Seminar: BRICS 101 Reply

At this afternoon’s seminar Carike Claassen gave us a 101-introduction to the BRICS, who they are, where they are going and why they matter. Following the 4th BRICS summit in New Delhi in March the BRICS countries are in the news as ever – yesterday the Mail & Guardian speculated about a global currency war!

Carike explained that the BRICS are powerful emerging economies that account for 40% of the global population, have a combined GDP of $14 trillion and contributed 70% of recent global GDP growth. They are also a heterogeneous group of countries with different roads to liberalisation and different challenges for future development. Carike promised us a full blog on this, so we will not go into the details of the presentation here. Suffice to say that it was an excellent introduction to a seminar that the School is planning in September. Extraordinary Professor Peet Strydom will lead the discussion on the theme: EMERGING MARKETS: GROWTH RESILIENCE OR HITTING A GROWTH PLATEAU? Keep following this blog for Carike’s post and more details about the seminar.

Carike Claassen and BRICS-101

Die vraagkromme na blogs skuif na regs Reply

As jy hierdie blog lees is dit seker nie nodig om jou om te praat om hierdie blog te lees nie, maar as ons verduidelik hoekom blogs belangrik is, volg jy ons dalk per epos?!

As ‘n skolier, student, akademikus of belangstellende lid van die gemeenskap kan jy dalk vra, hoekom is dit belangrik om blogs te lees, hoekom het ‘n Skool vir Ekonomie een nodig, hoekom is dit belangrik om blogs te skryf?

Daar is onlangs baie geskryf oor die impak van blogs op onderrig en navorsing. David McKenzie en Berk Ozler van die Wêreldbank het geargumenteer dat daar is voordele vir die blogger en positiewe eksternaliteite verwant aan ekonomie blogs. Dit gaan basies oor hoe studente, ander navorsers,  beleidmakers en die publiek bewus word van die nuutste navorsing.  Die tradisionele model werk soos volg: die Prof doen die navorsing, skryf dit op as ‘n referaat en lewer dit by ‘n konferensie vir vakkundiges, dan stuur hy/sy dit in na ‘n akademiese joernaal, kry terugvoer, hersien die artikel, dit word gepubliseer en mense (ander Profs) lees oor jou werk.

Soos mens maklik kan aflei is dit dus ‘n klein gehoor wat bewus word van jou insigte oor inflasie of werkloosheid. En dit vat baie lank. In die navorsing wat McKenzie en Ozler gedoen het, is die NBER Working Papers wat hulle ondersoek het gemiddeld 4 keer afgelaai in die 3-14 maande nadat dit vrygestel is op RePEc. Gemiddeld 10 mense het na die opsomming gekyk. David McKenzie skryf in ‘n ander stuk oor akademiese joernale. In 2011 was ‘n artikel wat ingedien is by die American Economic Review gemiddeld 37 weke “under review”. Vandat die artikel ingedien is, totdat dit aanvaar is het 69 weke geneem en daarna was dit ‘n verdere 61 weke voor publikasie. Die punt is nie dat die AER stadig is nie (meeste navorsers kan nagmerrieverhale vertel van die jare wat hulle al gewag het by amper alle joernale), maar dat die navorsing wat nou in die joernale staan, nie meer die nuutste navorsing nie.

Paul Krugman het die onlangs mooi opgesom:

“…the traditional model of submit, get refereed, publish, and then people will read your work broke down a long time ago. In fact, it had more or less fallen apart by the early 80s. Even then, nobody at a top school learned stuff by reading the journals; it was all working papers, with the journals serving as tombstones. “

Hy het geweet watter working papers om te lees omdat hy by die regte konferensies was.

“Journal publication was so slow relative to the pace of ongoing work that it no longer acted as an information conduit”

Vandag is die kanaal vir inligting aanlyn working papers en blogs. McKenzie en Ozler se navorsing wys dat as navorsing op ‘n prominente blog genoem word, word dit deur meer mense gelees.

As jy dus ‘n student, navorser of beleidmaker is moet jy blogs lees want dit is rapporteer die nuutste navorsing in die veld.

As jy ‘n student of navorser is moet jy blogs skryf want dit is hoe ander mense gaan weet van jou nuutste werk. ‘n Belangrike deel van akademiese navorsing is om jou werk bekend te stel en te verdedig. Blogs is ‘n manier om jou idees te deel en terugvoer te ontvang.

Laaste wys die navorsing dat dit is makliker om gehoor te word in ‘n skare. As daar meer blogs is wat met mekaar skakel is die gehoor groter, die kwaliteit van die blogs word beter, daar is kans om te spesialiseer. Behalwe om te skryf oor ons eie aktiwiteite wil die Skool ook graag skakel met ander blogs en deel word van ‘n gesprek. Daar is nie baie ekonome wat blogs skryf in Suid-Afrika nie, maar hier is solank ‘n paar wat julle gerus kan volg:

Weet jy van ander akademiese ekonome wat blog? Is daar privaatsektor-ekonome wat jy graag lees? Laat weet, dan voeg ons hulle by die blogroll. Eat, sleep, blog, Economics!

Ask an economist: e-tolls 4

On Saturday the North Gauteng High Court granted an urgent temporary interdict stopping SANRAL from implementing e-tolling on the Gauteng Freeway Improvement Project. This saga went from the Minister of Transport saying the e-tolling is a done deal, to the interdict being hailed as a historic victory for active citizens. The Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance (OUTA) lead the charge on the grounds of the negative impact that e-tolls would have on consumers and businesses. The process of price setting and financial arrangements have also been questioned.

But what have economists been saying?

For the most part they are concerned about the impact that the additional costs will have on household budgets that already strained. If e-tolls replace other spending it is bad for businesses and slows the recovery of the economy. In addition, if the tolls get added to the transport costs of goods or costs of delivering services, it will have a negative impact on consumers and businesses and may fuel inflation. Currently the concern is about SANRAL’s bonds and the PIC who bought them. This is very much a macro perspective, but every economist should ask, what does theory say about road pricing?

This blog would like to argue that there are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • Having better freeways in Gauteng generates private benefits for commuters and public benefits for the economy as a whole.
  • But there are also private and public costs involved in the construction, maintenance and use of the freeways.

It is  paying for these costs that has become the sticking point.

If freeways were a typical private good, the users would pay in accordance with the benefits that they receive. In this case, the benefits (in lower vehicle maintenance costs, shorter commuting times) are difficult to measure and as the  OUTA initiative shows, consumers are unlikely to reveal they preferences and volunteer payments.

They can get away with this because it will be difficult to prevent people from using the freeways if they are unwilling to pay. In addition, the freeways are merit goods that benefit the economy as a whole, beyond the benefits that individual commuters or companies get from using the roads. Enter the government and its agency SANRAL.

When we argue that government can provide the freeways, it does not mean that they have to be directly involved in the construction and maintenance – they can subcontract that part – the market fails on the financing part. Government can provide the money to pay for the costs of construction and maintenance by setting a price, collecting tax, or using a combination of tax and debt.

  • Road pricing is  ideal if the actual users pay for the benefits that they receive. However, government would be not better at getting people to reveal their willingness to pay and to set the price accordingly. Setting an efficient price is difficult since freeways are to some extent non-rival in consumption and the additional costs of adding an additional user are low.
  • Taxes, such as an addition to the fuel levy, have the same problem, with the drawback that now everyone is paying, irrespective of whether you are using the road or not (and irrespective of whether you have the ability to pay or not).
  • Using a combination of tax and debt is the same as using taxes now and using taxes later, along with all of the above problems. What can be added is that the benefits of good freeways accrue to society over a longer period and it makes sense to pay for them over a longer period.

In the end, improved freeways have costs and someone has to pay for building and maintaining them.  Over the weekend Chris Hart tweeted:

There may be no tolls but there are costs. The question is, which Germans are paying for the autobahn and how?

It comes down to a choice between road pricing and taxes. If you believe that the benefits of nice freeways accrue to those road users, then they should pay. It is also quite fair, since it will be car owners who pay the tolls and they have some ability to pay. If everyone who uses fuel has to contribute through an increased fuel levy is inefficient and unfair.

And I have not even touched on the issue of congestion pricing yet.

But maybe the whole e-toll saga is less about road pricing than about the tax burden and efficiency of spending in general. Maybe people do not care about costs and benefits, efficiency or equity. Maybe they just do not want to pay even more for something that they think should be paid for from their current tax contribution. If this is the case, government may be in trouble.

Tweet vir ekonomiese ontwikkeling Reply

‘n Oud-Puk en kollega in die Skool vir Ekonomie se werk is gister op Twitter genoem. Michael Clemens is by die Centre for Global Development en is ‘n invloedryke “tweeter” oor ontwikkelingsvraagstukke, spesifiek immigrasie en noodleniginghulp. Sy tweet was oor navorsing wat Prof Wim Naudé doen oor die oorbetalings wat emigrante maak aan hulle families by die huis.

Prof Wim is ‘n NWU-Pukke ekonoom en was die direkteur van die WorkWell Navorsingseenheid voordat hy na Helsinki toe is as ‘n senior navorsingsgenoot by WIDER. Tans is hy by die Maastricht School of Management in Nederland as Professor van Ontwikkelingsekonomie en Entrepreneurskap en navorsingsdirekteur. Volgens IDEAs/RePec tel Prof Wim onder die top-5% ekonome in Europa. Lees meer hier.