Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sergei Guriev – Russian Economist

Thanks to BBC Hardtalk and improved technology, the interview can be heard until 7 days hence:

This interesting interview reflected many of the realities of Guyana although not as significant on the world scale.

So Mr Guriev felt the third time might not be so lucky when the secret police come knocking at the door, as he made the mistake of commenting on the second case of the (Putin's)State vs Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the jailed oligarch who fell afoul of prime minister Vladimir Putin. Mr Guriev claims that he gave an economic viewpoint that any economist would have, that apparently displeased Mr Putin.  The legal system that served a warranty to take away Mr Guriev's emails for the past 5yrs being a mere rubber stamp and perhaps 'they' wanted to see if there was anything in there that was critical of Mr Putin's third term bid.  The Americans at least read all your emails and don't seem so intimidating unless like Mr Snowden, you tell the rest of the world/country that that is what they are doing!

So as the interview progressed so did the parallels to Guyana - 37% of 18-35 yr old Russians want to leave the country which means the country will lose Time and generations of talent necessary for development. There is now less freedom and integration in the global economic system, more cash outflow and local investors can see that Property Rights are not protected, Courts not as good as they should be, Competition not developed, protected and promoted.
And although the interviewer pointed out the dropping on the scales of Transparency International and the scale of ease of doing business, I thought his reply was good that - my words- the country wasn't living up to someone else's judgment but in fact had to address the challenges of decreasing good governance, infrastructure and educated labour force. My past year of learning Health Economics came in handy as I actually understood what he was talking about, especially when he mentioned revealed preferences - what I learnt as a method of assessing a benefit of an intervention - but simply put- voting with your feet!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Air Pollution

From my out-dated textbook (2006) - 'Air is considered polluted when it contains any extraneous constituent in sufficient quantities to adversely affect the environment or the health of people exposed to it'.

The legal/illegal burning of the forests in Sumatra have released sufficient particulates to affect visibility in Singapore, even to the extent of the Singapore Government considering a cease-work order as the current advice is to stay indoors as much as possible. I thought I heard the BBC say that the Indonesian government told the Singapore government, following a complaint, that it is very likely Singapore companies were benefiting from that activity in their forests so quit whining -- but I was half-asleep and must have imagined that part!

So 'clean' Singapore will have to do a mass 'clean-up- in a few weeks as three weeks or so worth of burnt  organic matter will not be a fun activity to clean up. More to the point-- what effect would breathing in particle-laden 'air' have on people's lungs? And should anyone be culpable?  Health Economics refer to this as a negative externality-- Peter paying for Paul and not getting any benefit from the activity occurring elsewhere.
Back in the 1980's Scandinavia suffered from destruction of their forests from 'acid rain' resulting from chemical by-products from Industry in North America drifting across the Atlantic and causing damage to vegetation and buildings.
California and Mexico have taken to installing stations distributing oxygen at street-corners to over-come the breathing problem some people might face: seems like an extreme solution and wouldn't it be better to address the things causing the problems in the first place?

Back in Guyana, I was informed by my neighbour that it is now forbidden to burn garden waste and that the Local Council is quite strict about reinforcing this-- shame they didn't seem to notice a radiation-emitting tower thrown up overnight in the playing-field down the road- but the fact that it was by a company run by the President's son may have something to do with the selective blindness! I note that the UNDP saw it fit to send the same son on a trip to Rwanda on solid-waste management exercise-- mmm, yes -that is totally in keeping with e-governance  - concern for the environment, health and sustainable development.
So there is now an accumulation of oversized branches building up near the trench behind my house and creating nice pockets for breeding mosquitoes-- nice move you clowns-- run and institute a rule without thinking it through!

However in Georgetown where nothing works as it should-- a mad German has taken to burning rice-paddy in the limited yard space next to my good-natured and long-suffering mechanic. I dropped the car off and stood chatting with him for a few minutes and came back with my clothes reeking-- there is a odd pipe emitting smoke continuously out of the smoldering heap -- where are the authorities concerned about the environment now? Maybe I should tell the mechanic to call the EPA but being a true Guyanese he would die before he does that and probably think as most Guyanese-- they wouldn't do anything anyway.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Love by Toni Morrison

After an irritatingly slow and confusing start and a brief laying-aside period, I returned to the book as an achy lower back had me on the floor with elevated legs. Totally different point of view from the floor!

Her experienced eye on human relations and 'a clear sight of the world as it was - barren dark ugly without remorse' ( pg 132 in the Library's copy I have) had me both laughing and sad, and amazed at her insight : check this out from pg 84 'Some creaky, unhip glossy for teenagers disguised as men that catalogued seduction techniques, as if any technique at all was needed when a woman decided on a man'.

The book was written in a series of flashbacks and centres around the deep friendship between two children and the effect of a strong patriarchal racist society supporting a pedophile, opportunistic grandfather who society holds up as a Pillar of the Community. 
There was a touch of Miss Havisham (from Great Expectations) in Heed, the street-girl made good.
I thought the book did not fully explain the motives of the grandfather in destroying his family and at the end we learn that he willed the business and house to his favourite roll-in-the-grass but the faithful family retainer intervened to destroy the Will to save the women. I suppose it is a good illustration of how absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Black Robe-- Canadian Film

This was a film shown at Castellani House while I was in exam panic mode and luckily got a copy to view.

It is a beautifully shot film showing off the wonderful scenery of Canada-- wide open spaces and lakes.
The film itself referred to the Jesuits- the Blackrobes- whose mission it was to 'save' the souls of the Indians -- it was very satisfying that a few of them got butchered by the savages, although the native (Amer)indian viewing the film with me was appalled at the violence and it was with difficulty I persuaded her that our local Caribs were just as bad-- she was relieved that her Arawak tribe wasn't so bad.
She and I were interested about the belief in dreams and I paused the DVD to tell her about Segu ( where the African tribes also intuitively believed that dreams were omens and needed an experienced shaman to interpret them. I also told her that her ancestors originally came from Africa-- went up to eastern Europe, crossed over by Alaska and then made their way down to Guyana - so maybe the belief in dreams was a traditional thing that got wiped out with the 'scientific' Europeans who 'won' and wiped out everybody else's belief?
It was interesting that the tribe that interacted the most with the white men got wiped out and the leader/father says sadly at the end that he was just as stupid and greedy as the white men - and that they got dependent on the white men to provide 'things' - we had an interesting discussion about the relevance of that statement to today's Guyanese-- or maybe I was doing most of the mouthing off?
Sex doggie-style seemed to preferred way.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Drown by Junot Diaz

Having been temporarily engaged into other reading, this was the welcome book back to the Bookclub-not!
A totally depressing one at that-- who's choosing these books?
It is basically about a low-life's journey to America- Nueva York with flashbacks in his father's life. Unlike the Haitian journey of Edwidge Danticat, this book would lend itself well to the argument of stopping immigration to the US from poor Caribbean countries as they - the immigrants- are so screwed up with aimlessness by the time they get to the US they are basically lost causes and just add to the misery boiling up there in the Pot.
The misogyny and bullying of those perceived to be weaker follows the Law of the Jungle philosophy and having no sympathy with the characters wondered about the rave reviews on the back cover.