Sunday, November 12, 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Ben Bernanke's Speech about Global Integration

Here are some excerpts ...

By almost any economically relevant metric, distances have shrunk considerably in recent decades. As a consequence, economically speaking, Wausau and Wuhan are today closer and more interdependent than ever before. Economic and technological changes are likely to shrink effective distances still further in coming years, creating the potential for continued improvements in productivity and living standards and for a reduction in global poverty.

Read this for the complete speech.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Poverty in Africa vs Povery in Asia

I heard Dr. Theogene Rudasingwa (Former Rwandan Ambassador to the US) speak in the Management of Technology lecture series at Haas School of Business (UC Berkeley). One striking thing he talked about was how African countries did not buzz much during last three decades in terms of the health standards and the per person income. At the same time East Asia and the South Asia made tremendous upward movement. Large chunk of population under poverty line (less than $1 a day) comes from the African nations.

He used the examples of Singapore and Malaysia vs Rwanda and Nigeria. While Singapore and Malayasia have progressed greatly in terms of income and child mortality, Rwanda and Nigeria are still at similar levels as they were in 1970. Why?

Some very vivid and descriptive animation about the world income distribution could be found in this really good report titled "Human Development Trends 2005".

India's Growth: Is it helping the poor?

Economic growth may have been spectacular since 1993 — that is, post-economic reforms — but it seems to be trickling down rather slowly.

A soon-to-be-released official report has estimated that poverty declined by a mere 0.74% during the 11-year period ended 2004-05. Although there are signs of things moving a little faster, at 0.79%, between 1999-2000 and 2004-05, going by another measure, the number of people below poverty line may have remained unchanged.

National Sample Survey Organisation’s (NSSO) findings show the number of people living below poverty line (BPL) at 22.15% in 2004-05, compared with 26.09% in 1999-2000. In the same period, the country’s GDP grew at around 6%. This mismatch between growth and its distribution is politically worrying as it indicates a rise in economic disparities.

Economists say uneven growth often leads to social unrest which, in turn, can cause problems for politicians. Anyone consuming less than 2,100 calories in urban areas, and 2,400 calories in rural areas, is classifed in the BPL category.

The NSSO study also shows that poverty declined the sharpest in the poorer states.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Yunus from Grameen Bank gets the Nobel Peace prize

A great day for those who aspire to make this world a happier place - one person at a time - with small contributions.

Yunus is an ispiration for many of us. Yunus getting the Nobel peace prize endorses the view that development and peace are both linked to each other.

Here is an inspirational article by Yunus -

Monday, September 04, 2006

A rough guide to a better world!

Poverty is all in the brain?

Interesting research by Liz Gould that tries to look at the psychology of poverty and stress.

According to her - "Poverty and stress aren’t just an idea: they are an anatomy. Some brains never even have a chance."

The subject of stress has been the single continuous thread running through Gould’s research career. From the brain’s perspective, stress is primarily signaled by an increase in the bloodstream of a class of steroid called glucocorticoids, which put the body on a heightened state of alert. But glucocorticoids can have one nasty side-effect: They are toxic for the brain. When stress becomes chronic, neurons stop investing in themselves. Neurogenesis ceases.

“Poverty is stress,” she says, with more than a little passion in her voice. “One thing that always strikes me is that when you ask Americans why the poor are poor, they always say it’s because they don’t work hard enough, or don’t want to do better. They act like poverty is a character issue.”

Gould’s work implies that the symptoms of poverty are not simply states of mind; they actually warp the mind. Because neurons are designed to reflect their circumstances, not to rise above them, the monotonous stress of living in a slum literally limits the brain.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Canadian Index of Happiness

A new Canadian index will gauge how people are faring overall, not just how much they're spending.

The Canadian Index of Wellbeing will be far more accurate than its economic cousin, the gross domestic product, says Roy Romanow, who was in Toronto last week to present it at the United Way of Canada conference. "(The GDP) tells us how much total income we are producing, but tells us nothing about how that income is distributed," said Romanow, the former Saskatchewan premier who chaired the 2002 commission into medicare. The index has been five years in the making, and some of its first quarterly figures are due to be published in the fall.

"When the single most influential national lens that we use to measure our progress and wellbeing as a country is confined to a narrow set of economic indicators, it sends inaccurate and even dangerous signals to policy makers." The gross domestic product is driven skyward when bad things happen and money is spent to fix the problems, Romanow said. Problems like the Quebec ice storm, traffic accidents, street crime, deforestation. But the Canadian Index of Wellbeing is driven down by negative things like crime, poor health and unaffordable tuition.

The index takes its cue from countries like the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, where the government measures the level of satisfaction among its populace and attempts to shape public policy to better those levels. In Canada, a national working group of about 20 organizations was convened with funding from the Atkinson Charitable Foundation. "We, along with others, had been doing this work in a very scattered way," said Ron Colman, executive director of Genuine Progress Index Atlantic, a non-profit organization that had been developing a wellbeing index for Nova Scotia. "What the Atkinson foundation did is bring everybody together." Measuring the level of life satisfaction among the people of a country is certainly not confined to Bhutan, although it was there that the king declared in 1972 that "the Gross National Happiness is more important than GrossNational Product."

New Zealand also produces national reports on the wellbeing of its citizens, which are often taken into account by the government in making decisions.

Colman says the Canadian group is learning from the models of New Zealand and Bhutan how to best ensure the government, which has no real connection to the wellbeing index, acts on what the data indicate Canadians are experiencing.

"We're learning how to push this further along on the public policy agenda," he said. "But they are also learning from us that there is strength in having data come from an independent source."

Researchers across the globe have been attempting for decades to find a formula that objectively measures how satisfied people are with their lives, without much concrete success.

Dutch professor Ruut Veenhoven, a highly regarded researcher in positive psychology - the study of what makes us happy and why - has for 20 years been working on the World Database of Happiness. He has found that, although the most prosperous nations tend to score higher than the poorest ones, there are exceptions. El Salvador for instance ranks 7 2 out of 10 the same as Great Britain Salvador, for instance, ranks 7.2 out of 10, the same as Great Britain.

Veenhoven's research was largely based on people's own judgments of how satisfied they are with their lives. The Canadian Index of Wellbeing will be calculated based on data gathered by about 20 researchers, from Statistics Canada, Environment Canada and researchers from several universities.

While it's unavoidable some self-reported data will be used, researchers are planning to take into account harder numbers, such as the costs of education and of everyday essentials.

"This is not a feel-good type of self-survey," said Charles Pascal, executive director of the Atkinson foundation. "This is using data to measure, in a very tangible way, the things that matter to Canadians."

The working group will measure areas such as living standards, health and welfare and levels of political engagement.

Said Dr. Robert McMurtry, a London physician who also serves on the Health Council of Canada: "I can remember the days when you didn't have so many people who couldn't afford higher education, when you felt a lot safer walking the streets at night and when pollution wasn't such a problem. I'd like to see us have a standard by which we can measure whether these things - which are so important to us - are going upwards or downwards."

Thursday, May 25, 2006


The best gift is the gift of your valuable time. Be a volunteer with Seva (