Ideas that went nowhere…..

Posted in development, economics, labour, macro, micro, political economy by jrahman on January 12, 2015

….. because life got in the way.

Okay, that’s a bit melodramatic.  Let’s start again.  It used to be the case that to have a professional career as an economist in America, you needed a PhD.  That’s changing a lot.  There’s a general glut of PhDs.  And organisations such as the IMF are now more interested in people with practical experiences than half a decade or more of often impractical academic training.  In any case, outside America, PhDs were always for those who wanted to pursue an academic career.  So, other than the vanity of being addressed as Dr Rahman, I’ve never really seen much return from doing a PhD.

And yet, every now and then, I think about the ideas over the fold and wonder what might have been.


Has the economy turned the corner?

Posted in economics, macro by jrahman on December 2, 2012

After the Padma Bridge issue broke, a large number of pundits ranging from Abdul Ghaffar Chowdhury to Anu Muhammad argued that the World Bank is an imperialist organisation working to make Bangladesh a basket case again.  Well, someone must have forgotten to tell the Bank economists who work on Bangladesh — they have just published a 300 page book that, I suspect, will become a must read on Bangladesh economy. 

I’ll read it thoroughly over the holiday season, but at first glance, the report is quite positive and optimistic on Bangladesh.  Also optimistic is the Bank’s assessment of the economic conditions and near term economic outlook.  Although there are risks and patchy spots, according to the Bank, the economy appears to be a more stable and resilient trajectory compared with early 2012.  And the Bank may well be right.


Money is no(t the main) problem

Posted in development, economics, institutions by jrahman on September 16, 2012

Money is no problem — I have heard multiple, and contradictory, stories about the context of the quote attributed to Ziaur Rahman.  I’m reminded of one particular story by the recent fracas about the Padma bridge — for those who came in late, here is a good primer.

Okay, there are multiple aspects of the Padma bridge scandal.  I am leaving the political aspects of the issue — enormous as they are — to others more knowledgeable than me.  Let me talk about the economics of the matter.

The Economist, in its story on the issue, saysBangladesh relies heavily on Western aid for a vast array of projects that otherwise would not exist. Without the Bank, there can be no bridge.

The implication is clear — money is the problem, no Bank funding, no bridge.  I don’t think this is quite right.


What no one wants to talk about while talking about Indo-Bangla relations

Posted in development, economics, foreign policy, India, labour by jrahman on March 29, 2012

I usually look at two different databases for most of my Bangladesh-related analysis.  CEIC Asia provides data produced by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, Bangladesh Bank, and various government departments.  The World Bank World Development Indicator database has internationally comparable data across a range of sectors.  Most of the time, the two databases are broadly in line with each other.  There is, however, one major difference.  The CEIC /BBS database says the in 2010-11, Bangladesh’s population was 147.9 million, which is considerably smaller than the WB figure of 162.2 million for 2009. 

The WB, in turn, base their figure on the work of the UN and the World Health Organisation.  So, a Bangladesh government agancy says X but international experts say Y, and you’d think the government agency is cooking the books, right?  But as Farida Akhter explains, with population data it ain’t necessarily so — just because WB/WHO/UN says we have more than 160 million doesn’t necessarily mean the BBS is wrong about the population being less than 150 million.

Confused?  I was too.  Then I thought about how these numbers are constructed.  The BBS number comes from a census — a literal head count.  The international agencies estimate their number based on surveys of birth, death and migration.  All else equal, census beats surveys — this is Statistics 101.  But over 10 million (or over 6%) discrepancy — can the UN/WHO surveys be that bad? 

Is there a way we can reconcile both numbers?  Suppose the BBS head count is roughly correct — that in 2011 there were somewhat less than 150 million people in Bangladesh.  Does it necessarily mean that the UN estimate of over 160 million is wrong?  That 160 million is the number we should have had if the surveys of birth, death and migration are ‘ballpark okay’.  Now, the surveys of birth and death should be reasonably good proxy of the whole population.  As should be documented migration.  But what about undocumented migration? 

What if the actual number of Bangladeshis turned out to be 10+ million below the UN guesstimate because the UN underestimated emigration from Bangladesh?  Could there be over 10 million undocumented Bangladeshis in other countries?

How many undocumented Bangladeshis are there in India?


Economic outlook — Autumn 2011

Posted in economics by jrahman on November 2, 2011

In the past few weeks, the IMF, the ADB and the World Bank have released their latest outlook for the Bangladesh economy — major risks notwithstanding, the economy is expected to grow steadily in 2011-12. 

Details over the fold.


Good outlook, but…

Posted in economics by jrahman on November 26, 2010

That’s how the latest issue of the World Bank’s Bangladesh Economic Update reads.  The 16 page document is a pretty good report — I highly recommend it to anyone interested.  I am going to highlight: the economic conditions and outlook; the costs of recently agreed privately generated power; and the commentary on reforms. 

The report also covers inflation, but I’ll explore that in a separate post.