The post heading is the title of a recently released publication available here.
This is a high quality publication with input from some of the giants in the field of Southeast Asian studies. I highly recommend the work, but (gentle hint) it is written for serious scholars.
Sadly work commitments have kept me from posting much recently, a situation unlkely to change for a while. I will keep posting occasionally and thank you for your patience.
In the meantime, for those Indonesians who wish want to return to the good old days, have a look at this (old) graph.
Source: The Economist here
It was 20 years ago this year that the Indonesian economy really hit hard times, and a new generation is coming of age that can no longer remember that time. The country, and its economy, has come a long way since then. Let’s hope that trajectory continues.
A few days ago in the post here I stated that minimum wages were largely absent across Southeast Asia.
Well, not for the first time I was wrong, at least regarding Indonesia. As the graphic makes clear Indonesia has a minimum wage, although how thoroughly it is enforced is a different question.
I had originally intended to explore the significant disparity in minimum wages across the country, however I have realised that would take more time than I have available right now.
Suffice to say that setting minimum wage levels is a legislative action, and thus the decisions are grounded in politics. Interestingly however, the polical pressures affecting the setting of these rates vary across the country, suggesting that there are either hidden barriers to free movement of labour, Indonesia isn’t as economically unified as it may appear (which are effectively different sides to the same coin) or that these minimum wage settings are largely symbolic political gestures occuring below the market rate.
I have no idea how many readers follow the World Bank Global Economic Prospects available here.
Nevertheless, dropping down to the regional forecasts and selecting East Asia and Pacific I’ve recreated the data below.
That all seems business as usual, but when you look a bit deeper…
Oh, dear. I will say no more than that.
Thanks to the work of the good folk at TechInAsia, particularly Kathrinna Rakhmavika, the great graphic found here and reproduced above illustrates the cost of data across the region.
There is a lot in that data. Some points I’d make is that I was unaware some of these countries had a minimum wage, and certainly if they do the enforcement mechanisms by the state would be, at best, extremely inconsistent and insipid. In this context the minimum wage reference, unless it was a vague allusion to the market minimum wage, is somewhat meaningless.
Then there is the number of hours worked to achieve payment equivalent to 1gb of data at local prices. This is provided as the number of hours of work at the (somewhat meaningless) measure of the minimum wage, but alternatively providing this as the required number of hours at the mean national wage (the average wage) or the number of hours for the nation’s modal wage (the wage received by the highest number of workers) may give very different answers.
There is also the issue that covering only income received from wages excludes those who receive their income from capital (and retirees and children). The data also avoids the cost of entry to accessing that data, eg the price of hardware and initial access costs.
My point is that at first glance this is, or was, an interesting graphic, but on closer scrutiny the numbers presented begin to look very shaky indeed on the story they are telling.
Note: As a supplementary comment on this post, the price of an additional 1gb data on a phone plan in Australia is around $10. With the minimum wage in Australia set at around $16 that equates to around 40 minutes of work, but the cost of that additional 1gb excludes the upfront and the baseline monthly fees to use it. That sounds unambiguous enough, but there are also packages that a quickly Google search and selection at random (like the one here) that presents options costed at (per 1gb) $3, $0.5 and (effectively) <$0.01 respectively. Of course if you used so much data that the cost is down to a single cent per gb then you a/ probably don’t need to work to pay for it, or b/ can’t keep doing that as you cannot find time to go to work to pay for it, but that is a topic for a post on another blog.
There is an interesting post here comparing the online performance of what I believe are the top airlines in Southeast when it comes to social media. There are a range of measures, but just sticking to Twitter and Facebook measures here is how they ranked in 2013.
I regret the data is again somewhat dated, and it would be interesting to see if there have been any subsequent changes in the hierarchy. I’d appreciate any reader who can point me to updated figures.
A quick addition to my post earlier today here.
All credit to the good folk at the Martin Prosperity Institute (MPI) at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management (who nobly espouse exploring the requirements to achieve a prosperous future for all, in which democracy and capitalism work in support of each other) who produced the research report Insight: Creativity in Southeast Asia located here.
In that marvellous work (well worth a read for interest in such things) they identify the close relationship between urbanization and creativity, with more urbanized nations scoring higher on the Global Creativity Index (see here for those interested).
How does this look in graphical form highlighting Southeast Asian nations? I’m glad you asked, because that is the featured image that leads this post.
In another report here the MPI shows “how the Southeast Asian nations stack up in terms of the share of their workforce that make up the creative class and compares them to international benchmarks”. In graphical form that can be seen below.
Today’s post was to have been a thoughtful and insightful piece on regional urbanisation.
Sadly however I have run out of time, so I will quickly give you some lovely graphics on rice production in Southeast Asia and return to urbanisation on another day.
There can be little doubt that rice is central to the histories and cultures of the people of Southeast Asia, but just how much does the region produce?
Well, thanks to the good folk at the United States Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service and their publication Southeast Asia Projected To Remain Top Rice Exporter located here, the following graphic gives you some idea.
Nevertheless the graph gives little indication how significant the Southeast Asian harvests are as a compoent of the global total. Well, the USDA-ERS has an answer there too.
Super observant readers will note that I retained the tag human rights based on my suspicion that access to rice is a highly potent political concept in many Southeast Asian cultures. I will return to this interesting and important topic in a future post.
Here is a post asking you to decide.
Lets imagine that in an imaginary place (let’s call it Sumatra) people are cutting down lots of trees. At the same time and in the same place, people in that imaginary place (let’s be specific and call it Riau) are (on average) getting wealthier.
What might the extent of tree cutting in Riau look like? Well, maybe something like this…
Image courtesy of the good folk at mongabay.com here
And the growth in wealth in Riau? Maybe something like this…
Image courtesy of The Economist here
Let’s imagine again that these are facts. Done.
Now let’s try to decide if there is a link between the “cutting down trees” and the “getting wealthy”. I’m assuming you agree there is, although I’m happy to concede that this may not be the only factor influencing these measurements (otherwise known as variables).
Now to the difficult part. Is this relationship, or more specifically the consequential wealth/deforestation outcomes, good or bad? Well, that is largely up to the reader to decide themselves.
Nevertheless, how good or bad it may seem, at least intially, depends significantly on how the stuation is framed, and that depends in part on how the question is asked.
I suspect that if you asked “Is it ok to lose some trees to lift potentially millions of people out of poverty?” then all but the most enthusiastic environmentalist would answer “Yes”, although they may rightly ask what is meant by “some”.
Likewise, I suspect if you asked “Is it ok to make potentially millions of people wealthier if it condemns them and their children to a life of reduced health living in a greatly degraded environment?”. Many would say “no”, but the answer is more complex. There is not only the question of what is meant by “wealthier” and “greatly degraded”, but also a question of immediacy (with the health/economic/environmental consequences potentially not being felt for some time).
There is also the difference that the “wealth” from the first scenario offers financial benefits now and into the future, but the costs are often felt later and require defending by people who are either not present now or unaware of the full range of consequences (in other words there is an information assymetry between what we know now and may know later).
Perhaps the best option is somewhere between those two extremes, but where that place is on the spectrum is up to you, and hopefully the voters of Indonesia, to decide.