Mapping Development

world_map_01I remember when Internet great Google went on to release Google Maps a few years ago. The service made the once geographic modelling tool stuck in the pages of the Atlas a regular internet fodder. Since then, there have been a lot of innovations contributing to the technology and now, UN’s Millenium Development Goals are already in the map. Thanks to the possible related posts facility of WordPress.com for the find btw.

I remember writing about the UN’s Millenium Development Goals here. It’s pretty interesting to encounter them in a new and different light though. Cheers to Technology.

On Contrasts

By now a lot has been written about Obama’s victory for the presdency that throwing in another into the foray would bore even the usual current events apathetic. The lazy linksman in me could’ve just laid a carpet of bulleted links just to be able to push older contents further into the archives but I saw something fit to spend sometime writing about. In particular it was noticeable how much reads in a single day after that episode harped so much on contrasts. Of course it was quite predictable on the part of mainstream media to milk the line given the way the comparisons came out from that direction from the campaign right down through the election here so I’m including some of those which made their way to where I am.

For starter’s here’s Inquirer.net‘s headline story entitled “Black in White House.” Then there was the usual daily staples from the same local daily courtesy of CDQ entitled “Light and Dark” and MLQ3 entitled “Out with the Old, in with the New.” The former ran parallels on the candidates there and on the American and Philippine brand of democracies while the latter ran them on various Philippine social distinctions such as age.

NY Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, writes of Obama’s victory in Pennsylvania as something of a Civil War 145 years after the one in the history textbooks there was decided in Gettysburg. Building on the parallelism, Friedman begins with Lincoln’s urge regarding “the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far nobly advanced” to point out the voters’ decision as a victory for the struggle for equality. This before going on to elaborate contrast-fraught reasons for the Republican demise, (e.g. Buffett effect vs. Bradley effect, perceptions of the common good,) and views of what happens there here on. More of the article here.

Finally this FT article includes an account of the fortunes of Republicans candidates, successful or not, as it takes a look at why the party failed big time that day.

And so the die was cast and the new president will have everyone’s attention not only domestically but worldwide just as this IHT article on the US political development among many others indicates.

Even on a Lazy Weekend

I guess it will be quite some time before finance people talk about something else.

The Wall Street mess has pretty much set off the alarm for markets to scramble for contingencies. This as the ordinary person is left to wait and see how its ripples will affect one who doesn’t bother with stocks and financial instruments more directly in danger of the scare from that part of North America.

That and more material on the topic coming in since the weekend has me dumping somewhat newer perspectives about it here.

  • Here’s a look at the credit culture and consumerism according to Ellen Tordesillas and Randy David. I’m not exactly clean credit-wise but I’m happy that I’m well in control. Consumerism has never been a problem with me though.
  • Here’s one of foreclosure’s many faces in the US. This one is set in Southern California. The inability of borrowers to pay off housing debt is one factor leading up to the downward spiral of the American economy.
  • Mortgage giant Fannie Mae is one of those big names in the queue of falling dominos this millenium has lined up so far. Here’s a Washingtonian Magazine article in 2002 pointing out the “potential risk to taxpayers” should it fall. The reference there was taken from this article which takes a look at the implications of the seemingly prescient read.
  • Finally here’s an interesting read which criticizes all the talks and write-ups on the current financial crisis in US paralleled with the Great Depression of 1929.

Yup. I still have a lot of time in my hands.

Impact on a Walled Street

One of the big things I never got to lay a finger on here during my long hiatus is the Wall Street crisis. By now, even those who aren’t into finance, economics or current events would’ve at least heard the ordeal over that side of North America. By now too, a lot of experts would’ve said their pieces on the unfurling of big names there.

So I guess what’s left for me to do is to leave some takes on the event much in the same vein as I used to back at highfiber.

For starters, here’s a rather simple explanation of the rudiments of what’s actually going on there. To those who got lost in the plethora of jargons spewed by analysts and experts on the matter, the article would be a good starting point. The author goes in depth and detail on the economic and financial fundamentals of the matter using as simple a language as is accomodating to the ordinary fellow. It traces key concepts stemming from the credit subprime of last year to that which rattled big names listed at Wall Street just recently.

For someone who digs the wider view, here’s Prof Bello’s take on the financial crisis. Aptly titled “A Primer on the Wall Street Meltdown,” he explains the latest unraveling of capitalism with the political and economic contexts placed in perspective. While some would directly limit the focus on the real estate woes the American economy experienced last year, he goes on to discuss the factors from last year leading to the most recent turmoil in Wall Street.

For the one sick of all the gravity mainstream media dons regarding the topic these days, here’s Craig Ferguson’s take for a good laugh. Thanks to leelock for the find btw.

Where We Are in the Downward Spiral

People would give a lot not to find out what’s in the news already. A break from the nitty gritty of citizenry in this country is the mode nowadays. It’s the only thing that a lot of people, at least those around me everyday as I walk streets, commute and go about as a bare iota in the urban landscape, dream of. Some of whom do so for good.

While the same collective won’t bother to do so, some actually do and in the case of a Foreign Policy report on the Failed States Index, have actually identified crucial issues that contribute to the deterioration of certain societies. Such issues are broadly classified among “12 social, economic, political and military indicators.” Further Information on the study can be found in the FAQ and Methodology page and Fund for Peace’s Failed States Index 2007 page.

This year the five most critical states are Somalia, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Chad and Iraq out of a total of 177 countries. As for the Philippines, it ranked 59th as 5 indicators which turned out to matter most were given as:

  1. Delegitimization of the State
  2. Factionalized Elites
  3. Uneven Development
  4. Security Apparatus
  5. Human Flight

There’s a slight improvement really as the Philippines ranked 56 among the failed states last year.

So while there are people busying themselves trying to get off the sinking ship to try to board elsewhere or fighting off domestic adversities along the social, cultural, economic and political spectrum, someone actually bothered to try and define the issues. For the cacophony associated with citizenry here, I find the ranking of the indicators worth another look, (though I’m undecided on the presence of the second one there.) I find the fact that all other 4 indicators there weighing that much over all other indicators in the model plausible though. The model’s relevance is another matter for me though as I’ve still got tons of to-do’s to strike out and a handful of other stuff to start on while the world goes on with its business.

Finally you gotta credit the work put into that Rankings page though especially the sortable columns. In the same vein as the most influential intellectual results were shown previously, the presentation of the portions of the report are again just as effective. Sorry had to let that one out as it’s really hard not to notice for an IT guy who’s had a decent share of web development.

Dissecting War

We’ve all heard talk about winning and losing wars. After all, it’s one of the many timeless consequences of the development of societies.

But who actually wins and loses in wars? Given that considerations before going to one are many, surely the conflict involves more than two sides of the coin when naming winners and losers.

Take General Smedley Butler’s views from his book War is a Racket in 1935. In it the World War I veteran takes a look at who actually “profited” from the war and who were left to foot the bills. Pointing out hefty wartime price tags and how citizens actually end up burdened to pay for the costs, Butler provides compelling reasons to condemn war.

It is pretty interesting that more than a quarter of a century after the piece came out, the relevance of the points there still makes sense. As the author of the page succinctly puts it:

Imagine if we took General Butler’s advice and in wartime forced corporations to join our soldiers in making sacrifices for their country. We could pass laws which guarantee that corporate profits decrease during war rather than increase. Do you think that wars would still drag on for years as in Vietnam and Iraq?

Which Yardstick?

I first encountered the Asian Development Bank study entitled “Philippines: Critical Development Constraints” over the weekend at Ellen Tordesilla’s blog entry, (thanks to leelock.) Despite the much hyped 7.3% growth in terms of GDP by the Arroyo administration, (which the report acknowledged,) the study notes that “both public and private investment remain sluggish and their share in gross domestic product has continued to decline.”

An article at Inquirer.net yesterday on the same report summarized the “‘constraints to private investment and growth’ in the Philippines” which included:

  • Tight fiscal situation due largely to weak revenue generation.
  • Inadequate infrastructure, particularly in electricity and transport.
  • Weak investor confidence due to governance concerns, particularly, corruption and political instability.
  • Inability to address market failures leading to a small and narrow industrial base.

The article is actually the second on the same report released last week. The other one focused on the exodus of skilled workers looking for greener pasteurs. The phenomenon raises doubts on the sustainability of the economic growth last year harped on by the current administration as the country is losing “not only human capital but it is also losing a lot.”

Curiously the timing of the statement of the US State Department as quoted by Philippine ambassador to the United States Willy C. Gaa couldn’t have been more perfect. According to the article mentioning the post on the Philippine embassy’s website:

Gaa thanked the State Department for expressing its continued confidence on the Philippine economy and democracy in its recently released US State Department 2009 Congressional Budget Justification Report.

So which is it really? Sans the numbers and technocratic jargons, my guess is that it’s the one a lot of us knew all along. The presence of the former just stresses the latter, (just as it should.)

Food for Thought

A recent Time article takes a look at the effect of the rise of food prices worldwide especially among poor nations. Growing demand for food among fast growing economies such as India and China, rising oil prices affecting other agriculture commodities in turn, and global warming affecting harvests because of changes in climate, were among the main reasons raised in the material. That as images of riots related to basic commodities in poor nations in Asia and Africa are mentioned to depict a worsening global problem.

Now I wouldn’t have written about this were it not for a local problem related to the issue. Last week, leelock wrote about another Arroyo-China deal “allowing the lease of 1,000,000 hectares of our land to Jilin Fuhua Corporation.” Towards the end of the her entry, she posted a question of why we won’t grow food from our own land.

Given the global basic commodity problem international organizations express concern over and a largely unaddressed overpopulation problem, it all the more makes sense to support agriculture domestically. If the trend on global food and basic necessities Time reports and the growth of the Philippine population are indications, it would be worse to become more dependent on the global market for agriculture.

Herding Cinderellas

When the Makati standoff yesterday finally ended late in the afternoon, I thought it would be a nice way to end the crazy week by attending the office party. Not only was it crazy in terms of work, it was also such because of the crazy weather brought about by several storms and a pretty strong earthquake that left me dizzy literally on a busy Tuesday.

So I thought that it would be a pretty nice idea to get into a place where people are supposed to have a good time in time for the Christmas season. After all, a little self-indulgence should help relieve at least a little bit of stress I’ve had for the week that was, for the month that was, and to some extent, for the year that was.

I never realized how wrong I was.

At least not until the news of the 12 to 5 curfew reached me. The party venue saw scores of people leave as early as 8. By the time I left along with a companion at around 9, a little over 40 were left. I even jokingly said to other colleagues as I was leaving, “kelangan ko nang umalis. Wala akong pam-piyansa dito e.” (I have to leave already, I don’t have money for bail with me.”

I reached home at around 11 after slugging it out with other commuters. With such a sudden announcement, traffic has of course stressed the streets of the city. Flocks of other commuters were clogging up the sides of roads waiting for public transportation. The curfew was on everyone’s mouth as I passed through closing malls and establishments which were supposed to still hold people at that time.

When I reached home anyway, news of media people picked up by the police and detained at Camp Bagong Diwa were all over the channels. That and the alarming curfew announced by administration officials left me disappointed with the times.

So that was how martial law felt.

Back during GMA’s campaign the past elections, I knew I had to be wary of her. Despite the known support of the elite and supposed intellectuals of this country to her, I knew there was something wrong when her camp did everything to win at all costs, including dirty means.

Now it’s still very much the same; a difference being that this time, ordinary people are the ones at the disposal of the authority’s whims.

It’s Very Elementary…

For the nth time I’ve never been very much fond of forwarded stuff. I have to admit though that there are worthwhile ones that I come across with every now and then. I find the following for instance an excellent case in point even though I’ve heard it in the news recently.

I’m 100% sure that this income disparity is being replicated in almost all of the provinces in the Philippines. If we had more Ed Panlilios in our government, we would be just like Singapore in a short time. Read on……

We hope we are witnessing what will be a sustained revolution in good governance in the Province of Pampanga , under its newly elected governor, Fr. Ed Panlilio.

According to the Philippine Daily Inquirer of August 26, only one month after Fr. Panlilio assumed his gubernatorial duties,the province’s income from the quarrying of volcanic ash from Mount Pinatubo had reached P29.4 million. (Haulers pay a fee of P300 per truck of volcanic ash that they haul from the quarry.)

By contrast, during his predecessor Mark Lapid’s term as governor, the province’s income from the same quarrying operations amount ed to only P29 million a year.
This gaping variation in official incomes from the same activity should inspire a new set of textbooks in Arithmetic, especially for the school children of Pampanga.

There is nothing like local color and local situations to cultivate comprehension in young
minds. *

Sample problems: If Fr. Ed’s provincial government can collect P29.4 million in 26 days (we assume no quarrying on Sundays), how much does it collect in one day?

Answer: An average of P1.130 million.

If Fr. Ed’s provincial government collects an average of P1.130 million a day from quarrying operations, how much can it collect in one year of 313 days(365
days less 52 Sundays)?

Answer: P353, 690,000, or P354 million. *

If Fr. Ed’s provincial government can collect P354 million a year, and Mark Lapid’s provincial government collected only P29 million a year, what is the difference in their official yearly collections? *

Answer: P325 million a year.

If Mark Lapid was governor for four years and his provincial government’s annual collections from quarrying amounted to an average of P29 million, how much did his provincial govt. officially collect in four years?

Answer: P116 million.

If Fr. Ed manages to remain as provincial governor for four years, and his provincial government’s annual collection from quarrying were to average P354 million, how much
will his provincial government collect in four years?

Answer: P1.416 billion. *

What is the difference between P1.416 billion and P116 million?

Answer: P1.3 billion.

Where did this P1.3 billion go?

Answer: Only God and the Lapids know. (‘Lapids’ is in plural because Mark, as a second-generation political dynast,succeeded his own father, now Sen. Lito Lapid.*

We don’t know how much Lito’s provincial government officially collected from quarrying operations during his watch. Should be a good investigative project for media.) *

If **Gawad Kalinga spends an average of P75,000 per low cost house, how many low-cost houses can P1.3 billion build? *

Answer: 17,333 low-cost houses.

If the average Pampanga family were to consist of five persons(father, mother, three children), how many people would be benefited by 17,333 low-cost houses?

Answer: 86,665 persons. *

End of Arithmetic lesson.*

Fr. Ed is to be congratulated for setting a high benchmark for collection from quarrying operations against which his predecessors have a moral obligation
to explain why their collections were so low, and against which future governors will be judged by the people of Pampanga. *

Volcanic ash, by the way, is a superior building material. Many of the buildings, aqueducts & monuments of the Roman Empire that have survived for almost 2,000
years are known to have been built w/ volcanic ash, quarried from the environs of Mount Vesuvius after it erupted in 79 AD.

We don’t expect Fr.Ed’s moral victory in Pampanga to be remembered for the next 2,000yrs. We would be happy with five, ten or 20 years, enough,
we hope, to spawn a moral-revolution- by- example to save the Filipinos from their worst enemies – themselves.

GOOD LUCK Philippines. ..*

*”Therefore, the primary cause of poverty is not overpopulation of the Phil! *

*It’s because our counrty is overpopulated with corrupt officials.*