Deciphering real world issues in economics is like solving a Rubik’s Cube, says SMU Assistant Professor Zhang Haiping. By Yamini Chinnuswamy “The job of an economist is to explain how the world economy works – from analysing economic data, conceptualising economic phenomena, forecasting economic trends to making policy suggestions,” says Assistant Professor Zhang Haiping from the Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Economics, whose work focuses on international finance and trade. Like the Rubik’s Cube, a three-dimensional combination puzzle where every twist also scrambles the face opposite of it, economics puzzles are similarly interlinked—a change in policy may lead to repercussions elsewhere. “My research is motivated by empirical puzzles in economic literature,” he says. “As economists, we seek to augment or update existing economic theories to explain real world data. The challenge lies in the fact that markets and economies seldom function in a frictionless manner.” For example, Professor Zhang notes that capital has been flowing “uphill” from the poor to the rich, and from emerging economies to developed ones since the end of 1990s. This stands in stark contrast to neoclassical economic theory which states that capital should flow from the rich to the poor, as the rate of return on investments in poor countries should be higher than in rich countries. Financial friction and the resulting borrowing constraints in poor countries can explain such a puzzling fact, he explains. Similar income levels, different patterns of capital flows Patterns of international capital flows in emerging economies are another real world puzzle Professor Zhang has studied. Although income levels per person were comparable in emerging Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam) and emerging Europe (countries such as Hungary, Poland and Romania in Central and Eastern Europe), their patterns of international capital flows were not. “We looked at the data […]
How a Think Tank is Tackling India’s Energy Crisis India is the second most populous country in the world with 1.37 billion inhabitants and a population growth rate of 1.58%. By 2030, India is expected to add another 160 million people to the count. Simultaneously, the nation’s economy is growing so rapidly that it recently surpassed China as the world’s fastest growing large economy. To meet the demands of booming business and a growing population, India has turned increasingly towards imported oil, coal, and natural gas. Without a proper energy strategy, this swelling South Asian nation is headed straight for environmental and energy disaster. Load blackouts and shortages are a daily occurrence in India as energy demands skyrocket to meet the needs of industry and the population. Seventy percent of India’s oil is imported and their coal resources are depleting fast. If India hopes to meet these increasing demands, they must tap into their clean and renewable energy potential. Fortunately, the Center for Study of Science, Technology, and Policy (CSTEP) is working to ensure India’s renewable energy future, and to leave no Indian household behind, by conducting evidence-based research to provide suggested solutions to policy makers. CSTEP is an Indian not-for-profit research organisation and one of South Asia’s largest Think Tanks. They are a crucial player in securing wind and solar energy in India. Today, India has installed between 3 and 4 GW of solar and 20 GW of wind power. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has committed to a renewable energy target of 175 GW of renewables by 2022; an ambitious goal that, if achieved, will meet India’s energy needs sustainably, while also creating new job opportunities for the projected 1.6 billion people to inhabit India in 2030. CSTEP continues to provide the Government of India with focused research on […]
By April Streeter Changes, or at least assurances of changes, are coming to the palm oil industry, a mega-business blamed for much of the deforestation in tropical nations Three of the largest palm oil producers and traders unveiled zero deforestation plans last year, affecting 60% of the global palm oil industry. Wilmar International, which has a 45% market share, Cargill with 10% and Golden Agri-Resources with 5% pledged “to end deforestation in the palm oil trade, both through direct corporate policies and through their demands from the supply chain”, according to US Food News. The three announced their plans along with the Indonesian government at the UN Climate Summit held in 2014. US-based commodities trader Cargill last year also unveiled a pledge that the palm oil it produces, trades or processes will no longer come from deforested lands, carbon-rich peat lands or be linked to “exploitation of rights of indigenous peoples and local communities”, according to a company statement released in July 2014. “It is critical that all parts of the palm oil supply chain – from plantations to retailers – collaborate and act in an environmentally sustainable and socially responsible manner,” the statement notes. The company pledged to involve multiple stakeholders and engage in a constant review and improvement process. Unilever is driving beef sustainability Wilmar, though, recently was cited in a report for abuses of human and environmental rights while acquiring a large parcel of land in Cross River State, Nigeria. The report was released jointly by Friends of the Earth US and Environmental Rights Action-Nigeria. According to the report, the company failed to acquire the free, prior and informed consent of communities directly affected by its operations, did not complete satisfactory environmental and social impact assessments and did not follow through on promises of infrastructure development and […]
Scott L Montgomery, Daniel Chirot Princeton University Press A broad survey of the ideas that have driven modern history since the 19th century—and on account of which millions of lives have been changed for good or ill. According to Montgomery (Does Science Need a Global Language?: English and the Future of Research, 2013, etc.) and Chirot (Contentious Identities: Ethnic, Religious and National Conflicts in Today’s World, 2011, etc.), both professors at the University of Washington, these ideas are fourfold, resting in the single persons of Adam Smith, Karl Marx, and Charles Darwin, and then in the struggle between Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton over the nature of the new republic that would grow from certain parallel and antecedent ideas. The first two are economic in nature, the third biological, and the fourth political. But all are political, of course, and the authors nicely move to depersonified history by examining deeper values: the idea embodied by Smith, for instance, that “individuals should have the freedom to make all essential decisions affecting their material and moral lives.” The authors’ argument is fluent and mainly unobjectionable; as intellectual historians, it is their bread and butter to maintain that ideas matter, and the ideas they enumerate have inarguably “structured the modern world.” Their later elaborations sometimes seem a stretch, if by modern world one means modern ideas, which would discount some of their cases. The book is academic in outlook and attitude and sometimes in execution. The prose is accessible, though, and the narrative is well-written, made more interesting by the authors’ willingness to tangle with tough constituencies and mount tough arguments—against, say, the narrowness of religious fundamentalists or the aridity of “postmodern pedagogy and scholarship,” with their lamentable habit of reducing the love of and insistence on reason as a species of evil. […]
Tim Flannery, Text Publishing A decade ago, Tim Flannery’s #1 international bestseller, The Weather Makers, was one of the first books to break the topic of climate change out into the general conversation. Today, Earth’s climate system is fast approaching a crisis. Political leadership has not kept up, and public engagement with the issue of climate change has declined. Opinion is divided between technological optimists and pessimists who feel that catastrophe is inevitable. The publication of this new book is timed for the lead-up to the Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015, which aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate from all the nations in the world. This book anticipates and will influence the debates. Time is running out, but catastrophe is not inevitable. Around the world people are now living with the consequences of an altered climate—with intensified and more frequent storms, wildfires, droughts and floods. For some it’s already a question of survival. Drawing on the latest science, Flannery gives a snapshot of the trouble we are in and more crucially, proposes a new way forward, including rapidly progressing clean technologies and a “third way” of soft geo-engineering. Tim Flannery, with his inimitable style, makes this urgent issue compelling and accessible. This is a must-read for anyone interested in our global future.
Text Publishing What will Australia be like in 2047? Good question, who can possibly know? However Claire O’Neil federal Labor member for the seat of Hotham and Tim Watts federal member for the Labor seat of Gellibrand are doing some projecting in their book Two Futures – Australian at a Critical Moment. How will society be? Who is treated unfairly, who is equal? How will we make money; to be precise what will drive economic growth? The book is full of questions and challenges that we all need to face and it is good that politicians have combined their passion and vision to work together on setting us all a challenge. We, the reader, can think about these issues too. It’s a bit like sitting round a table with Claire and Tim and providing input into the visions and pictures for tomorrow. In this agenda-setting book, these two young parliamentarians take the long view. They identify the dramatic changes looming on the horizon and outline creative ideas for tackling them. Fact-driven and progressive, optimistic and impassioned, Two Futures begins the debate about the decades ahead that we need to have. ‘A refreshing look at the big issues in the decades ahead.’ from the Foreword by Laura Tingle, Political Editor, Australian Financial Review ‘An insightful contribution to the policy debate about the future of our country.’Catherine Livingstone, President, Business Council of Australia ‘A must-read publication from two talented federal members concerned about a better and fairer future for Australia.’ Steve Bracks, former Premier of Victoria