I don’t really have much to say about how the war crimes trial is unfolding. However, I think it’s important to push back against a propaganda being peddled. According to some anti-trial voices (in facebook, Bangla blogs, newspapers, and even some TV talk show stars), the trial has annoyed the Saudis, and remittances are crashing because of that.
The thing is, there is no evidence of that in the data. The chart below shows through the year growth in total remittance and remittance from Saudi Arabia. Do you see the slump in remittance from the kingdom as we approach the trial conclusion?
(Source: CEIC Asia, smoothed by three month moving average).
There may be reasons to worry about the outlook for remittance — there could be a slump in oil prices, or there might be political turmoil in the Gulf. We should be concerned with the human rights situation in the region. But Saudi annoyance over the war crimes trial is causing a remittance slump — that’s nonsense.
Back in May, I posted the evolution of population pyramid in Bangladeshover the period 1950 to 2030. From the same data source — UN population database — here is the median age in Bangladesh over the same period.
This chart makes the same point as the previous post — we used to be a very young nation, and now we are maturing a bit. Up until the mid-1990s, over half the country’s population were teen agers or younger. This is no longer the case. In 2015, the median age is expected to be 26. It’s a good thing in the sense that we now have lot more potential workers and fewer children to support. But it also means a lot of 20-somethings out there.
Is something big happening there, even if what it is ain’t exactly clear?
The scene of hundred something young men women locked in while fire and smoke start choking them. This is horror and sadness. When I hear factory mid management started locking the gates after fire alarm goes off — I get angry. Then when I hear the prime minister immediately puting the blame, without any investigation, on Jamaat-Shibir — I become speechless in disbelief.
A friend wrote to me thus after the fire at Tazreen garment that killed over a hundred workers on 25 November. It was followed by a lot of emotional facebook status updates, blog posts, newspaper op eds, and shouting heads in TV.
Well, it’s now official — it was ‘sabotage’. So that’s that, eh? Well, not quite. The official recommends taking legal actions against factory owner and nine mid-level managers for gross negligence that contributed to the tragedy. Is there anything more to be said? What about another facebook status update about ‘evil capitalism’?
Over the fold are some thoughts I haven’t seen/heard expressed. And I promise, there is no infantile, emotional outbursts about ‘greedy killers’.
Every political party in every election in Bangladesh’s history has promised to make rice, lentil, oil and salt affordable. Affordability, of course, depends not just on price but also income. The post on food prices doesn’t mention income, and is therefore potentially missing something big.
This gave me an idea. What do you get when you throw in a kilogram of coarse rice, 250 grams of red lentil, 40 ml soya bean oil and 10 mg salt?
In 2011-12 (FY12), Bangladesh’s per capita GDP — in FY12 prices — was 60,000 taka a year. This is exactly double the amount from 1995. That year’s 30,000 taka per capita GDP was just slightly higher than the 27,000 taka recorded in 1970. Now, this is in real terms, that is, after accounting for inflation. After accounting for inflation, the average Bangladeshi was little better of in the early 1990s compared with 1970. In fact, per capita GDP fell by nearly 20% as a result of the Liberation War, and the average Bangladeshi was poorer in the 1970s and 1980s compared with the pre-war period. And then, from around the beginning of the 1990s, the economy started growing faster.
This chart — of per capita GDP (in FY12 prices) over the past five decades — summarises the above story.
I was very happy with the US election result, not just because Barack Obama was re-elected — though that too, but because the result vindicated people like Nate Silver. Silver and others like him predicted the election result very accurately, based on a detailed reading of polls and ‘fundamentals’ data. And according to them, the contours of the election remained pretty constant throughout the year. But they were pilloried by pundits and bloviators who saw gamechangers and momentums every week. As a ‘facts and figures’ guy, I was firmly in Mr Silver’s camp, and I am glad that he won.
Yes, if it’s not obvious, I try to be as much about facts and figures as possible. This doesn’t mean my analysis is free of judgment or bias — not only is that impossible, but also, hopefully, the readers care about my opinion. But I feel strongly that those opinions should be based on something solid. In economic analysis, that means looking at the data. In the realm of politics, that means looking at what the players publicly promise or do.
I don’t have access to the corridors of power. Nor do I know the high and the mighty. So I cannot rely on the inside story from anyone, or base my analysis on the atmospherics. But most of the time, the detachment actually helps with the analysis. For example, back in January 2010, when most people were either ecstatic or apoplectic about the Bangladeshi Prime Minister trip to India, I parsed the Indo-Bangla joint communique and decided to ignore the hype.
I’ll let the reader judge how my analysis of Hasina Wajed’s India trip played out. Instead, let me talk about Khaleda Zia’s India trip. For those of you affected by the Hurricane Sandy or too busy following the US election, Bangladesh’s leader of the opposition visited India between 27 October and 3 November. The trip has got the Bangladeshi chattering classes talking. For a big picture analysis of what it means for our politics, I refer you to Zafar Sobhan, with whom I fully agree on this occasion. In a personal correspondence, he adds:
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I don’t think India’s support for this government is that deep. If push comes to shove, they won’t bail them out, and perhaps that is all that BNP can ask for.
Okay, all that is good, but what about the fact-based analysis, you ask? Well, it’s a bit hard because opposition politicians don’t get to write communiques. But turns out, we can still analyse BNP’s India policy by parsing some publicly available documents.