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Giving Back

Posted in Uncategorized by teslik on October 29, 2007

I came across this article in the Daily Star reporting that remittances accounted for a quarter of Lebanon’s 2006 GDP. I was curious for a little historical context so I looked up which countries have the highest remittances as a percentage of GDP, and how this has changed in recent years. See the chart below, which is from 2001 IMF data (note Lebanon doesn’t crack the top fifteen, though its 2006 levels would have ranked it second in 2001):

Country Total remittances
(in millions)1
(in millions)2
Total population3 Total remittances
as percentage of GDP
Total remittances
per capita
Lesotho 209.0 796.7 1,852,808 26.2 112.80
Vanuatu 53.3 212.8 192,910 25.0 276.14
Jordan 2,011.0 8,829.1 5,153,378 22.8 390.23
Bosnia and Herzegovina 860.1 4,769.1 3,922,205 18.0 219.29
Albania 699.0 4,113.7 3,510,484 17.0 199.12
Nicaragua 335.7 2,067.8 4,918,393 16.2 68.25
Yemen 1,436.9 9,177.2 17,479,206 15.7 82.21
Moldova (Republic of) 223.1 1,479.4 4,431,570 15.1 50.34
El Salvador 1,925.2 13,738.9 6,237,662 14.0 308.64
Jamaica 1,058.7 7,784.1 2,665,636 13.6 397.17
Dominican Republic 1,982.0 21,211.0 8,475,396 9.3 233.85
Philippines 6,366.0 71,437.7 81,369,751 8.9 78.24
Uganda 483.0 5,675.3 24,170,422 8.5 19.98
Honduras 541.0 6,385.8 6,357,941 8.5 85.09
Ecuador 1,420.0 17,982.4 13,183,978 7.9 107.71

Now, from a graphic in the Economist, here’s the data from 2006.


I find it interesting both that the list has shifted so substantially–only one country from the 2001 top-ten, Moldova, remains in the top ten of the 2006 list. Also, note that every country in the 2006 top ten has a higher level of remittances/GDP than the country with the highest ratio in 2001. I’m curious to determine whether this is because GDPs have fallen or remittance levels have risen.

(Footnotes to Chart 1)

1The remittance data presented in the above table are from IMF (International Monetary Fund), 2003, Balance of Payments Statistics Yearbook 2002International Migration Statistics: Guidelines for Improving Data Collection Systems (Geneva: International Labour Office).
The source for the gross domestic product for each country is the World Bank website at The GDP data presented for all countries is for 2001 except the data for Nicaragua which is for 1998 and for Yemen which is for 2000.
3The source of the total population data for each country are estimates generated by the US Census Bureau (see The total population figures presented for all countries are for 2001, except Yemen which is for 2000. (Washington, DC, IMF Publications Services). “Total remittances” refers to the sum of the 1) workers’ remittances, 2) compensation to employees, and 3) migrant transfers reported by each country. The remittance data presented for all countries are for 2001, except the data for Yemen which are for 2000. For additional information on how remittances are defined and measured, see Chapter Seven in Bilsborrow et. al., 1997.

Where Populism Ends

Posted in Uncategorized by teslik on October 27, 2007

Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s labor secretary, blogged this week for the Economist. In this post, he looks at why Democrats don’t create more of a stink about private equity tax rates:

You might think that Democrats would do something about the anomaly in the tax code that treats the earnings of private-equity and hedge-fund managers as capital gains rather than ordinary income, and thereby taxes them at 15%—lower than the tax rate faced by many middle-class Americans. But Senate Democrats recently backed off a proposal to do just that. Why? It turns out that Dems are getting more campaign contributions these days from hedge-fund and private-equity partners than Republicans are getting. They don’t want to bite the hands that feed.

Discovering Not Much (Two)

Posted in Uncategorized by teslik on October 19, 2007

For more in the same vein as the last post, see the piece I just wrote for Particularly, note the asterisk. My boss added that, and I’m really happy he did. It’s a terrific statistic.

Discovering Not Much

Posted in Uncategorized by teslik on October 18, 2007

A graph I came across today:


The bar graph maps the discovery of crude oil reserves since the 1930s. The black line maps oil production/consumption. Now, the fact of declining oil discovery and rising production doesn’t in itself mean the world is running out of oil. A lot has already been discovered. But it does make for a potentially interesting shakeout between the parties with a natural or sovereign right to natural resources–countries–and the parties seeking access to them–oil companies. Of course, this is already well underway, with the kind of energy industry nationalizations that have taken place in Russia and Venezuela. But for the United States, this trend is now moving a lot closer to home.

Thirsty Albanians

Posted in Uncategorized by teslik on October 16, 2007

The Economist has a graphic examining the world’s leading beer markets. It makes note that China consumes the most beer (every year, Chinese consume 306.2 million hectoliters of beer, whatever those are), followed by the United States (234.6 million hectoliters). Of course, it’s not per capita, and China has more than four times as many people as the United States (1.3 billion to 300 million, as of July 2007), so really Americans are by far the greater booze hounds. Anyway, all this prompted me to look up which country’s people are the greatest per capita booze hounds. Trusty Wikipedia has the data. And the answer is… Albania. As of 2004, the average Albanian apparently drinks 195.4 liters of beer. Americans drink 81.6 liters on average and place fourteenth. As for the Chinese, Wiki lists 37 countries and they don’t even crack the list.

The (Negative) Value of a Good Education

Posted in Uncategorized by teslik on October 8, 2007

The Financial Times says one of the biggest obstacles in the way of the U.K. Conservative Party’s wunderkind David Cameron, as he works to win British parliament back for the Tories and unseat Gordon Brown as prime minister, may be Cameron’s primo education. Cameron attended Eton, an old-line British boarding school with a storied, and somewhat stodgy, reputation. Given his schooling, the article says, Cameron carries all kinds of cultural baggage, particularly considering Britain’s “enduring and complex obsession with class.”

It would be easy to take the United States as a cultural counterpoint–especially given that the 2004 U.S. presidential race pitted two members of the same Yale social club against one another. But the New York Times points out that in 2008, America too has produced candidates with more populist educational upbringings. Only two of the 2008 primary candidates attended an Ivy League school for their undergraduate education (Barack Obama and Mike Gravel, each of whom studied at Columbia University).

So, just how crippling is the posh-factor? And to the extent that the same kind of anti-elitist thinking enters the job market more generally, at what point should students start considering the “friendliness” of a school’s image before registering?

Feldstein to Place, Barro to Show?

Posted in Uncategorized by teslik on October 7, 2007

Greg Mankiw speculates on who will win the Nobel Prize in economics (his best guess is that Martin Felstein, Eugene Fama, or Robert Barro will take the honors). If you feel particularly confident in your own prediction, you can wager $1 on it–the Bank of Sweden is running a pool (PDF).

Myanmar and ASEAN

Posted in Uncategorized by teslik on September 29, 2007

I’m a bit worried for the Economist that they jumped the gun with their new cover. I’m no fortune-teller, but it sure seems like there’s at least some chance the whole “Saffron Revolution” could fizzle pretty quickly, given the scale of the government clampdown (or what we’re hearing of it, anyway, following the government-imposed communications blackout).

The one article I’ve seen pushing news of the episode forward in any kind of concrete way is this one, from the Financial Times, saying that Myanmar’s revolt is stirring the first major internal crisis at ASEAN, the Southeast Asian trade economic bloc.

To make a long story short, Myanmar’s government wouldn’t be possible without substantial support from its neighbors. Japan and China are both major economic allies of Myanmar’s junta, though Japan has been gradually unwinding some of its investments. India too is busy at work trying to shore up access to Myanmar’s natural gas reserves.

This all presents quite a monkey wrench for ASEAN, which was actively seeking to increase economic integration among its ten member states.

The "R" Word

Posted in Uncategorized by teslik on September 10, 2007

U.S. markets tanked again on Friday. Asian markets caught the same bug on Monday. The gazillion dollar question–the one that nobody seems to be able to agree upon–is to what extent the debt-market messiness will affect, or has already affected, the “underlying” global economy. The FT‘s lead editorial this weekend argues that it hasn’t–yet–but spotlights some ominous signs, including a recent OECD report and troubling data on the U.S. job market. The economist Nouriel Roubini says on his blog that the “utterly ugly” employment stats confirm the worst: “the U.S. is headed towards a hard landing.”

The FT‘s piece says that “if calm returns to the money markets within a few weeks, little harm is likely to be done,” adding that the “more substantial threat to the real economy is not from money markets at all” but “from the continued weakness of the U.S. housing market.” Housing prices are falling at nearly 4 percent, annualized–a sharper decline than at any point since the Great Depression–and some experts are starting to throw around the “R” word.

There are all sorts of reasons to be cautious right now. But let’s also take a good, hard, contrarian look at the silver linings. Goldman Sachs is dipping into distressed debt markets right now. Berkshire Hathaway may be doing the same thing. And, of course, we’re still riding half a decade of banner growth, the past six months notwithstanding. Again, there are all sorts of reasons to be cautious–just so long as one keeps clear-headed.

White Gold

Posted in Uncategorized by teslik on September 5, 2007

Marginal Revolution has a blog entry on soaring global milk prices and the peculiar trade patterns of the milk industry (traditionally milk has rarely been traded across national borders, though Chinese imports are now rapidly rising). The post is interesting at face value, but deserves a closer look. Click on the links for:

“5. Parts of New Zealand are booming.”

I think that’s blog humor?!