apparently, “[they] say they are losing popularity. They face more competition and a younger population that does not appreciate their music.”  

Based on the video below, I cannot imagine why young people aren’t appreciative.  Seriously though, that is some of the worst “music” I’ve heard.  I didn’t have high expectations when I clicked on the video, but it is much, much worse than imagined.

Mexico boasts an amazing pop and rap music scene so it is no wonder young people wouldn’t be too impressed with these guys.  The real question is how it was possible that this sound was ever popular (especially when the guy doesn’t even have a monkey)?  Thankfully the market has spoken–I just hope the government doesn’t step in to subsidize the lost art of organ grinding!

organgrinder

https://static01.nyt.com/video/players/offsite/index.html?videoId=100000004636530

Your Friday African Round-Up

Democracy in Africa has constructed a tremendous resource for anyone interested in learning more about African political economy.  It is called “Decolonising the University: The African Politics Reading List” and contains many interesting sub-sections, including: African Political Thought, Pre-colonial Politics, Slavery and the Role of Traditional leaders,  the Politics of Ethnicity, the Politics of Religion, Agricultural Politics and Land Reform, amongst many others.

In other news, in what I would like to call “How is this Artist Still Alive?”, a Zimbabwean artist has created a statue of President Mugabe that has drawn widespread ridicule.  When I first saw the piece, I thought this artist better be on the lam.  But, no, the only person who seems to like the art (and thank goodness for that for the artist) is Mugabe himself.  Feast your eyes:

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White Savior syndrome is alive and well in Omaha Nebraska

People check out this full page ad in the NY times sunday mag from Creighton “University”:

 

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Somehow I don’t think they are advertising a program for creating leaders among the black children in the picture. In fact I know they are not because the copy is just your basic puff about how great Creighton is.

Did you know Creighton students were “agents of change”? Sure couldn’t prove it by this ridiculous photo.

Attention Jesuit morons running Creighton:  African children (any children really but they always seem to go for black kids) are not on this earth to make rich white people feel good about themselves.

Cut it the fuck out.

Africa is two countries

Rur roh. I’ve used the term “Sub-Saharan Africa” both in teaching and in my research many times.  However, I just learned that the phrase is neither politically or geographically correct.  Yikes!

A recent Quartz article makes the following points:

First, the term isn’t geographically correct in some cases. For instance,  “The UN Development Program lists 46 of Africa’s 54 countries as ‘sub-Saharan,’ [but] four countries included are on the Sahara, while Eritrea is deemed “sub-Saharan” but its southern neighbor Djibouti isn’t.”

Second, development agencies aren’t consistent in their labeling.  In its definition of Sub-Saharan Africa, the World Bank includes the 46 countries as the UN Development Program  but also includes Sudan and Somalia.

Third, instead of treating Africa as a single country (sadly still commonplace in the media), we tend to treat it as two (Sub-Saharan and Northern Africa).

The article also delves into the history of the term, noting that Sub-Saharan Africa replaced the more politically incorrect terms “Tropical Africa” and “Black Africa” that were prevalent in early research.  Some argue that the new term is equally problematic:
Tatenda Chinondidyachii Mashanda, a politics and international affairs scholar at Wake Forest University argues that “[it] is a way of saying ‘Black Africa’ and talking about black Africans without sounding overtly racist.”

Brian Larkin, a  Columbia University anthropologist, would agree, arguing that dividing Africa into Northern African and Sub-Saharan Africa reflects “‘racist’ colonial theories that thought northern Africa more culturally developed.” 

Time to re-think how I will describe my data the next time I write a paper with African countries!

 

Land reform & violence in Mexico

The economic inefficiency of Mexico’s ejido system  (rural land that is held communally) led the federal government to implement serious land reform in 1992.  [Click here for a video I created for Marginal Revolution University about the creation of the ejido system].

In an interesting forthcoming paper in JEBO called Land Reform and Violence: Evidence from Mexico (here’s an undated working paper version), Tommy Murphy and Martín Rossi study the effects of the 1992 reform on municipal homicides.  In motivating the paper, they write that:

“Bandiera (2003) has convincingly argued that the lack of proper enforcement of land rights by the state played a crucial role in the rise of the mafia in 19th century Sicily. But violence not need be channeled only through organized crime, and it is indeed plausible that different land tenure systems lead to extreme forms of violent crime, such as murders.”

Indeed, the authors find for the case of Mexico “that clearly specified and consistently enforced land rights reduce gains from violence, leading therefore to lower levels of violence, as measured by the number of murders.”