Tuesday, October 31, 2006

UAE news roundup, 31 October 2006

Inflation does not deter Gulf on unified currency. "The council's members - Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain - have pegged their currencies to the dollar in preparation for the currency, which will also be pegged to the dollar at the start but may be traded freely later. . . . The rate of growth in the price of goods within the council has varied from just over 2 percent in Saudi Arabia to over 13 percent in the United Arab Emirates, violating one of the criteria agreed last year."

Etisalat expects to lose 20-30pc market share in UAE. "Etisalat expects Du to secure between 20 and 30 per cent of the domestic mobile phone market within three years of its launch, Julfar said. In order to avoid a corresponding decline in revenues, Etisalat will launch a cost-cutting campaign that will include merging business units to improve efficiency, Julfar said. He said he did not expect major layoffs among the firm’s 10,000 employees. The company also plans to readjust its tariff rates to maximise profits, Julfar said. For instance, Etisalat will increase subscription charges on fixed-line business phones, while reducing rates on international calls, he said."

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Bahrain blocks Mahmood's Den

The popular Mahmood's Den has been blocked by the Bahrain authorities. Not a good move.


Corporate America watches the poll numbers :: NYT

Corporate America is already thinking beyond Election Day, increasing its share of last-minute donations to Democratic candidates and quietly devising strategies for how to work with Democrats if they win control of Congress.

The shift in political giving, for the first 18 days of October, has not been this pronounced in the final stages of a campaign since 1994, when Republicans swept control of the House for the first time in four decades.

Though Democratic control of either chamber of Congress is far from certain, the prospect of a power shift is leading interest groups to begin rethinking well-established relationships.
. . .
Democrats who are not in tight races — or even standing for re-election in some cases — have seen their contributions increase more than some of those facing the most competitive contests. That is an easy way, lobbyists say, for political action committees to increase the share of their Democratic contributions, a percentage that is carefully tracked by party leaders when they reach the majority.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Greg, John, Don and Karol: not conservative, not liberal.

As Don puts it:
Those persons who distrust government meddling in their pocketbooks and in their bedrooms aren't heard.
Greg gives us his position in a picture here. I'm a bit NW of Greg.

UPDATE: Alex P. Keaton probably would be very close to Greg.
Econbrowser: Is oil going to $30?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Wasta and traffic fines :: Arab News

Saudis caught speeding and breaking traffic laws in the Kingdom simply call in their “wasta” (influential contacts) in order to get their fines canceled. Some Saudis simply tear up traffic tickets in the face of the issuing officer, daring him to take action if he can. Others tell officers not to bother wasting their time as they have senior “connections.”

Price of human kidney :: Virginia Postrel

Virginia Postrel notes that the Saudis and Israelis agree on the price of a kidney.

Postrel herself is a kidney donor. Here's the latest on that.


Friday, October 27, 2006

Lack of liquor license dries up sales at restaurants :: USA Today

In Boston, the only way to get a license is to buy another establishment's, and prices have shot up. A liquor license can cost more than $275,000; a beer and wine license goes for $50,000 to $100,000.

That's more than many smaller places can afford. "In a state where you can't legally scalp a Red Sox ticket, you can sell a license granted by the city of Boston for a hundred times face value," fumes Chris Spaguolo, Sullivan's partner.

A century ago Boston's allotment of alcohol licenses was capped by state law. In other Massachusetts communities the number of licenses is tied to population growth; Boston's cap can be changed only by the Legislature.

It's a relic of a time in Boston political history when Irish politicians, such as President Kennedy's grandfather John F. "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald, and James Michael Curley seized power from the Yankee Brahmin establishment.

But the Brahmins retained control of state government and imposed measures to keep tabs on the city's spending, policing and drinking.

Only the controls on the latter survive. The governor still appoints the members of the city's Licensing Board, and the Legislature still controls how many alcohol licenses the board can issue. Currently there are 320 licenses for beer and wine only, and 650 for all alcohol.
. . .
Finbar Griffin is opening a restaurant in South Boston. He paid $200,000 to buy a defunct bar's liquor license (he says it's already worth $250,000) and doesn't want to compete with a place that paid a tenth of that for its license.

"I'm OK with new licenses," he says, "if I get $200,000 back in tax relief."
Boston Globe:
Prices on liquor licenses in Boston have more than doubled a year after the city ran up against a state limit on the number of licenses it can issue.

With a growing pool of would-be restaurateurs and club owners trying to outbid one another for the few licenses coming available as establishments go out of business, the amounts being fetched have soared into the hundreds of thousands of dollars.
. . .
Elsewhere in the state, the number of licenses is tied to population growth, triggering automatic increases.

Boston reached its 970-license limit in the spring of 2005. Before then, people seeking licenses could apply to the Boston Licensing Board for a new license, paying a $200 application fee and annual renewal fees of about $1,500-$2,000 .

Some acquired licenses by purchasing licensed restaurants, especially in neighborhoods such as the North End, where the city rarely or never granted new licenses. In those cases, beer and wine licenses typically made up $10,000-$50,000 of the cost of a restaurant, and all-alcohol licenses made up about $150,000-$200,000, industry observers said.

Now, the going rates for existing licenses are about $40,000 to $125,000 for a beer-and-wine license, depending on location, and about $225,000 to $325,000 for an all-alcohol license.
. . .
The legislator, Senator Michael W. Morrissey, is openly critical of City Hall as it argues for permission to increase the number of licenses it can issue from 970 to 1,025.
. . .
He said he is looking out for the interests of current liquor license holders who paid hundreds of thousands of dollars for licenses in the recently inflated market. Such businesses include Legal Sea Foods, which recently purchased a license from Jimmy's Harborside restaurant for its new Legal Test Kitchen in South Boston. If the city rolled out new licenses, potential competitors could move in after spending a tiny fraction of that.

``Don't you think Legal Sea Foods would be a little [angry]?" Morrissey said. ``They played by the rules and what did it get them? $240,000 in start-up costs."
. . .
``The only thing that this is accomplishing is keeping good businesses from opening and perhaps causing open businesses to close," said City Councilor Michael Ross , who says he fields calls every week about the issue. ``The only people who are benefitting are those who can afford to pay the premium prices that have been driven up by the cap. This is not fair."
The interests of those who bought at high prices are the same as all other restaurants that hold licenses. They benefit from the limit on the number of licenses because it limits entry and thereby holds prices and profits above competitive levels.

Savvy investors look beyond Dubai :: IHT

. . . north of the shiny new towers at Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach and dozens of other mega-projects, is a land - or actually, a series of lands - that only now are starting to draw the kind of interest from overseas investors that Dubai already enjoys.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

IMF asks UAE to stop propping up stocks :: Gulf News

Some analysts said government-backed funds and institutions bought shares during the decline to help the market and restore investor confidence.

"That [a government intervention] would have created a real moral hazard, since investors would then expect the government to intervene each time the markets fell," Khan told Gulf News in an interview. "It is the investors who must bear the risk of pouring money into stock markets," he added.
Via The Business of America is Business.

High inflation and the possibility of defaults on the expanding personal and home loan portfolios of banks are key risks facing the UAE economy, the National Bank of Dubai said yesterday.

In a UAE Focus report, the country's fourth biggest bank by assets, estimated domestic inflation at between 12 and 15 per cent in 2006 and said it was the single largest risk to the UAE economy.

The possibility of defaults on personal and home loan repayments to banks was also a threat, it added.

Central Bank figures show personal loans in the UAE surged 64 per cent in 2005 to Dh97.7 billion and by a further 37 per cent in the first quarter of 2006 to Dh133.5 billion.

Personal loans as a percentage of total credit had risen to 27.7 per cent in 2005 from 24.1 per cent in 2004.

NBD said loans disbursed by several UAE banks were beyond healthy levels and it was worried about the lenient lending policies of many banks. "Given that at least some part of the wealth of the middle class could have been battered by the bearish equity market, the customer's ability to service such loans is a risk in the current inflationary environment," the report said.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

People respond to incentives

1. Pornography and rape are substitutes - Greg Mankiw's Blog, reporting on research by Todd D. Kendall, an economist at Clemson University. UPDATE: Slate has more.

2. Do violent movies cause violent crime? - Marginal Revolution, reporting on research by economists Gordon Dahl (UC San Diego) and Stefano DellaVigna (UC Berkeley).

More illustration, I think, that "clever and relatively open-minded empiricists rule the roost" now in economics.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Give us the body :: The New Editor

On this day in 1861 President Abraham Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in Washington, DC, for all military-related cases during the Civil War; the previous April, Lincoln had suspended habeas corpus in Maryland, and also in parts of the Midwest.

In 1862, Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus in the entire country.

In 1863, after the US Supreme Court ruled Lincoln's actions unconstitutional (Lincoln simply ignored the Court's ruling), Congress passed the Habeas Corpus Act, formally suspending the writ of habeas corpus in the US.

Posner in Not a Suicide Pact: The Constitution in a Time of National Emergency:
History does not confirm the existence of a civil liberties rachet, a "slippery slope" on which the first step toward curtailing civil liberties precipitates an uninterrupted and perhaps accelerating decline.
. . .
At the outset of an emergency, the government is uncertain about its gravity, on the principle that it is better to be safe than sorry reacts on a worst-case assumption. As more is about the danger, responsive measures are scaled down from worst case to best estimate. Most of the terrorist suspects, mainly illegal immigrants, rounded up and detained in the urgent sweeps that followed 9/11 were releaed after it became apparent that the 9/11 hijackers were not members of a vast internal network.... National security program adopted by the president and the Congress in the wake of the 9/11 attacks were, four years later, under seige.

Civil libertarians are the racheters, insisting that every increase in civil liberties should be treated as a platform for further increases.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Defending price gougers

1. Water: Division of Labour

2. Exam Pencils: The EclectEcon

Why is this the adult Halloween costume equilibrium?

New York Times:
The trend is so pervasive it has been written about by college students in campus newspapers, and Carlos Mencia, the comedian, jokes that Halloween should now be called Dress-Like-a-Whore Day.
. . .
“Decades after the second wave of the women’s movement, you would expect more of a gender-neutral range of costumes,” said Adie Nelson, the author of “The Pink Dragon Is Female: Halloween Costumes and Gender Markers,” an analysis of 469 children’s costumes and how they reinforce traditional gender messages that was published in The Psychology of Women Quarterly in 2000.
. . .
Men’s costumes are generally goofy or grotesque ensembles with “Animal House”-inspired names like Atomic Wedgie and Chug-A-Lug Beer Can. And when they dress up as police officers, firefighters and soldiers, they actually look like people in those professions. The same costumes for women are so tight and low-cut they are better suited for popping out of a cake than outlasting an emergency.

UPDATE: John Tierney's NYT op-ed calls it Slutoween and wonders if it isn't a bad equilibrium, a disarms race:
When I see fundamentalists and feminists jointly denouncing something, my knee-jerk libertarian response is: bring it on! If the stores are stocked with nothing but slutty costumes, this must be what customers want. The market has spoken.

I’ve started to wonder, though, if Halloween is a case of market failure, an arms race that’s out of control.

The benefits of delaying maternity :: Dear Economist

Or: Why economists like those little Miss Steaks.

Amalia Miller, an economist at the University of Virginia, studied the timing of maternity and its effect on earnings. That effect is large: delay maternity by just one year and you can expect your career earnings to rise by 10 per cent, partly because you will work longer hours and partly because you will enjoy a better wage rate. For professionals like you, the wage effect is even higher.

These numbers strip out the effects of choice, because they are all based on accidents. Professor Miller made three types of comparison. She compared women who became mothers at 27 with those who became mothers at 28 despite both groups using contraception and therefore not choosing the timing. She also compared women who successfully got pregnant at 27 with women who tried at 27 but did not succeed for a year; or women who miscarried at 27 and then got pregnant again a year later. The women wanted the same date of pregnancy but bad luck intervened - and their careers benefited.

Professor Miller’s results suggest that you should leave your pregnancy as late as you dare. Her methods remind you, though, that you may not get to decide.
UPDATE: See also this new CBO study, The Effect of a First Child on Female Labor Supply: Evidence from Women Seeking Fertility Services, by Julian P. Cristia.

Mankiw: Raise the gas tax

Follow the link above to read Greg Mankiw's Wall Street Journal essay advocating a substantial increase in the federal tax on gasoline in the U.S.

Mankiw is former chairman of Bush's Council of Economic Advisors.

See also this Washington Post article, Talk of Raising the Gas Tax Is Just That.

Black and White TV and Convergence :: Freakonomices

Facebook gets used to check whether there is convergence in the viewing habits of whites and blacks in the U.S.

Result: Whites and blacks live in different worlds when it comes to the TV show favorites.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Users Bemoan Loss Of Net Phones In UAE

Etisalat, the Emirates' chief telecom and Internet provider, began to block Skype and other Internet phone providers this summer, arguing they had no license to sell phone service. Etisalat's profits have soared since then.
. . .
State-controlled phone company Etisalat is the prime beneficiary of the Skype shutdown. So is an emerging telecom provider known only as "du," which, like Etisalat, is linked to the government but has sold public shares on local stock exchanges.

Asked whether the Skype ban had improved Etisalat's revenues, company spokesman Ammar Thuwaini said he had no "fixed figures" on the effects.

But the carrier's profitability increased dramatically after the ban. In the second quarter this year, Etisalat reported profits jumped to $403 million, 30 percent more than the same period last year. The carrier's third-quarter profits leaped by 41 percent to $427 million.

The Emirates isn't alone in blocking Skype and similar VoIP services, generally using filtering software sometimes developed by U.S. companies.

Internet telephony is illegal in most Gulf Arab states except Bahrain.

John Palfrey, a Harvard law professor who studies Internet censorship, said he has had reports of blockages by other governments that practice Internet censorship, mainly in North Africa, China, Southeast Asia and former Soviet republics.

By contrast, U.S. regulators won't tolerate efforts by phone companies that provide Internet access to block their customers' use of competing VoIP services.

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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tyler Cowen's economic agenda for Republicans

I concur on the agenda and its chances.

The mobile phone reshapes India's fishing and farming :: WaPo

At the beginning of 2000, India had 1.6 million cellphone subscribers; today there are 125 million -- three times the number of land lines in the country. With 6 million new cellphone subscribers each month, industry analysts predict that in four years nearly half of India's 1.1 billion people will be connected by cellphone.

That explosive growth has meant greater access to markets, more information about prices and new customers for tens of millions of Indian farmers and fishermen.

A convenience taken for granted in wealthy nations, the cellphone is putting cash in the pockets of people for whom a dollar is a good day's wage. And it has made market-savvy entrepreneurs out of sheepherders, rickshaw drivers and even the acrobatic men who shinny up palm trees to harvest coconuts here in Kerala state.

"This has changed the entire dynamics of communications and how they organize their lives," said C.K. Prahalad, an India-born business professor at the University of Michigan who has written extensively about how commerce -- and cellphones -- are used to combat poverty.
The article has received considerable attention among bloggers.


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Who's done more to lift people out of poverty? - Microfinance or WalMart

Greg Mankiw appproves of John Tierney's message. Tierney:
I don't want to begrudge the Nobel Peace Prize won last week by the Grameen Bank and its founder, Muhammad Yunus. They deserve it. The Grameen Bank has done more than the World Bank to help the poor, and Yunus has done more than Jimmy Carter or Bono or any philanthropist.

But has he done more good than someone who never got the prize: Sam Walton? Has any organization in the world lifted more people out of poverty than Wal-Mart?

The Grameen Bank is both an inspiration and a lesson in limits.
. . .
there's a limit to how much money villagers can make selling eggs to one another -- a thatched ceiling, as Michael Strong calls it. Strong, the head of Flow, a nonprofit group promoting entrepreneurship abroad, is a fan of the Grameen Bank, but he figures that villagers can lift themselves out of poverty much faster by getting a job in a factory.

The best way for third world villagers to tap ''the vast pipeline of wealth from the developed world,'' he argued in a recent TCSDaily.com article, is to sell their products to the world's largest retailer, Wal-Mart. Strong challenged anyone to name an organization that is doing more to alleviate third world poverty than Wal-Mart.

So far he's gotten a lot of angry responses from Wal-Mart's critics, but nobody has come up with a convincing nomination for a more effective antipoverty organization.
UPDATE: More at Cafe Hayek.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Should Americans worry that there are 300,000,000 of them now?

Don Boudreaux quoting John Tierney's NYT column of October 14:
“Overpopulation” is history’s oldest environmental crisis, and it’s the most instructive for making sense of today’s debates about energy and climate change. It’s a case study of intellectual arrogance, and of the perils of putting too much faith in a “scientific consensus” of experts infatuated with their own forecasts.

Four decades ago, scientists were so determined to prevent famines that they analyzed the feasibility of putting “fertility control agents” in public drinking water. The physicist William Shockley suggested using sterilization to impose a national limit on the number of births.

Planned Parenthood’s policy of relying on voluntary birth control was called a “tragic ideal” by the ecologist Garrett Hardin. Writing in the journal Science, Hardin argued that “freedom to breed will bring ruin to all.” He and others urged America to adopt a “lifeboat ethic” by denying food aid, even during crises, to countries with rapidly growing populations.
Russell Roberts quoting David Henderson in the Wall Street Journal:
In 1968, long before Julian Simon popularized the idea that population growth is good, [2006 Economics Nobel Prize winner] Mr. Phelps made the same argument: The more people there are, the more ideas are developed, and ideas, once developed, can be transferred to others at almost no cost.

UPDATE: Posner and Becker join the debate.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Trust me

Tim Harford:

Economists Kerwin Charles and Patrick Kline have tried to put their fingers on the arbitrariness of personalized trust by looking at car pooling and race. They argue that car pooling is a good measure of trust: can you trust your fellow travelers not to be late, drive badly or murder you and leave your body in a ditch?

Charles and Kline predict that, for example, African-Americans will find it easier to car pool if they live in an area with lots of other African-Americans. The statistics seem to bear them out.
. . .
Meanwhile, experimental research by economists Ed Glaeser, David Laibson and Bruce Sacerdote shows that the way people trust each other simply isn't fair. The researchers organized a "trust game." Two students met ahead of time to size each other up socially, then they played the game. The first student could give up to fifteen dollars to the second student; the experimenters doubled the gift, and then the second student had to decide how much to give back. The game is a measure of trust because the first player has the power to double the size of the pie, but only at the risk of getting nothing back from the second player. What was striking is how much social factors such as race and status encouraged the second player to be trustworthy.

"If the first player has a sexual partner, the second player will send back 17% more than they otherwise would have done," observes David Laibson, a professor at Harvard. Since the second player doesn't know about the existence of a boyfriend or girlfriend, Professor Laibson thinks that it's a proxy for charm, status and social capacity.

The second student will also send more money if the first student drinks more beer--suggesting sociability--or if he or she is of the same race. Pure status matters too. Students who have fathers with a college degree, or who don't have to work to fund their studies, receive significantly more money.

"And America is supposed to be a classless society," comments Professor Laibson. Trust matters, but if you really want to bask in its effects, make sure you start at the top of the heap.
Robert "Bowling Alone" Putnam's most recent contribution on trust (pdf):
Diversity, immigration and social capital. Robert D. Putnam's 2006 Skytte Prize lecture concerning this issue will be published in Scandinavian Political Studies in early 2007. He emphasized three key points: 1) increased diversity and immigration are essential, inevitable and generally strengthens advanced nations; 2) but in the short-term, diversity and immigration challenges community cohesion; and 3) longer-term, successful immigrant societies overcome these challenges by building a broader sense of "we". This can be done through popular culture, education, national symbols, or common experiences (like national service). The 10/8/06 Financial Times had two misleading articles on this research Harvard study paints bleak picture of ethnic diversity and a slightly more balanced Research shows disturbing picture of modern life. The FT distorted our research by only focusing on how diversity and immigration challenge community cohesion and painting this in an apocalyptic light; this letter to the editor corrects the record, and this FT editorial: No Veil on Debate is a thoughtful rejoinder.
Meanwhile, Arnold Kling distrusts Putnam.

Hispanic Pundit reports on the rise of off-shore tutoring.

And who opposes it. (Parents? No. Teachers unions? Yes.)

Why import fuel to an oil-rich country? :: Gulf Daily News

Answer, price controls:
An illegal diesel smuggling operation has been by thwarted by the Bahraini Coastguard.

Officials swooped on Muharraq Port and seized 12,000 litres of diesel as it was being loaded onto a Bahrain-registered dhow on Sunday evening, authorities announced yesterday.

A senior National Gas and Oil Authority official said the Coastguard was acting on a tip from its inspectors, who reported that the dhow was overloaded.

"The reason behind diesel smuggling is its price, which is subsidised by the government (in Bahrain)," said the official.

"It is being sold in Bahrain for 70 fils per litre, while it is sold in other neighbouring GCC countries for 160 fils per litre.
. . .
Bahrain Fishermen's Society spokesman Waheed Al Balooshi told the GDN yesterday that the dhow was owned by a Bahrain shipping tycoon.

"His Indian captain was caught overloading and was carrying 12,000 litres of diesel, while the most allowed is 4,000," he said.

"He was heading to the UAE, but was caught while loading the diesel."


Friday, October 13, 2006

Oil refining capacity :: Guardian

India has moved

... from being a net importer to an exporter of refined petroleum products.
. . .
In the dizzy days of the 90s internet boom, distilling crude into diesel, gasoline, home-heating oil and aviation fuel was considered a dinosaur business, with low margins and large outlays. Oil refining was yesterday's business, not tomorrow's.

But Reliance says it gambled on a "paradigm shift" in the economics of the refinery business. The company, which began as a textile trader but moved into producing polyester, had noticed that India was importing millions of tonnes of refined hydrocarbons a year. Its managers projected prices creeping upwards largely due to three global oil trends.

First the oil being produced from the world's hydrocarbon reservoirs was increasingly "sour", or heavy, full of sulphur and other impurities that older refineries could not cope with.

Second was that no new capacity was being built around the world. Environmental concerns and the rising costs of infrastructure projects discouraged the oil majors from putting up refineries in Europe and America. No new oil refinery has been built in the US since the 1980s as environmental legislation has tightened.

Third was Reliance's belief that Asian economies would become dynamos of world growth - inevitably increasing demand for petro-products.
. . .
The products from the Jamnagar complex are for foreign consumption. When complete, the facility will be able to refine 1.24m barrels of crude a day. Two-fifths of this gasoline will be sent 9,000 miles (15,000km) by sea to America.


Economist Muhammad Yunus wins Peace Prize

Marginal Revolution has more on the winner and on microcredit.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dubai Chamber of Commerce uses Big Mac Index :: Gulf News

grapeshisha has more.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Wish your ex success; Social Security makes it to your advantage :: WaPo

When you are get ready to draw Social Security, you have a choice: to draw benefits based on your own earnings, or to draw 50 percent of benefits based your ex's earnings. That's assuming you are currently unmarried and old enough yourself to be eligible for full benefits.

But once your ex dies, you may choose between benefits based on your own eligibility or 100 percent based on your ex's earnings.
. . .
The provision was added to Social Security in a limited form in 1965, then applying to only to women and only to those who had been married at least 20 years. The intent was to provide protection for women who had spent their lives in marriages that fell apart when they were far along in years, especially women who had not worked and had no Social Security of their own. In 1977, the provision was expanded to cover men and women who had been married at least 10 years.
The payoff is the same as if you had remained married. I wonder if this incentive to divorce has changed the 7 year itch into the 10 year itch. And I wonder how much the provision is costing the American taxpayer.

West Bank Weddings Losing Some of Their Bling :: WaPo

BANI NAIM, West Bank -- Of the many troubles that the economic slide has brought to this town on the edge of the Judean Desert, Jihad Manassrah saw none more threatening than the growing number of single women walking in prim pairs through its narrow streets.

Marriage, once a jubilant expression of love and status here, had become a tradition many could no longer afford.

So last month, Manassrah, the imam of a local mosque, presented a novel social contract to several hundred men gathered for a rare public forum. The agreement put a cap on the cost of weddings and bridal dowries that had swelled enormously in this once-prosperous town of merchants, day laborers and civil servants, who like many in the West Bank are now adapting to hard times.

The declining marriage rate here is one example of social change in the midst of what the World Bank calls "an unprecedented economic recession" in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Political power, demographics, family structure and customs are being transformed by financial constraints in large and small ways that will likely outlast the crisis itself.
. . .
Across the West Bank and Gaza, young men are abandoning towns and villages to find work in Palestinian cities, leaving communities like this one with a high concentration of unmarried women. At the same time, more Palestinian women are seeking higher degrees and jobs of their own to help husbands make ends meet, a trend university registrars say has accelerated in the seven months in which Hamas has run the Palestinian Authority.

In Bani Naim, a town of 20,000 people that fills several narrow valleys east of Hebron, the exodus of young men began a few years ago, and town leaders say it has quickened this year. The trend was reflected in a summer wedding season that, by all accounts, was the most meager in memory.

Women here commonly marry between the ages of 19 and 22, but many have been staying single far longer.
. . .
In this town, where stone-block mansions overlook valleys of olive orchards, the average cost of a wedding had risen to $15,000 in the prosperous years between uprisings. But many of the newer homes remain half-built, evidence of a lifestyle that has become a thing of the past.

A Palestinian wedding is a lavish undertaking of parties, salon visits and a bridal dowry often used as a measure of status. A bride here had come to expect her groom to provide 300 grams of gold, bedroom furniture and a new wardrobe as her dowry, which families came to see as an insurance policy against divorce.
. . .
There is also the celebration at the signing of the wedding agreement, which calls for the slaughter of a prized lamb, and a half-dozen bridal trips to the salon before each wedding-related event. Custom also demands that the groom rent a large convoy of taxis to retrieve the bride on the wedding day, which culminates in a feast of more than a dozen slaughtered sheep and an expensive fireworks display.

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Gas traders give it away :: BBC

Wholesale gas prices for immediate delivery turned negative on Tuesday [last week] as supplies surged in from the new Langeled pipeline from Norway.

Britain's gas storage capacity is 96% full so firms need to offload supplies.

As domestic gas bills are based on longer-term contracts, consumers will have to wait for big reductions.

After trading at an average of 26p a therm through September, the spot price for gas delivered immediately fell to -5p during the course of the day, meaning traders are paying to get rid of it.
Via Truck and Barter.