Archive for the 'Institutions' Category

What else would you expect in Philly?

January 31, 2016

Tim B. Lee has an interesting piece about the Philadelphia Parking Authority’s attempts to throttle Lyft and Uber (edited for continuity):

The PPA is a taxpayer-supported government agency, so you might have expected it to remain neutral. But according to records obtained by the Philadelphia Daily News, senior PPA officials actively strategized with taxi officials to preserve PPA’s authority over Uber and other ride-hailing companies and appears to have used taxpayer funds to lobby against Uber.

Well put, but the phrase “might have expected” suggests a curiously innocent view of government regulation — and Philadelphia. It’s not all bad: My sister tells me Parking Wars was terrific.


Corruption in soccer

May 27, 2015

You may have noticed that Swiss authorities arrested a number of people this morning in Zurich as part of a US/Swiss probe into corruption at FIFA, soccer’s governing body. The news isn’t the corruption — that’s been common knowledge for years — but the fact that it’s being investigated. We will surely find out more in the coming weeks, but the betting line right now is that FIFA’s head, Sepp Blatter, will be reelected on Friday. His public relations team released this wonderful statement earlier today:

FIFA welcomes actions that can help contribute to rooting out any wrongdoing in football. … We are pleased to see that the investigation is being energetically pursued for the good of football and believe that it will help to reinforce measures that FIFA has already taken.

One wonders if it was it these measures they had in mind. Or perhaps these.

Why Argentina should not pay

September 6, 2014

Here’s an interesting take on the continuing saga from Juan Pablo Nicolini. I’ve taken some liberty with the translation, but believe this captures the spirit of his remarks:  Read the rest of this entry »

Ghana discovers oil, trouble ensues

August 3, 2014

One of the curious facts about country performance is the so-called resource curse: countries that have lots of natural resources grow more slowly, on average, than those that do not. How can that be?   Read the rest of this entry »

Old Soviet joke

August 1, 2014

From Tim Taylor:

One can’t help but be reminded of the old Soviet joke about the collective farm director and his chickens. The chickens are dying at an alarming rate, so much so that Moscow sends in its top expert. “I have an idea,” the expert says. “Switch out the rectangular troughs for triangular ones.” He promises to come back in two weeks to monitor the progress. “So?” he asks on his return. “It didn’t work,” the director replies. “The chickens kept dying.” “I have a better idea,” the expert says. “Paint the coops green.” Two weeks pass, and he’s back. “The chickens kept dying,” the director says. Again, a new idea. Again he returns to hear that the chickens keep dying. One day, the expert comes back, and the director announces, “All the chickens are dead.” “What a shame,” the expert says. “I had so many more great ideas.”

Lots of good stuff at the link about the Russian economy, too.

Argentina defaults, again

July 31, 2014

Argentina has now defaulted, again. It’s an unusual case, but a good reminder of the kinds of political risk you face when you invest in a country. To paraphrase Walter Wriston’s famous comment, “countries don’t go bust, they simply decide not to pay their debts.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Electronic money in India

July 9, 2014

Here’s another one from Leo Mirani at Quartz. It seems e-money has failed to take hold in India, not for lack of need, and not for lack of suppliers. The bottleneck is a regulation that prohibits telecom companies from entering the business without bank partners. The irony is that e-money is largely a response to failure by the banking system to provide the services people need.

If you know more about this, please let me know, either by email or in the comments.

Electronic money in Africa

July 8, 2014

Bitcoin is always a popular topic in class, but some of the most interesting experiments with electronic money are in Africa. With Kenya’s M-Pesa, people pay bills with mobile phone minutes. It’s a simpler technology than Bitcoin, but perhaps more useful for precisely that reason. This striking map shows similar innovation throughout Africa and the developing world.

So next time I’m asked whether electronic money has a future, I have a better answer:  Yes, it does, and the future’s already here in Kenya, South Africa, Nigeria, India, Indonesia, …

Traffic in Dhaka

July 4, 2014

One of the many challenges of doing business in a developing country is the (typically) low level of public services and infrastructure. Anyone who’s spent time in India, Brazil, etc will recognize some version of this wonderful description of Dhaka from Michael Hobbes (lightly edited):   Read the rest of this entry »

Why no French Google?

June 23, 2014

From Frederic Filloux (lightly edited):  Read the rest of this entry »