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Doubts about Fair Trade

Sunday, August 31, 2014

According to The Economist there is a long history of efforts to distinguish products that have been made more ethically than others. In the late 18th century, anti-slavery campaigners urged British consumers to boycott sugar from the West Indies in favour of supplies from India. Today’s fair-trade movement took off in the 1960s, mostly in religious organisations that wanted to help the poor, whom they saw as losers in the global trading system. Fair Trade is a really important issue for discussion.

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Developing Country Case Studies e-book

Friday, August 22, 2014

At the end of last term all our year 12's were set the task of writing a short article about a different developing country. They were tasked with covering:

  • Key information- e.g. GDP, HDI, Gini coefficient, indicators of level of poverty/development
  • What factors are limiting growth & development in this country
  • How is the government and other stakeholders trying to promote growth & development in this country
  • How successful have they been so far?

I have collated all these articles together into an e-book which teachers and students studying development economics should find very useful to make use of as part of the course.

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High Charges for Remittances Choke Developing Countries

Monday, August 18, 2014

Western Union and MoneyGram dominate the money transfer industry and the high level of fees that these companies has been heavily criticised in recent years. This is an important article given the huge scale of remittance transfers in the world economy to relatively poor countries such as India, the Philippines and many sub Saharan African nations. 

Click here for an info graphic on remittances produced by the World Bank: http://econ.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/EXTDEC/E...

Development Economics: The Fortunes of Nations

Here is a really excellent blog on the issue of growth divergence - Simon Taylor contrasts the historical growth records of the United States versus Argentina and then South Korea against Ghana. The accompanying charts reveal starkly the widening gap in GDP per capita between each pair of countries over the very long term.

I will be following Simon Taylor's blog as the new school year comes into focus http://www.simontaylorsblog.com

Catastrophe Bonds

Friday, August 01, 2014

Catastrophe Bonds (or cat bonds) are essentially a bet against natural disaster - insurance companies issue the bonds and investors get paid their interest in the event of natural disasters such as earthquakes not happening. 

According to the Financial Times, "catastrophe bonds are typically issued for three years and, if no disaster occurs in that period, bond investors receive a good payout; otherwise, they have to pay out themselves."

Do the investors such as pension funds and insurance companies truly understand the risks that they are taking with (our) money? 

Duncan Weldon investigates in this BBC Newsnight report. Ultra low interest rates in advanced economies appear to have encourage pension funds to search for riskier assets (a search for yield) to improve their return on their assets. A major natural disaster could trigger huge losses for those who have piled huge sums of money into them.

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IMF 2014 Review of the UK Economy

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Here is a link to a video report produced by the IMF as part of their annual assessment of the UK economy. Overall, the IMF is considerably more optimistic than it was in 2013 about prospects for near term recovery of output and continued reductions in unemployment.

Risks to macro stability are also considered, namely weak productivity growth and high housing prices

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Paths to development - Adding value to natural resources

Monday, July 28, 2014

This is an absolutely outstanding article to use when introducing development economics to a level students. The work of Hausmann and Hidalgo on complexity and economic development is becoming more widely recognised and used in schools. Hausmann's article here in Project Syndicate emphasises the importance of building capabilities within an economy to promote the growth of higher value added industries. Here is the link to the article: https://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/ricar...

Russia increases policy interest rates to 8%

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Russian central bank has raised their main policy interest rate by 0.5% to a new level of 8% in a bid to control inflationary pressures in the Russian economy. 

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Greece - Nudging towards Macro Stability?

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Three years on from the riots and deep economic, financial and political crisis, is the reforming Greek economy turning a corner and improving outcomes for the key macroeconomic indicators. Professor Paul Collier labelled Greece as a "sub-merging economy" a little while ago but there are now some positive signs reflected in this highly relevant news report from the Financial Times. I have added some key macro data on Greece and other troubled Euro Area countries using data from the IMF World Economic Outlook.

Further reading:

Guardian: Greece forges template for economic recovery as tourists pour in: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/03/greec...

BBC video: Pain in paradise for struggling Greeks: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-28012089

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July 2014 - UK Economy back to Pre Crisis Level

An important landmark for the UK economy? Britain’s economy is finally larger than it was before the financial crisis six years ago. FT economics editor Chris Giles analyses the data and warns that continuing weak productivity means output growth will be slower than before the crisis - an excellent analysis of the key macro indicators suitable for all A level economics students. 

I have added some charts on the UK drawn from the latest IMF world economic outlook.

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Lindau Nobel Economics Talks - The Labour Market

Thursday, July 24, 2014

This Mini Lecture discusses issues of labour productivity, low-wage work and economic growth of emerging markets.

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2014 HDI Report focuses on Vulnerability

Each year the Human Development Report published by the United Nations gives a special focus on a particular issue related to development. In 2014 that issue is vulnerability.

To quote from the opening of the report:

"Real progress on human development, then, is not only a matter of enlarging people’s critical choices and their ability to be educated, be healthy, have a reasonable standard of living and feel safe. It is also a matter of how secure these achievements are and whether conditions are sufficient for sustained human development. An account of progress in human development is incomplete without exploring and assessing vulnerability."

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United Queendom Scottish Independence as a Romantic Comedy

A new online comedy series launches on Thursday 24th July! 

The series tells the story of Scott and Adrian, two lovers on the verge of break up. Scott runs an oil company – bath oils that is – and Adrian spends their money as if it’s his own. Will they work things out or will Scott go it alone? All will be revealed when the series launches this August in time for the Scottish independence referendum.

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Ed Miliband dismisses Keynes, but the Laffer Curve takes centre stage

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ed Miliband has told his party's national policy forum that the party must change policy from their traditional approach of raising spending and taxes, saying ''Higher spending is not actually the answer to the long-term economic crisis''. Some members of the forum wanted to force a vote for an immediate increase in public spending should Labour win the next election, but proposals committing Labour to new spending on housing and school meals were withdrawn at the forum in Milton Keynes.

So that's one economic theory cast aside.

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More ideas like HS3 are needed to solve our regional problems

In London and much of the South East, the recovery has been well under way for a considerable time. House prices boom and restaurants are packed. The economic data for the UK as a whole looks just as encouraging, with employment being at its highest ever level.

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Siemens Boss on possible redindustrialisation of the UK economy

Sunday, July 20, 2014

This interview with Jurgen Maier of Siemens is well worth reading on several different levels. It challenges the conventional wisdom that UK will always lag behind Germany in terms of high value added manufacturing; it refers to the economics risks of Brexit (Britain leaving the EU) and it also stresses the importance to the UK of foreign investment from German businesses many of which have been in the Uk since well before the first World War - Siemens and Bosch are two well-known examples.

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Shareholder activism at the Royal Mail

Shareholder activism regarding executive pay is covered in this article from the Guardian. Note too the emergence of TNT Post as a competitor in the cities for final mile delivery of business and household mail - the mail market is becoming more contestable.

The Royal Mail's latest market report is an interesting read for those who want to study market dynamics in more details - for example the continued growth (but high contestability) in parcels contrasted with a trend decline in the volume of letters sent through the post - click here for the 2014 market overview: http://ar2013-14.royalmailgroup.com/overview/marke...

Shifting Terms of Trade for Latin America

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

According to The Economist, the great commodity boom caused by the industrialisation of China and India provided an unprecedented boost to the terms of trade (defined as the ratio of the price of its exports to that of its imports). Yet now the commodities boom may be running out of steam, these countries face a challenge.

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Two sides to the Philippine economy

The Philippines has enjoyed a period of rapid economic growth in recent years and attracted increasing attention as one of the fast-growing economies of South East Asia. Can this growth be sustained? What are the risks, challenges and the constraints facing the country? And how can the benefits of growth contribution to a transformation of economic and human development? This blog provides links to some useful resources:

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Economists are not impressed by Piketty’s views on inequality

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The financial crisis has undoubtedly created a demand in popular culture for works which portray capitalism in a bad light, such as the recent best seller by Thomas Piketty. Piketty’s writing has gathered increasing attention from economists, and his arguments do not really bear scrutiny.

The focus of Piketty’s work is the long-run evolution of the ratio of capital to income. He claims that this is now high by historical standards, and will rise even further as the 21st century unfolds. Wealth will become more concentrated and inequality will rise inexorably even more.

The message that capitalism inevitably leads to greater inequality is one that many people want to hear. Unfortunately for them, it is wrong. Piketty assembles an impressively large amount of empirical evidence. This shows clearly that from around 1910 to 1970, inequality actually declined sharply across the West.  

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Export Complexity - Hidalgo and Hausmann

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Data on export patterns for goods from countries around the world provide a fascinating window on the degrees of complexity that nations have achieved. There is growing interest in the significance of knowledge capital or know-how in lifting productivity, competitiveness and improving trade performance for economies at different stages of development. Below is my selection of countries.

There then follows links to videos from Cesar Hidalgo and Riccardo Hausman on their theory of productive knowledge - and in particular how it is acquired at the level of the individual, the level of organizations, and cities, regions, countries and societies.

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Numeracy and Quantitative methods in the new Economics specifications

You will probably be aware that assessment in the new AS and A level in Economics (starting in September 2015) will have a much greater emphasis on numeracy and quantitative methods. 20% of marks will be awarded to answers based upon number work and interpretation of graphs, charts and tables.

Whatever your view on the merits of this change, there is no doubt that it brings one of the biggest challenges to teachers of economics since the year 2000. Tutor2u have put together a team of experienced teachers with different awarding body knowledge to create resources and give advice through a series of CPD events during the 2014-2015 academic year.

If you look through any of the specimen papers from the three main awarding bodies you won’t be surprised to see a huge emphasis on calculation of percentages, use of index numbers and the need to understanding fractions and ratios. You can already imagine the increased use of elasticity calculations and having to work out costs and revenues.

Did you know however (depending on your exam board choice) that your students may have to calculate opportunity cost ratios for comparative advantage, dependency ratios, quantity theory of money, terms of trade index, national income multiplier and marginal propensity to consume? Imagine a marginal social cost/benefit diagram with figures included! Have you ever asked students to convert money in real terms? How do you think they will cope with medians and quartiles?

Our team are working on resources and advice to hand out to teachers for our ‘New to A level Economics – Quantitative Methods’ CPD days. Details about times, dates and locations to follow soon.

Antidote to Macro Pessimism - Gerard Lyons on Consolations of Economics

Friday, July 04, 2014

In these short interviews with the Financial Times, economist Gerard Lyons highlights some of the key drivers of the global economy and he paints a fairly positive picture of the prospects for developed countries in an ever-changing world economy. In the second interview, Gerard Lyons, 'The Consolations of Economics' author, discusses with John Authers whether the system is safely retuned, and whether it can boldly go into a universe of greater growth opportunities.

Observer review (3 August 2014): http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/03/conso...

Independent review (July 2014): http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/bo...

Evening Standard: http://www.standard.co.uk/comment/gerard-lyons-lon...

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Development Economics: Rwanda’s Journey to Prosperity

Saturday, June 28, 2014

With World Bank Group support, millions of Rwandans are on their way to integrating to regional power and transport networks, boosting their agricultural productivity, and delivering results for their families. This is a short info graphic video from the World Bank together with some related links to useful resources on the Rwandan economy.

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The output gap: how much economic potential has been lost?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

An interesting piece in the Economist about the current state of the output gap – the difference between an economy’s actual output and its potential output.

Paul Ormerod argues that this value is almost impossible to estimate, so it is a pretty useless concept. Others think trying to estimate the size of the gap is valid, and knowing how much spare capacity the economy has could be a crucial guide to economic policy makers.

What are the thoughts of economists who have been looking at recent OECD data?

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LSE: The Amartya Sen Lecture 2014

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Christine Lagarde is Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. She was appointed in July 2011. This blog links to the 2014 Amartya Sen lecture given at the LSE in the summer of 2014 on the topic of empowerment and in particular how women can build capacity and capabilities in countries seeking durable development - see also this blog from Mrs Lagarde in September 2013: http://blog-imfdirect.imf.org/2013/09/23/lagarde-w...

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Development Economics: Building Roads, An Economic Gain in Senegal

This new short video from the World bank looks at the economic benefits that flow from investment in an improved road network in Senegal

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Development Economics: Indonesia Has Developed, But Not Everyone Feels It

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Although Indonesia has experienced significant growth and development, not everyone has benefitted. This short video from the World Bank offers a personal story. Followed by up a July 2014 blog from BBC Global Business on the rise of the wealth elite in Indonesia.

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Inequality: a great induction topic for A2 economics

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The varied nature of Economics means there are so many (sometimes it can seem too many) themes to explore. And priorities change. Sometimes the main issue is production (making more stuff – and how the value of that is measured). Sometimes it’s exchange (looking at how markets work). Yet distribution (often overlooked, especially when economies are booming) seems the hottest topic at the moment. Inequality tops the bestseller lists.

Here are a few tips and links for using the topic as an intro to A2 economics, great for macro, with scope for analysis and evaluation of UK government policy and approaches to development economics.

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Development Data for Cambodia

Monday, June 16, 2014

Here is a selection of development data for Cambodia put into context with a selection of other Asian countries, drawing on published data from the Asian Development Bank. This blog will be added to shortly with summary notes on the economy and links to other useful resources

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RES Essay: Does immigrant labour benefit or impoverish the United Kingdom?

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Question six for the RES competition in 2014 is bound to produce a large number of answers. Labour migration is an important economic, social and political issue and many students will have clear views on the issue. So what will make an essay stand out from the crowd?

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2014 World Cup Finalists - Human and Economic Development Indicators

Drawing on data from the 2013 Human Development Report, here are the 24 countries in the 2014 World Cup ranked according to the Human Development Scores

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RES Essay: Are the advanced economies in for a long period of economic stagnation?

Friday, June 13, 2014

This question gives students a superb opportunity to explore the debate surrounding economic growth in in the leading advanced nations of the global economy. It ties in well with research into the effects of globalisation and the legacy from the financial crisis. I have put together some reading and short video clips that might be relevant to the discussion:

Secular stagnation: (or .... growth pessimism!)

"Secular stagnation refers to the idea that the normal, self-restorative properties of the economy might not be sufficient to allow sustained full employment along with financial stability without extraordinary expansionary policies. The idea was put forth first by Alvin Hansen in the late 1930s." (Source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/20...

One common interpretation is that - if we are in an age of secular stagnation - and this is an idea that might just be wrong! Maintaining demand often requires extensive periods of ultra loose monetary policy which in turn can create fresh bubbles in property and equity markets.

Is the secular stagnation argument too pessimistic? Can advanced economies rev up the engine of growth once more perhaps by using structural reforms to boost their competitiveness and drive new investment?

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Higher or Lower Game - World Cup addition

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

You may have already seen my blog/tweet sharing the 'Higher or Lower' game.  Below you will find a brand new version of the game featuring the 32 countries taking part in the FiFA World Cup starting tomorrow.

The aim of the resource is to get a feel and understanding of some of the important statistics relating to the economic performance of the countries.  In this addition, students can attempt to work out whether the 'higher' or 'lower' statistic relates to predicted GDP growth, unemployment, inflation and Government debt alongside the country's FiFA world ranking.

Teams are presented with the name of a country and its statistic in their chosen category.  They are also presented with the name of a second country.  They must say whether the second country has a higher or lower statistic.  This is repeat a further three times allowing the team to score a maximum of 4 points per round.

Have some fun and get a feel for countries statistics at the same time!  Is there any correlation between economic and football performance?

Click here to download the file.

Note:  The economic statistics accredited to England are those of the entire UK.  Sorry, I was unable to find the statistics relating to just England!

A2 Econ Revision Webinar - Global Economy 2014 (June 2014)

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Here is the recording of Geoff's webinar for A2 Econ students which focused on key aspects of the international & global economy, including a focus towards the end on development economics.

The slides used during the webinar can be downloaded from here.

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A2 Econ Revision Webinar - UK Economy 2014 (June 2014)

Here is the recording of Geoff's webinar from 8 June 2014 to support students preparing for their A2 macro exams.

The slides accompanying the webinar can be downloaded here

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The IMF on UK recovery, mortgage risks and the supply side

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Students preparing for unit 4 on Tuesday might spend half an hour or so analysing this report of the IMF’s update on the UK economy. Here are some key points worth noting:

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ECB sets negative interest rates - what does this mean?

Friday, June 06, 2014

The European Central Bank implemented a negative interest rate policy yesterday. Whilst we have become very accustomed to a low base rate in the UK, the ECB policy seems extraordinary.

The policy has come about due to a continued concern over the economic situation in the Eurozone.  Growth remains weak, unemployment is high and inflation sits below the target of 2% in many of the 18 countries.  The ECB is unlikely to follow the UK (and others) strategy of quantitative easing and so is left with fewer choices.

By setting a negative interest rate, the ECB wants to discourage banks from keeping larger reserves and promote a greater level of lending (and thus stimulate economic growth).

If you want to download a short Powerpoint slideshow that explains the policy and its possible consequences then click on this link.

Population change and impacts on the economy

Thursday, June 05, 2014

You’ll often hear it said that Britain, or the world, is ‘overpopulated’, but that’s a very hard concept to pin down. Hostility to migrants into the UK is high, yet economists often argue we need more immigrants.

One Labour MP, Stella Creasy, has stirred controversy by saying “talk to Nigel Farage not just about the immigrants who come here and create jobs, but the immigrants who come here and create skills and create opportunities for people and create new ideas for people. There are now more people over the age of 65 than under the age of 16 in Britain. So unless women like me have a lot of children very quickly our ability to sustain our economy (and) to sustain our public services will come under threat”.

So do extra people add to the economy or subtract from it? I’ve put together a few links and ideas.

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RES Competition: Growth, Poverty and The Environment

The first title in the list of six available to RES entrants is a challenging one! 

Promoting growth and fighting poverty should be the priority in the developing world, not reducing greenhouse gases.” Do you agree?

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Impact of a rising £

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Last autumn all the talk was of the impact of a plunging sterling exchange rate and the UK’s struggle to find new export markets. According to most observers it was time to ‘rebalance’ the economy towards a more export-lead model of growth. George Osborne, the chancellor of the exchequer, talked of “a Britain carried aloft by the march of the makers”. 

The plan was for a revival in manufacturing and exports, driven, at least in part, by a weaker pound. Sterling had fallen by 30% during the financial crisis, but since early 2013 the pound has climbed back, appreciating by 10% in trade-weighted terms.

What impact might this have?

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Unit 4 Macro: Growth, Trade and Development in Sub Saharan Africa

Sunday, June 01, 2014

This blog entry will feature frequently updated revision resources on economic growth trade and development aspects for a range of sub Saharan African countries

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Development Economics: Mozambique eyes commodities boom

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Mozambique has discovered large amounts of natural gas - can the extraction of this act as a catalyst for economic growth and development or will Mozambique be added to the long list of countries who have experienced a natural resource curse?

Manuel Chang, Mozambique's minister of finance, says economic growth is only part of the story of a country's development. He tells Javier Blas of the Financial Times how his nation plans to make the most of its vast natural resources.

Manufacturing output in the African continent accounts for less than 2% of global manufacturing production.

read more...»

Footballs in Pakistan: An Innovation Story

Friday, May 30, 2014

I am really grateful to Bob Denham from Econ Films who has shared with us this newly launched video from the International Growth Centre. It focuses on the competitive challenges facing Pakistan's football manufacturing sector as it loses market share to countries such as China and Indonesia. Footballs in Pakistan are still made mainly by hand, stitching together hexagons and pentagons - a process that leads to a lot of waste  and higher unit costs and which then affects the profitability of businesses in what is already a low-margin sector.

Could a team of economists find better ways of cutting the patterns for footballs and then align the incentives of workers and owners? This is a fascinating short video which captures many aspects of the Unit 4 development economics course. Enjoy!

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The link between unemployment and depression

Thursday, May 29, 2014

If you are like me, teaching unemployment starts with explanation of its causes and then moves on to its impact (before discussing possible solutions).  I've always found the 'impact' aspect relatively straight-forward; it would seem students find the concept of loss of output and its consequences fairly logical.  Discussing the long-term effects can be more difficult as young adults in full-time education may not be wholly empathetic towards the outcomes of job loss.

An interesting report came out from the Nuffield Trust recently (a copy is available from this link) about the increase in the prescription of antidepressants.  The increase from 15 million items prescribed in 1995 to 40 million items in 2012 is quite large but the report shows that the biggest jump has come during the economic downturn since 2008.  The report hypothesizes on a number of causes of this increase but does suggest a link between unemployment and the increase in prescription of antidepressants.  Perhaps it isn't a quantum leap to illustrate that there is a relationship between unemployment and depression but evidence of this nature may be valuable when making a point about the impact of unemployment (and its cost to society as a whole) in the class or as part of an exam answer.

Unit 4 Macro: Ten Years of EU Membership for Poland

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May 2014 marks the tenth anniversary of Poland's accession to the European Union. Poland was easily the largest of the ten countries that came into the EU single market a decade ago. It was an important economic and geo-political moment for a country of just under forty million inhabitants. 

The country has always traded heavily with the EU and that trade dependency has deepened over the last ten years. According to economists at HSBC, Poland is well placed to sustain strong export growth even though much of Western Europe as a whole is struggling to escape from below trend growth.

Poland has had the most stable growth of any economy in Europe in recent years. It avoided a recession in the aftermath of the Global Financial crisis - helped in part by the depreciation of the Polish Zloty. The economy is the sixth biggest in Europe and in the top twenty five countries ranked by GDP. Steady progress in lifting relative incomes per capita towards the EU28 average has helped to grow the size of the middle-class consumer sector - a big opportunity for British businesses looking to invest in the country.

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Unit 4 Macro: Guinea and Rio Tinto Agree Investment Deal that might Double GDP

Guinea has agreed a huge new capital investment framework with a number of transnational partners including Rio Tinto and Chinalco to develop one of the world's biggest iron ore assets. This is a project that may double the country's GDP not least because as well as mining the iron ore, there is a proposal to seek funding to construct a 650km railway and a deep-water port to transport the rocks and minerals. 

It is one of those examples that comes along every once in a while that prompts both students and teachers to re-visit the economics of large scale foreign direct investment projects. Is this nation building of the old style? Or is the proposed investment framework one that could be genuinely transformative for one of the world's poorest countries?

Key points:

  1. Forecast of 45,000 new jobs created across the entire project
  2. State of Guinea will retain 15% of any proceeds from the mine
  3. In exchange, the joint venture with Rio Tinto / Chinalco will enjoy eight years' tax free operations in the country
  4. Production at the Simandou mine is expected to start within five years
  5. It will be Africa's biggest mine
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Obama allies lead the way on a positive approach to climate change

The fracking debate continues apace, with the announcement by the British Geological Survey that there are over 4 billion barrels of oil in the shale rocks of the South of England. The government has proposed new rules of access to land in order to speed up the exploitation of this oil, with payments of £20,000 being made to those living above the land where fracking takes place.

read more...»

World trade and global wage inequality

Large trade surpluses in developing countries lead to higher wage inequality in both poor and rich countries, which suggests that the way to alleviate global wage inequality is to target trade imbalances. These are the central findings of research by Rosario Crinò and Paolo Epifani, published in the May 2014 issue of the Economic Journal.

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Welfare benefits and job search - evidence from Norway

Unemployment benefits can address the failures of credit markets by enabling unemployed people to spend more time searching for a new job – even in countries like Norway, which have an equitable wealth distribution and a generous welfare state. That is the central conclusion of research by Christoph Basten, Andreas Fagereng and Kjetil Telle, published in the May 2014 issue of the Economic Journal.

read more...»

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