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Month: August 2010

The Rise of Asia’s Middle Class

The Rise of Asia’s Middle Class

Every good ex-pat reads the local national newspaper to understand both what is going on in the country and what is important.  In yesterday’s Philippine Inquirer, Jong-Wha Lee, the chief economist for the Asian Development Bank, penned an op-ed discussing an alternative way of looking at the problem of poverty in Asia.  In the opening paragraphs, he explains the issues: THE MANTRA across developing Asia since the 1960s has been poverty reduction. Huge strides were made during the Asian “miracle.”…

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Introduction to a Series of Essays

Introduction to a Series of Essays

I am in my final month here, coming to the end of my road after a long trip.  I spent 7 months in the Philippines, two weeks each in Cambodia, Thailand, and Burma, a week in Vietnam, four days in Hong Kong, and an afternoon in Japan.  I am taking time to reflect on my time here and pull together everything I have learned into a set of coherent ideas of what it all means. I arrived in December of…

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Colonizing Africa: The Video Game

Colonizing Africa: The Video Game

The other day I was researching the Berlin Conference for a post I am writing.  A couple of hyperlinks later, I ended up on the page of Henry Morton Stanley, the explorer who helped King Leopold II take control of the Congo Free State (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo and rape capital of the world) and inspiration for the lead character in Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.  And this led me to an incredible discovery: among the thousands…

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The Blame Game in Manila

The Blame Game in Manila

One surefire way to get respect from the international community is to admit to your mistakes and take the blame failures.  But while Hong Kong breathes fire just thinking about the incompetence of the Filipino police and the weak national government, the current president, Noynoy Aquino, and the previous president, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, are pointing fingers at one another.  From today’s Philippine Inquirer: Malacañang [the equivalent of the White House] indicated on Thursday that the administration of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo…

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An Unfortunate Black Mark for the Philippines

An Unfortunate Black Mark for the Philippines

By and large, the Philippines is a peaceful and safe place for tourists.  As long as foreigners like myself stay away from the parts of Mindanao controlled by Islamic fundamentalists like Abu Sayyaf and separatists like the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the most you will have to worry about is getting your wallet pinched in a marketplace.  In the last two days, that reality has been overshadowed by an isolated act of one disgruntled sociopath who hijacked a bus…

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Defining Poverty in the United States

Defining Poverty in the United States

People ask me all the time about whether the United States has any poor people.  When I tell them that 15-20% of the country lives below the poverty line, they can’t believe it.  That is because the federal poverty line of $22,050, which is the amount for a family of four to live reasonably, is much higher than the comparative number in other places.  This is called “absolute poverty,” and is one of the measures of poverty in the U.S….

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Democracy in Africa: One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

Democracy in Africa: One Step Back, Two Steps Forward

According to the Economist, the growing sophistication of election rigging dictators is a good sign: Citizens plainly like to vote. Even the most authoritarian leaders now feel obliged to hold elections. Presidents Bashir and Mugabe, as well as Meles Zenawi, the prime minister of Ethiopia—none of them natural democrats—have all had to hold elections in recent years. Only a decade ago countries such as Sierra Leone and Liberia were bywords for anarchy and bloodshed. Now their people vote enthusiastically. It…

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Develop Economies Learns to Dive

Develop Economies Learns to Dive

As I wrap up my time in the Philippines, I will be taking time to experience the more laid-back elements of the Flip Side.  I spent the last week diving in Apo Reef in Dumaguete, one the world’s second-largest contiguous coral reef system and the largest in the country.  See the photographs here:

Factories in Africa and China’s Special Economic Zones

Factories in Africa and China’s Special Economic Zones

Magatte Wade, an African entrepreneur and columnist for the Huffington Post, has a vision for the future of Africa that entails becoming a manufacturing powerhouse.  African countries have abundant human capital and low-cost labor.  The current manufacturing giant, China, has recently seen an uptick in labor strikes, with workers gaining more bargaining power, which will ultimately drive up wages.  Here she explains her vision: My vision for Africa is one in which it becomes the first region of the world…

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The Aid Paradox Explained

The Aid Paradox Explained

In his review of Dambisa Moyo’s opinionated book Dead Aid, economist Jagdish Bhagwati describes the history of aid policy over the last half century and explains why, despite good intentions, it has probably done more harm than good: Many activists today think that development economists in the past neglected poverty in their quest for growth. But what they miss is that the latter was seen as the most effective weapon against the former. Poverty rates in the developing countries did…

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