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December 2013

Do We Need Media-Free Zones?

CGCS's picture

Christine Lohmeier examines media-free zones within the context of ontological security. Christine is an Assistant Professor at the University of Munich and former CGCS visiting scholar. Her research interests relate to inter/transnational communication, media and collective memory and identity and belonging.

The recent New York Times article Step Away from the Phone! describes the growing trend of device-free-zones, a movement where people make a conscious effort to not use their mobile phone during designated times. The omnipresence of media has long been established among communication scholars. Many will not have missed the irony of letting a mobile phone, and perhaps in past decades a camcorder or camera, get in the way of ‘real-life’ face-to-face interaction.

There are many studies, theories and approaches to drawn on when trying to assess the value of media or device-free zones. Think of Sherry Turkle’s warning inquiry of whether we expect too much of technology and too little of each other. Or the insightful research by Melissa Gregg in Work’s Intimacy where she demonstrates how constant connectivity seems to make people feel obliged to work on a constant basis. One of the underlying questions, of course, is why is it so difficult to step away from the computer, the mobile phone, or the TV? One explanation for our media-saturated life might be the need for a sense of security and belonging, of community.

“When the Tide Goes Out, You See Who’s Naked”

Cara Santos Pianesi's picture

Said Martin Sandbu, the FT economics writer that moderated the FT-MIGA Summit, Managing Global Political Risk, last week in London.   
 
This is the fifth year that MIGA, the political risk insurance and credit enhancement arm of the World Bank, co-hosted the event to launch its World Investment and Political Risk report.  Undoubtedly, these have been heady years and most participants agreed that, while it is still strong, political risk has waned since the global financial crisis and the Arab Spring. This sentiment dovetails with the findings of the report, which show that macroeconomic stability won by just a hair over political risk as the factor that international investors fear most.
 
Also in line with these findings, the World Bank’s Andrew Burns cautioned that the world will soon be grappling with the next group of challenges brought about by the tide. What tide? Here, Sandbu meant the significant investment that has flowed to developing countries in search of yield over the past few years, quantitative easing that has kept economies afloat, and high commodity prices. All of these factors are now in flux.
 “When the Tide Goes Out, You See Who’s Naked
And now, the (potential) nudity. That is, as investment to emerging markets tapers, macreconomic tools are used less bluntly, and commodity prices normalize, will countries have laid enough strong economic foundations to weather the inevitable changes that will occur? And as this MIGA-sponsored conference deals with political risk, how will economic changes affect the destiny of leaders and, resultantly, citizens?
 
Tina Fordham of Citi Research emphasized that the structural determinants of political risk are still very present. She noted little improvement in unemployment and an increase in vox populi risk. By this she meant shifting and more volatile public opinion around the world—amplified by social media—has recently resulted in a proliferation of mass protests.  Panelists discussed several other risk factors, including increasing polarization in politics, pressure on central banks to keep the economic show on the road, reduced investment in infrastructure, and a reversal in living standards in some hard-hit countries.
 

Is Finland Still an Education Superstar?

Halsey Rogers's picture



Just hours after the release of PISA test scores last week showed Finland’s students slipping in the international rankings from a ten-year perch at the top, a Finnish headline read “Golden Days Where Finland’s Education A Success Are Over".  The Economist's headline was more concise:  "Finn-ished."  Is it time to relegate Finland to the dustbin of educational history?

Universal Pension, Yes, Regressive Funding, No

David Robalino's picture

Silver miner in Potosi, Bolivia. Photo credit: ©urosrMariano Bosch, Carmen Pages, and Angel Melguizo at the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) are proposing a new approach to expanding the coverage of pension systems in Latin America while helping create more and better jobs. Their ideas are spelled out in a new book "Better Pensions, Better Jobs: Towards Universal Coverage in Latin America and the Caribbean." The book is about Latin America but the problems discussed and proposed solutions are relevant for any middle-income country. I think the IDB's proposal is a great contribution to the debate on pension reform. Below I discuss some of the points they make that I agree with and those where I think other options could be considered.

Migration as Structural Transformation

Shanta Devarajan's picture

When a poor person moves from a low-productivity job to a higher-productivity one, we usually celebrate. The worker is clearly better off; the hiring firm is no worse off; and it’s good for the economy as a whole. Indeed, development is often described as the process of structural transformation, where low-productivity workers (typically in agriculture) move to higher-productivity jobs in manufacturing or services.

But when that same worker happens to cross a national border, we call it “migration” and, instead of celebrating, we start investigating the effects on workers, firms and public finances in the new environment; and on those left behind (the so-called “brain drain”). Instead of promoting structural transformation, we look for policies to manage it.

Lost in Transition

Otaviano Canuto's picture

Financial markets and the news media have one thing in common: they tend to oscillate rapidly between hype and gloom. Nowhere is this more apparent than in analyses of emerging economies’ prospects. In the last few months, enthusiasm about these countries’ post-2008 economic resilience and growth potential has given way to bleak forecasts, with economists like Ricardo Hausmann declaring that “the emerging-market party” is coming to an end.
 
Many now believe that the recent broad-based growth slowdown in emerging economies is not cyclical, but a reflection of underlying structural flaws. That interpretation contradicts those (including me) who, not long ago, were anticipating a switchover in the engines of the global economy, with autonomous sources of growth in emerging and developing economies compensating for the drag of struggling advanced economies.

A Safety Net for Stella

Kavita Watsa's picture
Bold Steps to Reduce Extreme Poverty in Tanzania
The government is supporting Tanzania's poorest families in an effort to reach those left behind by the country's largely urban growth.

Mtoto mzuri sana. Stella’s face lights up as I admire her baby, but she doesn’t reply. We are in the primary school compound in Chehembe, a village about 50 kilometers from Tanzania’s administrative capital, Dodoma. Stella is waiting to be registered in the country’s social safety net program, which is meant to cushion very poor households against sudden losses of income. And we are waiting to hear Stella’s story, to ask her how many children she has, and how she earns a living.

Hedging Food Price Risks in a World of Uncertainty

Julie Barbet-Gros's picture

 www.istockphoto.comThe sudden 2008 global food price crisis—which pushed 105 million people into poverty and sparked riots around the world—showed that designing risk management strategies at the national level may prove to be a sound investment. In fact, this is one of the key messages of the 2014 World Development Report on risks and opportunities. With excessive volatility in food prices expected to persist in coming years, net food-importing countries in the developing world need to develop appropriate solutions to address the food price risks and unexpected fiscal impacts ok they may face.

Are hedging instruments appropriate to address these risks?

Hedging food price risks essentially refers to the purchase of insurance against sharp food price fluctuations, transferring the risk to financial institutions or traders. The government of Malawi is a notable example of an importing country which successfully used hedging instruments to mitigate food security risks, resulting in significant import cost savings. In September 2005, Malawi purchased physical call options* for maize, which offered both price protection and the actual delivery of 60,000 metric tons of maize. These instruments thus allowed Malawi not only to effectively manage price risks, but also to deal with physical availability risks, which are critical in many food-importing countries.


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