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December 10, 2010

Measuring Inflation by Internet Prices



InflationInternetIndex2010-12-08.gif










Source of graphs: online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.



(p. A5) Economists Roberto Rigobon and Alberto Cavallo at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Sloan School of Management have come up with a method to scour the Internet for online prices on millions of items and then use them to calculate inflation statistics for a dozen countries on a daily basis. The two have been collecting data for the project for more than three years, but only made their results public this week.


. . .


In countries where the apparatus for collecting prices is limited, or where officials have manipulated inflation data, the economists' indexes might give a clearer view. In Argentina, for example, the government has been widely accused of massaging price figures to let it pay less interest to holders of inflation-indexed bonds. President Cristina Fernández has defended the government data. For September, the government's measure of prices rose 11.1% from a year earlier. The economists' measure in that period: up 19.7%.



For the full story, see:

JUSTIN LAHART. "A Way, Day by Day, of Gauging Prices." The Wall Street Journal (Thurs., NOVEMBER 11, 2010): A5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the article is dated NOVEMBER 10, 2010.)





July 16, 2008

Argentine Taxes "Killing Their Incentives"


ArgentinaMarchettiPresidentCigraGroup.jpg "Marcelo Marchetti, president of Cigra group." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 6) WENCESLAO ESCALANTE, Argentina -- When the government decided in March to raise taxes on farmers' profits, it set off a rural revolt in Argentina. For three weeks enraged farmers blocked roads nationwide, paralyzing grain and meat sales and causing food shortages.

. . .

The farmers say they are concerned not only about profits, though the steeper taxes have cut into them. They also say Mrs. Kirchner's policies are threatening to reverse one of the great agricultural booms in Argentina's history and to snuff out a technological and entrepreneurial revolution that has made the country a leading food source in a world racked by hunger and rising food prices.

"We have an enormous historic opportunity to grow as a country, but the government wants to punish a sector that should continue to be an engine of growth," said Marcelo Marchetti, 39. "The world has opened its doors to us, and here we are fighting among ourselves."

. . .

An emergency law passed in 2002, in the midst of an economic crisis, has allowed the Kirchner government to create export taxes and keep the revenues away from governors and mayors. The Kirchners have used the doling out of those revenues to maintain political control over the provinces, which were critical to Mrs. Kirchner's election.

. . .

In Wenceslao Escalante, the Marchetti brothers, who both studied accounting in college, said the government's policies were killing their incentives to produce more. A decade ago they formed their company, Cigra, investing in the latest seed technology and farm equipment, and later buying $400,000 grain harvesters with global positioning systems.

Seven years ago the brothers expanded north into Chaco and Santiago del Estero, provinces where the land was thought to be too dry to support corn and soybeans. Today, with more advanced seeds and better crop rotation, it is considered the frontier for Argentine agriculture. But production there is threatened by declining profitability.

As the government has taken more from the farmers, international prices for the supplies to produce their crops, including fertilizers and seeds, have been rising faster than the prices of the commodities, Marcelo Marchetti said. The price of phosphorus, for example, has nearly tripled since last year, he said.

Suddenly the future seems cloudier. The brothers have decided not to make any investments over the next year.

"Everything is on hold," Mr. Marchetti said.



For the full story, see:

ALEXEI BARRIONUEVO. "In Argentina's Grain Belt, Farmers Revolt Over Taxes." The New York Times, Section 1 (Sun., April 27, 2008): 6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

ArgentinaButcherShop.jpg "At a butcher shop in Buenos Aires, supplies were down during strikes by farmers in rural towns like Wenceslao Escalante." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.




June 4, 2008

Which Economic System Protects Us from 'Natural' Disasters?


CommunistPartyBossOnKnees.jpg "Jiang Guohua, the Communist Party boss of Mianzhu, knelt Sunday to ask parents of earthquake victims to abandon their protest." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.


(p. A10) One man shouted, "Was this a natural disaster or a man-made disaster?" In unison, the parents shouted back: "Man-made!"

For the full story, see:

JAMES T. AREDDY. "Reporter's Notebook; Tears and Anger Flow as Parents Cast Blame in Children's Deaths." The Wall Street Journal (Tues., May 20, 2008): A10.


(p. A1) DUJIANGYAN, China -- Bereaved parents whose children were crushed to death in their classrooms during the earthquake in Sichuan Province have turned mourning ceremonies into protests in recent days, forcing officials to address growing political repercussions over shoddy construction of public schools.

Parents of the estimated 10,000 children who lost their lives in the quake have grown so enraged about collapsed schools that they have overcome their usual caution about confronting Communist Party officials. Many say they are especially upset that some schools for poor students crumbled into rubble even though government offices and more elite schools not far away survived the May 12 quake largely intact.

On Tuesday, an informal gathering of parents at Juyuan Middle School in Dujiangyan to commemorate their children gave way to unbridled fury. One of the fathers in attendance, a quarry worker named Liu Lifu, grabbed the microphone and began calling for justice. His 15-year-old daughter, Liu Li, was killed along with her entire class during a biology lesson.

"We demand that the government severely punish the killers who caused the collapse of the school building," he shouted. "Please, everyone sign the petition so we can find out the truth."

The crowd grew more agitated. Some parents said local officials had known for years that the school was unsafe but refused to take action. Others recalled that two hours passed before rescue workers showed up; even then, they stopped working at 10 p.m. on the night of the earthquake and did not resume the search until 9 a.m. the next day.

Although there is no official casualty count, only 13 of the school's 900 students came out alive, parents said. "The people responsible for this should be brought here and have a bullet put in their head," said Luo Guanmin, a farmer who was cradling a photo of his 16-year-old daughter, Luo Dan.

Sharp confrontations between protesters and officials began over the weekend in several towns in northern Sichuan. Hundreds of parents whose children died at the Fuxin No. 2 Primary School in the city of Mianzhu staged an impromptu rally on Saturday. They surrounded an official who tried to assure them that their complaints were being taken seriously, screaming and yelling in her face until she fainted.

The next day, the Communist (p. A10) Party's top official in Mianzhu came out to talk with the parents and to try to stop them from marching to Chengdu, the provincial capital, where they sought to prevail on higher-level authorities to investigate. The local party boss, Jiang Guohua, dropped to his knees and pleaded with them to abandon the protest, but the parents shouted in his face and continued their march.

Later, as the crowd surged into the hundreds, some parents clashed with the police, leaving several bleeding and trembling with emotion.

The protests threaten to undermine the government's attempts to promote its response to the quake as effective and to highlight heroic rescue efforts by the People's Liberation Army, which has dispatched 150,000 soldiers to the region. Censors have blocked detailed reporting of the schools controversy by the state-run media, but a photo of Mr. Jiang kneeling before protesters has become a sensation on some Web forums, bringing national attention to the incident.

. . .

. . . all at once the women doubled over in agony, a chorus of 100 mothers wailing over the loss of sons and daughters who, because of China's population control policy, were their only children. The husbands wept in silence, paralyzed by the storm of emotion.


For the full story, see:

ANDREW JACOBS. "Parents' Grief Turns to Rage at Chinese Officials." The New York Times (Weds., May 28, 2008): A1 & A10.

(Note: ellipses added.)


ChinaMotherSon.jpg
"A memorial service for hundreds of students of Juyuan Middle School in Dujiangyan, where a mother held a picture of her son, turned into an angry protest." Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.




December 12, 2007

How "El Loco" Cut Argentine Inflation in Half

 

ArgentineInflationRateGraph.gif   Source of graphic:  online version of the WSJ article quoted and cited below.

 

(p. A1)  BUENOS AIRES -- Argentina has had plenty of anti-inflation plans over the years. The current one may be the first that rests heavily on a public servant whom some executives and politicians have nicknamed "El Loco," or the Crazy Man.

The official, Guillermo Moreno, is Argentina's Secretary of Internal Commerce, the government's price policeman. His mission is limiting price markups in the red-hot economy -- at least until the leftist Cristina Kirchner, the wife of the current president, Néstor Kirchner, can win her own bid for president. Elections are scheduled for this Sunday, and she's heavily favored to win. 

With the Kirchners' blessing, Mr. Moreno has hammered out price-control agreements with industry, doled out subsidies and imposed export restrictions to keep the domestic market awash in goods. He has also threatened uncooperative businesses with prosecution under a recently resurrected 33-year law against hoarding goods. When none of that worked to restrain prices, a prosecutor has alleged, Mr. Moreno ousted the government statisticians who prepared the consumer price index and installed his own people to massage the numbers. Mr. Moreno denies that; a judge is reviewing the case.

. . .

(p. A18)  As Argentina's governing faction tries to prolong the country's roaring economic recovery -- and maintain its grip on power -- it is waging an increasingly desperate battle to contain inflation. The government's tainted figures put the annual figure at 8%, while most independent economists peg it around twice that high.

 

For the full story, see:

MATT MOFFETT.  "POWER TRANSFER; Economic Reckoning Looms In Argentina's Election; 'El Loco' Price Controls Help First Lady Lead, But Inflation Still Rises."  The Wall Street Journal  (Thurs., October 25, 2007):  A1 & A18.

(Note:  eillipsis added.)

 




November 12, 2007

Strong Global Support for Free Markets

 

FreeMarketsPositiveViewTable.gif   Source of table:  "World Publics Welcome Global Trade -- But Not Immigration." Pew Global Attitudes Project, a project of the PewResearchCenter. Released: 10.04.07 dowloaded from: http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=258

 

(p. A10) WASHINGTON, Oct. 4 — Buoyed and battered by globalization, people around the world strongly view international trade as a good thing but harbor growing concerns about its side effects: threats to their cultures, damage to the environment and the challenges posed by immigration, a new survey indicates.

In the Pew Global Attitudes Project survey of people in 46 countries and the Palestinian territories, large majorities everywhere said that trade was a good thing. In countries like Argentina, which recently experienced trade-based growth, the attitude toward trade has become more positive.

But support for trade has decreased in recent years in advanced Western countries, including Germany, Britain, France and Italy — and most sharply in the United States. The number of Americans saying trade is good for the country has dropped by 19 percentage points since 2002, to 59 percent.

“G.D.P. growth hasn’t been as dramatic in these places as in Latin America or Eastern Europe,” said Andrew Kohut, president of the Pew Research Center, referring to gross domestic product, the total value of the goods and services produced in a country. “But worldwide, even though some people are rich and some are poor, support for the basic tenet of capitalism is pretty strong.”

 

For the full story, see: 

BRIAN KNOWLTON. "Globalization, According to the World, Is a Good Thing. Sort Of."  The New York Times   (Fri., October 5, 2007):  A10. 

 




July 12, 2007

Argentine Evidence on Global Warming

 

   Source:  screen capture from the Reuters video clip mentioned below.

 

On July 10, 2007, Reuters and other news sources (including CNN) reported that Buenos Aires had experienced its first snowfall in 80 years.

To see Reuters' brief video clip on the snow, visit: 

http://www.javno.com/video.php?rbr=4137&l=en

 

ArgentineSnowCoveredTrucks.jpg   "A truck driver makes his way through snow-covered trucks Tuesday in Punta de Vacas, Argentina."  Source of the truck caption and photo:   

"Snow leaves trucks stranded on Argentina-Chile border."  CNN.com POSTED: 3:06 p.m. EDT, June 13, 2007.

 




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