Thursday, June 29, 2006

UAE 'importing good portion of inflation from the weakening greenback': Kheleej Times

Steve Brice said, "The UAE was importing good portion of inflation from the weakening greenback. Though domestically soaring rents have also caused strain."

He said: "In the context of local requirements seizing control of monetary policy and thus protecting the economies from excessive swings in the economy, I believe this criticism could be valid. In the context of global imbalances greater exchange rate flexibility would have a marginal impact."

Brice said the huge current account surpluses are caused by the surge in US dollar based international oil prices, a local currency appreciation would have no impact on oil revenues. "There are two transmission mechanisms via which such a currency appreciation could help address global imbalances. First, a currency appreciation would increase the international purchasing power of local currency revenues, which could boost imports. Second, the non-oil sector would suddenly become less competitive, reducing non-oil exports to the further benefit of imports," he said.

However, the economist was of the view that for these to have an impact on global imbalances, the currency shifts would have to be dramatic and this would reduce the value of the region's foreign asset holdings, denominated in US dollar and undermine crucial diversification efforts.


Making it expensive to be the silent majority :: Instapundit.

Instapundit doesn't make this point, but I suppose he'd agree. It was a vocal and unrepresentative minority of faculty that drove former Harvard president Larry Summers out of office. The majority stood by mostly in silence. Ordinarily that costs you little. This time it cost $115 million; actually, probably more like $615 million.

Evidently, even that kind of money wasn't enough to solve the free rider problem. Or maybe the donor failed to make it clear that his gift was contingent. Or maybe others donors will give who wouldn't have given if Summers stayed.

I look forward to reading that Ellison has redirected his donation. Otherwise, the message will be lost.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Youssef Ibrahim: Royal dreamers build castles in the sand

Bio of Mr. Ibrahim: "Served for 18 years as senior regional Middle East correspondent for the New York Times and for 6 years as Energy Editor for the Wall Street Journal. . . Mr. Ibrahim writes weekly and bi-weekly columns in Gulf News and the Daily Star."

Here's what he wrote in the New York Sun this week:
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Drive by Media City and into Internet City here and be dazzled at the giant signs above the buildings. There's CNN and MSNBC, and there's Microsoft, Oracle, and Acer.

Not too far away is Financial City, with Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and more investment-banking muscle. All the elegant signs shimmer under the scorching sun, which bakes the super-modern air-conditioned buildings these international powerhouses inhabit. But wait a minute - are they really there? Is anyone inside?

Nope, this is a bit of trompe l'oeil decor meant to suggest a far greater presence, indeed a headquartering, that is simply not the case.

Once inside, the visitor will quickly discover a few representatives, or perhaps a service person. That's it.
He concludes:
But it's clear the emperor has no clothes. Real estate has stagnated; prices are heading down. The same goes for stock markets in the Arab Gulf region, which last year and this year have dropped by more than 60%. It is, and was, all about speculation on very little. Industry is not the hallmark of the Middle East's desert lands, nor is agriculture, software, or hardware. When investors make nothing, they can only speculate so much before the crash.

"What you see is not what you get" might be a better description of the big oil boom in the Middle East. Meanwhile, the smart sheiks who sold the desert are moving their money out into the real world.

Take Sheik Mohammad Bin Rashed Al Maktoum, the guy from the Dubai Ports episode - as well as the emir of Dubai and the prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. Before and after the Dubai Ports acquisition - itself a $7 billion investment essentially in Britain - Sheik Bin Rashed bought the Tussauds Group for $1.5 billion, the Essex Hotel in New York and other American real estate properties for $1.5 billion, and a group of hotels in Europe and Asia for another $2 billion. In other words, the sheik invested his profits from selling Disneyland desert fantasies in enduring assets outside the Gulf.

It's hard to feel any affection these days for the "Lawrence of Arabia"-style reporters writing about the world's largest artificial ski resorts, tallest buildings, biggest marinas, and hugest shopping malls. They all suggest that a magnificent civilization is rising on the shores of the Persian Gulf. My advice is to look deeper.
Dubai continues to invest in "enduring assets outside the Gulf":
A Dubai government fund has announced the purchase of a landmark building in the heart of New York City for 1.2 billion dollars as the Gulf Arab state blazed ahead with its Big Apple investment binge.

The 32-storey building on 280 Park Avenue in midtown Manhattan, one of the world’s most expensive property locations, was bought by Istithmar from Boston Properties, a publicly listed real estate investment trust.

“We are delighted to work with Istithmar on this transaction and we look forward to a long relationship with them”, Boston Properties chairman Mortimer Zuckerman said in a statement issued by Istithmar.

“Park Avenue is the hub of global operations. Two-Eighty Park Avenue is a particularly attractive corporate location”, said David Jackson, Istithmar chief investment officer. “Within the real estate sector, Istithmar targets projects that are positioned to experience long-term, substantial capital appreciation”.

The 1.2-million-square-foot building, which has a ziggurat type structure reminiscent of ancient Assyrian and Babylonian temples in Iraq, was built in the early 1960s to house the offices of Bankers’ Trust Co.

This is the third New York property deal to be announced by Istithmar since November and a source close to the fund, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said several similar deals have been finalized or were in the process of completion.

The source also said the fund is under the direct supervision and control of the office of Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashed Al Maktoum, who is also vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a federation of seven emirates including Dubai.

The fund had announced earlier that it paid 300 million dollars for a prime Beaux Arts-style building in Manhattan’s Times Square dating from the 1920s that was once the site of the Knickerbocker Hotel.

In May the fund bought Loehmann’s, a 60-store US chain specializing in designer women’s and men’s apparel at discount prices, for 300 million dollars. It also said it bought another building on 230 Park Avenue without disclosing the price.

According to the Emporis Buildings property database, Istithmar paid 705 million dollars for this building and bought a building on 450 Lexington Avenue for 600 million dollars.

The total real estate investments of Istithmar in New York would be 2.8 billion dollars, according to Emporis.

Labels: ,

IMF: UAE's consumer price index does not give the appropriate weight for housing

Gulf News:
Despite a slower increase in Dubai's residential rents from 30.1 per cent in the first quarter of 2005 to 17.1 per cent in the first quarter this year, a tweaking of the relative weights of the CPI may better reveal the reality of price hikes in the country.

Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Economy, earlier this year announced that the government intends to tackle inflation by further boosting competition. A shake-up in the competition laws is expected to materialise before the end of the year.
A reform of competition laws is needed, but let's be clear: weak competition is a cause of high prices, not a cause of inflation, i.e. rising prices.


Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Effective charity

Warren E. Buffett even knows how to get the biggest bank per buck when it comes to charity: he's giving the bulk of his fortune to the Gates Foundation. Bill Gates is a man with a plan. He has figured out where his charity dollars will have the biggest effect and he's heading up the implementation. Gates isn't the most appealing of personalities, but so what. What matters is that he's good at what does, and these days that's doing good. It shows what sort of person Buffett is that he knows that he can do the most good by handing over control of so much of his wealth to the Gates Foundation.

Here's a bit on Gates' plan.

Sorry to say it, but the UN and other large international and government agencies just aren't very good at allocation of funds to programs that will have the greatest effect, nor are they good at carrying out a plan. In the world as it is a competent and benevolent dictator is the best form of benevolence available.

Speaking of which here's another example:
Dr. Arata Kochi, the new chief of the World Health Organization's global malaria program, has turned an enfilading fire on the whole field: the drug-makers, the net-makers, the scientists and even the donors and the suffering countries they try to help.

"The malaria community hates me," Dr. Kochi said in an interview in the W.H.O.'s small Manhattan office. "I said, basically, 'You are stupid.' Their science is very weak. The community is small and inward-looking and fighting each other."

Dr. Kochi, who in the past ran the agency's Stop TB initiative, has never been known for his diplomatic skills. A 57-year-old graduate of Japanese medical schools and the Harvard School of Public Health, he ruled the Stop TB campaign with an iron fist, colleagues say, and by his own admission, so alienated the Rockefeller Foundation and other partners that he was ultimately forced out of the job.

But even his critics admit that he was a decisive strategist and that the tuberculosis campaign was one of most effective the W.H.O. has run.

"His tactic really worked," said Dr. Jacob Kumaresan, a former chief of the Stop TB Partnership in Geneva and now the president of the International Trachoma Initiative. "With his staff, he's pretty strict — those who don't produce results will be laid off. But he's very bold, and I think he's on the right track."

The tuberculosis world, Dr. Kochi said, used to be just as fragmented and hostile as the malaria field is now.
Then you have Myth No. 4: The silent killer; the absence of DDT. See also: ddtfaq and this (Instapundit has been malariablogging (DDTblogging) since the beginning.)

But environmentalists don't want to concede that they were wrong on this one. Buffett could give them a lesson in not letting pride get in the way of achieving real results.

Perhaps pride isn't the word for it. Rather, it may be that environmentalists don't want to concede because they fear losing credibility. Well, continuing to defend the case for banning DDT isn't helping your credibility campaign; it's hurting.

Most emailed article in New York Times for 3 days straight

What Amy Sutherland has to say seems to have resonated with lots of folks: Treat your spouse like an exotic.

I adopted the trainers' motto: "It's never the animal's fault."

When my training attempts failed, I didn't blame Scott. Rather, I brainstormed new strategies, thought up more incompatible behaviors and used smaller approximations. I dissected my own behavior, considered how my actions might inadvertently fuel his. I also accepted that some behaviors were too entrenched, too instinctive to train away. You can't stop a badger from digging, and you can't stop my husband from losing his wallet and keys.

PROFESSIONALS talk of animals that understand training so well they eventually use it back on the trainer. My animal did the same. When the training techniques worked so beautifully, I couldn't resist telling my husband what I was up to. He wasn't offended, just amused. As I explained the techniques and terminology, he soaked it up. Far more than I realized.

Last fall, firmly in middle age, I learned that I needed braces. They were not only humiliating, but also excruciating. For weeks my gums, teeth, jaw and sinuses throbbed. I complained frequently and loudly. Scott assured me that I would become used to all the metal in my mouth. I did not.

One morning, as I launched into yet another tirade about how uncomfortable I was, Scott just looked at me blankly. He didn't say a word or acknowledge my rant in any way, not even with a nod.

I quickly ran out of steam and started to walk away. Then I realized what was happening, and I turned and asked, "Are you giving me an L. R. S.?" Silence. "You are, aren't you?"

He finally smiled, but his L. R. S. has already done the trick. He'd begun to train me, the American wife.
Economists often say, people respond to incentives. Sometimes we don't know what those incentives are. It could be that any kind of reaction is received as a reward. Somewhere in our subconcious the exotic is programed to respond to reactions. Even if the human exotic becames aware that we are intentionally not reacting, I suspect L. R. S. can still work.

I need to go back and finish reading this book. But first I have to figure out where I last left it.

Then may be I should order Sutherland's new book.

UPDATE: It's now most emailed of the day for 4 days straight.

Why we need fire-at-will in academics

Self-Discipline Outdoes IQ in Predicting Academic Performance of Adolescents :: Psychological Science

Self-discipline measured in the fall accounted for more than twice as much variance as IQ in final grades, high school selection, school attendance, hours spent doing homework, hours spent watching television (inversely), and the time of day students began their homework.
Now the question becomes: can you teach self discipline?


Minimum wage: help or hindrance to those in need?

You often hear it suggested that a minimum wage is needed in the UAE to protect low wage ex pat workers.

The US Congress recently debated whether to increase the US minimum wage. This gave Greg Mankiw a chance to review the negative consequences of the minimum wage here, and here (where Mankiw invokes the words of Paul Krugman).

Publius Pundit :: "China is getting close to beating out the United States in the arena of public relations in the Arab World."


Monday, June 26, 2006

First Time Out, Kuwaiti Women Become a Political Force :: NYT

The New York Times has a nice article this morning on women's suffrage in Kuwait. Female voters outnumber men by a third, and it is expected a greater proportion of them will vote than men.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Latest Emiratization drive

Khaleej Times: "The UAE has announced a ban on issuing employment visas to expatriate male/female secretaries. The ban also applies to more than 20,000 expatriates working at present in secretarial jobs. Their labour contracts and cards will not be renewed once expired, according to a ministerial order issued on Saturday by Dr. Ali Abdullah Al Kaabi, Minister of Labour."

Gulf News: "Emiratisation of the human resources managers and secretaries posts will create thousands of jobs for UAE nationals, said Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, Minister of Labour. Al Ka'abi also said the companies must abide by the decision fixing minimum salaries for UAE nationals. The decision says that if the UAE nationals are not paid as per the monthly-wages criteria set Dh5,000 for post-secondary school certificate holders, Dh4,000 for secondary school certificate holders and Dh3,000 for those below secondary school education the private companies employing them will not meet the quota criteria."

I wonder what the definition of secretary is. I wonder what the daily hours are. I wonder if companies will make do without as many secretaries. I wonder if companies will be allowed to hold the replacements to the same standards in terms of hours and performance as the persons they replaced.


Economics can be interesting

Legislate learning English? If only it were so easy - New York Times:
It turns out that children whose immigrant parents came to the United States when young do just about the same in school regardless of whether the parents came from English-speaking or non-English-speaking countries. But the situation is different for children whose parents were older when they arrived. The children from non-English-speaking households do much worse than English-speaking ones. They are less likely to go to preschool and much more likely to drop out of high school.
These are some of the results reported by two economists, Hoyt Bleakley, of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, and Aimee Chin, of the University of Houston in their study "

Saturday, June 24, 2006

UAE's inflation rate is 15 to 20% :: Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE's GDP grew by 8.5 per cent in real terms in 2005 due to strong growth in non-oil sectors, according to the International Monetary Fund.
. . .
The numbers reflect the real GDP for 2005 after accounting for a rise in prices due to inflation. The IMF estimated inflation at 8 per cent but noted it may be higher.

The UAE Ministry of Economy recently said the country's nominal GDP grew by 26.4 per cent last year, without spelling out the rate of inflation. Local economists point to anecdotal evidence suggesting the inflation rate to be between 15 and 20 per cent.
Back on June 13, Khaleej Times reported:
ABU DHABI — The UAE economy recorded significant growth during the year 2005 as GDP surged to Dh485 billion, registering an increase of 26.4 per cent over the same period in 2004, an official report said.

Economic Performance Report released yesterday by the Ministry of Economy and Planning showed all round growth particularly in the non-oil sectors, which showed a surge of 18.6 per cent to Dh312 billion from Dh263 billion in 2004. Its contribution to the GDP stood at 64.3 per cent last year.

The report has attributed the high GDP growth to the success of the UAE's policies which aims at establishing a strong diversified, viable economy.
No mention of inflation was made in the KT article.

Can the high GDP growth be attributed "to the success of the UAE's policies which aims at establishing a strong diversified, viable economy"? Not really. That may be a part of the story, but not the major part. More important are (1) growth in oil revenue driven by growth in oil prices in turn driven by the growth in the Indian and Chinese economies, and (2) inflation.

To sum up:

(1) We can attribute much of the growth in UAE GDP to economic liberalization in other countries that has driven up the value of a resource that happens to be located under the UAE; and

(2) Double digit GDP growth is very difficult to achieve. Except when there is inflation. Then it is dead easy.

Thanks to a reader for alerting me to the Gulf News article.


Friday, June 23, 2006

BBC NEWS | Business | Iran calls halt to petrol imports

Heh. Double heh heh.


Some Iraq cost metrics

Menzie Chinn at Econbrowser offers some Iraq cost metrics. See also the thoughtful comments to the post.


Econbrowser: The economic impact of a disruption to container trade


Boycott blowback or just rearranging the deck chairs?

The Eclectecon quotes this tidbit from Christopher Hitchens:
Danish exports to the United States have increased by 17 percent and that, overall, the Danish economy has more than compensated for the results of the unjustified Muslim boycott.
Dear Reader: Note that I am not saying that the boycott was unjustified. Those who participated were convinced that the boycott was justified and they stopped purchasing Danish products. What is also clear is that not everyone was convinced that the boycott was justified. Those nonparticipants fall into two categories: those whose demand for things Danish did not change, and those who increased their demand for things Danish in reaction to the boycott. You actually don't have to have any of the second kind for boycotts to have no effect. All you need is for the product to be sufficiently generic, and the proportion of buyer who boycott to be sufficiently small that for each boycotting buyer who switches away from a pound of Danish butter and to a pound of non-Danish butter there is a buyer who would have otherwise purchased the non-Danish butter but who is indifferent between the two.

Send in the clowns: Bastiat remembered

David Boaz at CATO offers us Hillary and the candlemakers: not a parody. Senatorial B.S. features prominently.

Wal-Mart shoppers, let's shine some disinfecting sunlight on Clinton's silliness.


It's not our fault

From Asia toils to build UAE for a pittance:
Brigadier Said Matar bin Bileila, chairman of the Dubai government's new Permanent Committee of Labour Affairs, is well aware of the workers' plight.
But he lays a lot of the blame on the labourers and their governments for not protecting the men from recruiting "sharks". Firms in the UAE employ agencies in Asia to find workers and many men say they pay thousands of dollars to secure jobs.

"Most of the labourers who come here have already been bled dry by recruiting companies who take huge fees, so they come here already heavily in debt," Bileila said. "That is not the fault of the UAE government or the employer, but the problem lies with the Asian governments and the workers themselves, they have to deal with these agents that are like a mafia."

Bileila said the UAE offered foreign labourers a golden opportunity to better their lives.

"We know how these labourers live at home. They don't have houses but here they get a room, air-conditioning, a kitchen, three clean meals a day, transportation and a salary that is 10 times better than what they would make at home," he said.
10 times? I doubt it. But if it is that would explain why the sharks are feasting. The recruiters are in the position of selling these job openings to the workers. The workers are willing to pay the difference between what they get in the UAE and what they can at home. The fact that jobs can be sold is proof that the UAE is providing the better jobs. Or that there are a lot of gullible people out there.

Gulfnews: Dubai targets Antwerp's crown

Belgium's tough federal legislation regarding money laundering and checks on the use of diamond money to finance ugly conflicts are leading manufacturers to turn their eyes to the tax-free haven of Dubai's freezones.
Mehta, also vice-chairman of Dubai Diamond Exchange, said the diamond giant is considering a future shift of its main administrative headquarters to Dubai. He claimed others will follow.
"The diamond industry moved to Antwerp in the first place because less questions were asked there and it was easier for the diamond workers to do business," he said. "Now more and more questions are being asked in Antwerp about sales and margins and where money is coming from, so people are getting fed up and saying let's move to Dubai."
Sounds like libel to me. I thought the "no questions asked" reputation was one that Dubai wanted to shake.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Put someone in charge, and then hold them accountable.

You'll get results.

Maybe this has something to do with why he does not like committees (see #5).

Choice Feminism :: Cassandra

Cassandra, writing at TigerHawk: "I had, somewhat naively, always thought one of the smarter tenets of mainstream feminism involved Hirshman's bete noir: the freedom to choose. Choice feminism affirms the right and the ability of women to make rational choices regarding their time, their talent, their very lives. For those who think in economic terms, the word 'choice' brings to mind two related concepts: tradeoffs (the idea that it is rarely possible to choose one thing - at least in the real world where resources are finite - without giving up other things) and the weighing of opportunity costs, which recognizes that intelligent decision making requires the evaluation of the most valuable forgone alternative."

Read the whole thing. It's all good and thought provoking.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Redefining adulthood

- Helicopter parents follow the kneepad generation to college. Some become Black Hawks.

Sociologists and higher education officials say this generation is unlike any other, thanks to the child-rearing approach of their parents and the unprecedented influence of technology.

Many boomer parents carefully planned and fiercely protected their children, according to Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation, by Neil Howe and William Strauss.

They saw their youngsters as "special," and they sheltered them. Parents outfitted their cars with Baby on Board stickers. They insisted their children wear bicycle helmets, knee pads and elbow guards. They scheduled children's every hour with organized extracurricular activities.
I like this thinking: "Kids do better when parents put their relationship first." If it's not true, it ought to be.

- "One of Britain's leading fertility doctors says teenage girls who get pregnant "behind the bike shed" are just obeying nature's law. . . . because females have been programmed by 2 million years of evolution to have babies in their late teens and early 20s, when fertility is at its peak."

Ah, yes. Our fate lies in our jeans?

- And then you have the Boomerangers: "A 2006 MonsterTrak survey found that 48 percent of students will return to their family home after graduation. Additionally, 44 percent of 2005 graduates were still living with their parents."

Life is hard when thousands of years of evolution have genetically programmed you to be an adult in your early teens, but a century of technological change has moved the economically efficient date for launching from nurture (r.e. the growing importance of education) into self-supporting adulthood.

There is of course the IUD. Then you could get married at 16, delay having a child, and live with your parents. Unless you have moral objections to some part of that.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Lowering expectations

- Dubai power failures
In the wake of several power cuts throughout Dubai, Dewa officials have urged the public to be wary of overextending their power supplies.

"It is very normal for small scale, contained power cuts to take place when demand is very high, such as in the summer months," said Dewa spokesperson, Abdullah Al Hajri.

Downplaying the incidents as 'isolated', Al Hajri indicated the situation was entirely normal during the summer months.

"Some isolated problems are to be expected during the summer," he told Gulf News, adding that the main cause is people exceeding their allotted power supplies, putting strain on the area substations.
- Water from taps 'is a rare sight'

Sharjah: "You do not see water flowing through the taps anymore," said an Indian expatriate living in the area around the Rolla Square. "It is a rare sight."

Residents in many areas have learned over the past months that they cannot trust Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (Sewa) to provide them a regular supply of water.
The problem is more acute in buildings rented out to construction workers, where about eight workers share one room.

Shaikh Naina, a worker said they store water in huge 220 litre barrels. "It lasts just one day," he said. In their building, water is released between 4 am and 8.30 am.
Experts have warned that the UAE is one of the water deficient countries in the world and urgently needs to curtail consumption. The emergency number to call is 992.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

October 1, 2003 was a very productive day ::CoreEcon

People do respond to incentives

Fertile-aged Australian couples showed a tremendous amount of insight into the forecasting of government policy?

Actually, not. Quoting:
But we don’t think there was any (or much) of this. Instead, births themselves were shifted. Something that is much more worrying. We know this because (1) when we look at the types of procedures, it was all in inducements and cesareans. ‘Normal’ deliveries were unaffected; something that would not be the case if books were fiddled; and (2) June was an unusually low month for births and July (as a whole) was an unusually high month. Indeed, one quarter of all births were shifted by more than two weeks!

Via Daniel Drezner.

What I read in the Washington Post this morning

Among the items I read in the Washington Post while sitting on the front porch here in Orkney Springs this Sunday morning:

- Unleashing the Wrath of Stay-at-Home Moms - Evidently, if one takes a position either way it unleashes lots of wrath, from women. Men don't seem to join these debates.

- Kurdish Defendants Find Support in Town's Clasp - "Supporters, many of them strangers to the Kurds, have escorted them to churches to tell their side of the story. They have collected donations to pay for legal fees and a full-page newspaper ad, signed by 600 residents, demanding that government officials drop the cases and 'apologize for their actions.' They have published op-eds lambasting the cases in the Harrisonburg Daily News-Record, whose editorial board has urged lenient sentences." Aside: The article's subtitle "Refugees in Va. Hamlet Arrested in Oct," references Harrisonburg as a hamlet. I live in a hamlet 45 minutes up the road from Harrisonburg. Harrisonburg is not a hamlet, it is a "smaller urban center."

- Islamic militias restore order, win the support of Mogadishu's increasingly influential women, who in recent years had joined the job market en masse to support their families in the midst of a collapsing economy. - Seems ironic. But mostly I'm glad that someone, anyone, is doing something to offset the war lords.

- Iraqi females harassed by Islamists. (Follow link, then click on "view the cable".)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Govt depts not serious about emiratisation: Labour official :: Khaleej Times

On the reasons for the negative picture, he said, was retirement at an early age, which many nationals had resorted to over the previous two years. A great number of UAE citizens had quit government posts and opted to start business after availing bank loans, he observed.
I'm not sure the government is not engaged in a housecleaning aimed at tempting less qualified nationals out of government jobs in order to make way for younger nationals who are better prepared. Perhaps, too, the government is making it more difficult to hold on to your government job while spending much of your time running a private business.


Search Words: dubai dog walker rates :: Malta

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Friday, June 16, 2006

Carbon nanotube-based membranes will dramatically cut the cost of desalination :: Technology Review

The new membranes, developed by researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), could reduce the cost of desalination by 75 percent, compared to reverse osmosis methods used today, the researchers say. The membranes, which sort molecules by size and with electrostatic forces, could also separate various gases, perhaps leading to economical ways to capture carbon dioxide emitted from power plants, to prevent it from entering the atmosphere.
The carbon nanotubes used by the researchers are sheets of carbon atoms rolled so tightly that only seven water molecules can fit across their diameter. Their small size makes them good candidates for separating molecules. And, despite their diminutive dimensions, these nanopores allow water to flow at the same rate as pores considerably larger, reducing the amount of pressure needed to force water through, and potentially saving energy and costs compared to reverse osmosis using conventional membranes.

Indeed, the LLNL team measures water flow rates up to 10,000 times faster than would be predicted by classical equations, which suggest that flow rates through a pore will slow to a crawl as the diameter drops. "It's something that is quite counter-intuitive," says LLNL chemical engineer Jason Holt, whose findings appeared in the 19 May issue of Science. "As you shrink the pore size, there is a huge enhancement in flow rate."
The UAE should jump right on this.

Psy-ops, perhaps?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Quote of the day

Somewhere there is a young lady whose life has been impoverished by my failure to sire the son who would someday sweep her off her feet. If I cared as much about that young lady as I do about my own daughter, I'd have produced that son. But because I selfishly acted as if other people's children are less important than my own, I stopped reproducing too soon.

Be Fruitful and Multiply - Do the world a favor: Have more children. By Steven E. Landsburg
But what if that young lady paid you, the parent of the son she wished to have as a husband? After all, Landsburg also wrote in the same essay:
You might imagine that there are also costs associated with your competing in the marketplace, bidding some prices up and others down, applying for the job I wanted, and so forth. But each of those costs has an offsetting benefit. If you bid up the price of cars, sellers will gain as much as buyers lose. If you prove a stronger job candidate than I do, my loss is the employer's gain.
See also:
Some of the people who wrote to me said it was irresponsible to bring a child into such a lousy world. Making that same point was a letter to the editor in the Washington Post in response to Robert Samuelson's column on declining population. In the letter, the writer said that after reading Paul Ehrlich's The Population Bomb 35 years ago he decided not to have children, a decision he encouraged others to make because it "may be one of the best ways to say yes to the future." This man didn't have children because of a book that turned out to be wrong!

Why childless people hate me. By Emily Yoffe

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Did you know? - June 14, 2006

- 15pc children in UAE obese, malnourished :: Khaleej Times

- Admission of expat kids to govt schools allowed :: KT - "Dr Hassan exuded faith that the decision would engender a competitive atmosphere among students and behove the customs and tradition of UAE which, he said, had always extended opportunity to expatriates' children on par with UAE students. The decision had been taken after thorough and comprehensive study, he said. "We should take advantage of such decisions, which will help UAE students to interact with the other Arab cultures," he said, observing that the decision would create competition and motivate students to work harder to excel." The Gulf News adds: "A Cabinet decision issued five years ago stopped expatriate students from studying in government schools."

- No more flogging for petty crimes :: KT - What about stoning? To death. For adultery?

- Meanwhile: Sex syndicate lures Filipinas to Dubai :: Manila Times. And the U.S. "State Department said the UAE does not take proper care of prostitutes who are trafficking victims, and instead simply jails and deports around 5,000 trafficked women per year. The country also needs to crack down on the gangs that traffic those women, the department said."

- Gulf bloggers: a new breed of Arab activists :: Sydney Morning Herald. Thanks to samuraisam blogging at UAE community blog. The comments there are revealing.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Educating boys and girls

An intellectual flaw runs through the debate about boys' academic performance: our obsession with gender stereotyping :: Dave Hill

Boring the boys to death :: TigerHawk (Many of the comments are quite thoughtful.)

There's a lesson to be learned, I think, if we really believe that boys respond to competition and that girls are more diligent. The lesson is that if colleges used the same standards for boys and girls, boys would face more competition in their IQ cohort and put more effort in high school. Unfortunately, colleges use lower standards for boys in order to maintain a balance in gender numbers. The consequence of this equilibrium of the college admission game is that it makes it more difficult for high schools to motivate boys.

Note that the colleges' interest in gender balance can be consistent with the academic goal (as opposed to social goal) of admitting the brightest students. If boys are more likely to be underachievers, a college that adopts differential standards for boys can actually improve the quality of its pool of enrolled students.

Then there's the question of job success after college. It is claimed that boys get better jobs and pay than girls relative to their performance in school. Some say this is a message to girls that talk of a meritocracy is a lie. But it could be that school performance is a highly imperfect predictor of productivity in the workplace - in part because of the fact the girls are more diligent in schoolwork carries over from high school into college.

Related: What is a Harvard MBA worth?

Bush mulls oil trust for Iraqis:: TigerHawk

Bush is talking about it. TigerHawk is on the story.

I've advocated this before. If it's good for Alaskans, it ought to be good for Iraqis, too.


Saturday, June 10, 2006

International Organization for Migration and the UAE: some links

- Expatica on IOM report: "At a time when some Western governments were tightening migration policies, the UN said Tuesday in a major study that many countries have ignored both the human rights of migrants and their economic contributions." (Expatica article here.)

- Gulf News: "Speaking to Gulf News from Geneva, Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi said a total of 2 million unskilled workers will be considered "temporary contractual workers under an agreement with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)"."

- Gulf News: "Expat workers who wish to take up jobs in the UAE will also undergo medical tests in their countries to ensure they are free from contagious diseases, the Minister of Labour told Gulf News yesterday. Speaking to Gulf News from Geneva, Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi, Minister of Labour, said no time-frame has been fixed to implement this. It follows an agreement with the Geneva-based International Organisation for Migration (IOM)."

- International Organization for Migration website

- IOM Mission Statement: "Established in 1951 as an intergovernmental organization to resettle European displaced persons, refugees and migrants, IOM has now grown to encompass a variety of migration management activities throughout the world. . . . While not part of the United Nations system, IOM maintains close working relations with UN bodies and operational agencies. IOM has as partners a wide range of international and non-governmental organizations."

- IOM Handbook on Establishing Effective Labour Migration Policies in Countries of Origin and Destination

What I'm reading: 9 June 2006

Econbrowser: Saudi oil production - Puzzled by Saudi claims that it can't find buyers for its oil? Econbrowser explains.

Why do Muslim women hate US? - Could it be Hollywood values? (Via, Instapundit.)

How not to increase your intelligence - Some secrets are just so juicy you can't resist sharing them to make yourself seem more important even if your blabbing undercuts the war on terror.


Friday, June 09, 2006

A nation of temps

Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi, UAE Minister of Economy:
She mentioned that currently, the UAE population is comprised of 85% expatriates and only 15% nationals, which is the highest ratio of foreign workers in the wider Gulf region. In addition, the UAE's work force is further skewed to the expatriates with the ratio of 90.7% foreign workers and 9.3% nationals. Of the employable base of UAE nationals, more than 88% are working in the public sector, with 56% of Emirati men in either the military or police services.
Unskilled workers can stay for 6 years
Unskilled foreign workers and domestic help will be allowed a maximum stay of six years in the UAE, the Minister of Labour said yesterday. Speaking to Gulf News from Geneva, Dr Ali Bin Abdullah Al Ka'abi said a total of 2 million unskilled workers will be considered "temporary contractual workers under an agreement with the International Organisation for Migration (IOM)".

"The UAE will receive an official document from the IOM recognising the change of the workers' position from being immigrants to temporary contractual workers," Al Ka'abi said.
Not all nations of immigrants are equal.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Fatality Rates

I wouldn't be telling you this except that I think the media provides a distorted picture of the war Iraq.

The civilian murder rate in the U.S. is 5 per 100,000. The rate in the state of Louisiana is nearly 13. The rate in Washington, D.C. is 36.

What do you figure the rate is in Iraq? Answer here (scroll down). Not as bad I'd have guessed. What about you? [Link corrected.]


Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The wrong target :: The Times

The London Times editorializes:

Terrorism, not America, is a real and present threat to our freedoms.
. . .
The strength of disdain is a measure of Europe’s weakness. Smugness is one of Europe’s great contemporary exports. We may all think that we know America, its music, its culture, its self-confident exceptionalism. We tend to forget that Americans fight only with extreme reluctance. We overlook their penchant for agonised self-criticism; everything bad we know about the US, we know because Americans inexhaustibly rehearse their society’s shortcomings. There has never been greater transparency, whether than on the battlefield or the boondocks, and there has never been more open debate about the country’s virtues and vices — the internet has transformed the quantity and, at times, the quality of the conversation.

Better than most, Muslims understand why Islamist terrorism is war at its unholiest, an existential threat to societies. Iraqis may resent occupation, but they fear a weakening of US resolve. Their fears should be ours. Were it to become politically impossible for a president to keep America’s forces engaged from its shores, then the backbone of international security would be broken. America-bashing may be a popular sport, but its adherents prefer not to contemplate its consequences.
I concur. Open rehearsal of shortcomings is key to the strength of America. Even if it can sometimes be misinterpreted as a sign of weakness, in the end it is essential to the defeat of the enemies of a free and open society. And get this: open rehearsal of shortcomings is alive and well in George Bush's America, and he'd like others around the world to enjoy that kind sort of society.

Welcome news from Canada:
Liberal Leader Bill Graham, meanwhile, said Canada must continue its military role in Afghanistan or risk more terrorist threats at home. Canada's troops are in Afghanistan precisely to bring peace to that country, he said, and ''we hope well succeed in that engagement, which is so important for Canada and the international community.''

''I'm afraid that if we don't succeed, the threats will get bigger. The success of our forces in Afghanistan are more and more important, as shown by what we happened this weekend.''
(These links above via Riehl World Views.)

Further welcome news: U.S. Army Chief of Staff awarded Spanish Grand Cross of Military Merit. (via Instapundit)

The Erring Eye ::Secret Dubai

I was afraid I was going to have to do it. Thank you, Secret Dubai, for your thorough fisking* of the author of the recent article on Dubai appearing in the Asia Times.


Sunday, June 04, 2006

Forced labor

Sometimes I think we forget what forced labor is. And we may forget that many European countries were still employing it in the 20th century. And I'm not referring to the Nazis.

Gendercide Watch provides a useful history.

A worker who voluntarily enters into employment is not forced labor even if the terms of employment are meager by Western standards. By its voluntary nature we know that that worker's life is improved by the job opportunity.

I was led to look into the conscription of labor in Africa by the French and Belgians by this NPR report: Origin of AIDS Linked to Colonial Practices in Africa. The colonial powers may not have anticipated all the negative consequences of their actions, but they did know that they were accomplishing their goals by using forced labor (and forced innoculation of the forced labor force) - pure and simple, slavery.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Search Words - noble price sheikha lubna year

A recent visitor to The Emirates Economist found us by way of some surprising search terms. As recorded by Sitemeter for EmEc:
Time of Visit Jun 3 2006 11:44:30 am
Last Page View Jun 3 2006 11:45:28 am
Visit Length 58 seconds
Page Views 1
Referring URL sheikha lubna year
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Search Words noble price sheikha lubna year
Visit Entry Page http://emiratesecono...onomist_archive.html
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Out Click Shaikhdoms of Eastern Arabia
Time Zone UTC+3:00
Visitor's Time Jun 3 2006 7:44:30 pm
Visit Number 61,661

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Vene zuela's new Iranian refinery :: badhairblog

Fausta provides insight into Chavez's strategic moves. (Via Instapundit.)

Workers in a competitive market are paid according to the value of their marginal product

In competitive labor markets a worker gets paid the value of the worker's marginal product, that is, the value of the additional product the worker's presence provides.

There is a link between several of the recent posts at The Emirates Economist.

1. Customer-based discrimination: The notion that customers may be willing to pay more for an enterprise's service according to the nationality or ethnicity of the employee providing the service.

2. The debate over Western style education systems in the Gulf: see my posts here and here.

3. Taxation of US taxpayers living abroad.

Here's what ties these together. An institution that wishes to adopt, say, the American system of university education will have to be careful to choose employees who understand that system, and to include among that set of employees some who grew up in the American system. This is especially true if your aim is to create an experience that is like attending university in the US. We may not be able to describe the American system exactly or what the boundaries of an education system are, but it is not merely about textbooks, the academic calendar, the style of teaching, or the method of testing.

Parents and students seeking an American-style education know this. Thus, they are willing to pay more in tuition to an institution that employs more Americans. Americans are worth more to the institution; thus we expect to see the institution pay more to Americans.

And when taxes on US taxpayers living abroad increase it will take more to entice Americans to work abroad. The theory predicts American-style universities will do two things as a result of such a tax increase: reduce the proportion of their workforce which is American, and increase the pay of Americans it continues to employ relative to the pay of others with otherwise similar credentials.

If we see an American-style institution that is not paying a premium to Americans what do we conclude? One possibility is that the institution does not want to be know for paying less to non-Americans. The customers, for example, may not understand that their own preference for Americans means the institution values Americans more, and/or they may be appalled by that pay difference. And so, to keep their business, the institution pays non-Americans more than is necessary to attract their services.

Another possibility is that the institution values diversity. This could be because diversity is part of the American system of education. Or it could be because the institution is not merely modeling itself to be American. Either way, each faculty member could be contributing to the diversity of the whole and be paid for it.

A goal of diversity, however, does not imply equal pay to all nationalities. In the US, in some academic disciplines where there are few women, the pay of females has been bid up above that of males -- the wage gap can persist the mix of men and women needed to achieve diversity differs for the mix naturally attracted to the profession at equal wages.

Back to that tax increase that affects only US taxpayers living abroad. Even if diversity is part of the institution's mission you would expect to see the institution increase the pay of the US taxpayers but not to the degree that it maintains the same proportion of Americans in its workforce.

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