Economics


On the 1st of November, the LIRNEasia team travelled to Jaffna with some southern farmers (who already sell their products to the export market), exporters and experts in agriculture. For some of them, this was their first visit to Jaffna.
My advisor was one of the principal expert witnesses testifying against AT&T in a series of court cases that led to the breaking up of what was then the world’s largest company. William Baumol was the principal expert witness testifying on behalf of AT&T. He was thus a familiar name. I read his work and critiqued it. What was an easy target was his theory of contestable markets.

Economics meets data science

Posted by Rohan Samarajiva on September 5, 2016  /  0 Comments

In our big data for development work, we collaborate with data-savvy economists as well as economists who can code. Within Sri Lanka, we have not found them, but we keep looking. But looks like this is the future of economics. But what the tech economists are doing is different: Instead of thinking about national or global trends, they are studying the data trails of consumer behavior to help digital companies make smart decisions that strengthen their online marketplaces in areas like advertising, movies, music, travel and lodging. Tech outfits including giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google and Microsoft and up-and-comers like Airbnb and Uber hope that sort of improved efficiency means more profit.
At LIRNEasia, we do not treat interns only as cheap labor (though they are that too). They each have a mentor, a researcher who works with them and spends time with them. After all, LIRNEasia was set up by a person who loved and continues to love the learning culture of a good university but could not stomach any more faculty meetings. But as with all students, whether we have done any good through our efforts with our interns takes time to become evident and usually that time frame does not mesh with the short durations of projects and their evaluations. But in Ransimala Weerasooriya we have an exception: A Musaeus College student from Thalawathugoda has earned the University of Queensland (UQ) Centenary Scholarship for undergraduate studies in Economics, with just one a year being offered to an international student.

Anywhere but the USA?

Posted by Rohan Samarajiva on December 26, 2013  /  0 Comments

In a recent contribution to a just-published UNCTAD report on cloud computing we said: The other aspect of the problem is whether data are subject to the laws of the jurisdictions where the cloud computing companies are located. For example, take the case of a company in Country A using the services of a cloud computing supplier registered in Country B, which dynamically stores and processes the Country A firm’s data on server farms located in Countries C, D and E. Country A may not be happy to have the laws of Country B apply to the data and that its police may go trawling therein. The applicability of the laws of the country where the storage and processing occurred poses a new set of problems, because even determining which country has jurisdiction may be difficult in light of dynamic resource allocation. This was well before Snowden changed the entire discourse.

Shiller’s Nobel

Posted by Rohan Samarajiva on October 15, 2013  /  0 Comments

It’s always nice when someone whose work has been used in LIRNEasia wins a big award. Robert Shiller greatly influenced our thinking on risk-reduction in the aftermath of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami. It’s true that he did not get the 2013 Nobel for that work, but still we are happy that an economist who always found the time to engage with contemporary economic policy issues has been so recognized. Report.
LIRNEasia, in partnership with the Myanmar ICT Development Organization (MIDO), is conducting a training course on ICT regulation in Taungoo, Myanmar from September 28 to October 2, 2013. The information on this course will be posted under capacity building shortly. Taungoo is 3.5 to 4 hours away from Yangon. Yet I considered it a good use of my time to take a break from teaching to travel to Yangon yesterday because our anchor funder IDRC had convened a roundtable of Myanmar researchers and wanted my presence.
The Economist has an interesting discussion of several academic papers addressing aspects of the question. Shane Greenstein of Northwestern University and Ryan McDevitt of the University of Rochester calculated the consumer surplus generated by the spread of broadband access (which ought to include the surplus generated by internet services, since that is why consumers pay for broadband). They did so by constructing a demand curve. Say that in 1999 a person pays $20 a month for internet access. By 2006 the spread of broadband has lowered the real price to $17.
I was asked about charging different amounts for spectrum when I was in Dhaka recently and I said it was like pricing jet fuel differently for competing airlines; it did not make any sense. Now we have the full argument laid out. It’s very peculiar. On what basis was this utilization factor calculated? I asked Dr Harsha de Silva who prepared the comments on the consultation paper; he said it was fully opaque.
Our research on the rubber growing industry has taken us into a terrain where there are many government services, not optimally provided, and suggestion about more government services that could be provided to further one or another objective. In this context, the article just published in Ground Views has relevance, as shown by the opening para below: There is little value in simply reiterating complaints about government service delivery since there is an over-supply of dissatisfaction. Instead I seek to provide a set of conceptual tools that can be useful in understanding what government services are essential and why government over-extends itself in service delivery, doing too many things badly. Hopefully, this will help us structure our thinking and expectations relating to government services. The incentives of politicians and bureaucrats are to always do more things, irrespective of need and efficiency.
CHAKULA is a newsletter produced by the Association for Progressive Communications (APC). Named after the Swahili word for ‘food’, it aims to mobilise African civil society around ICT policy for sustainable development and social justice issues. The latest issue features an e-interview with LIRNEasia’s CEO Rohan Samarajiva, but it is not the only reason why we thought of highlighting the issue. The content is interesting and very readable. We publish two e-interviews from July 2010 issue here fully, as they are not available on public domain.