Punishing Valentine’s Day Lovers in Malaysia Distracts from Smart Spending.

In Malaysia,  Morality police arrested 80 people on Valentine’s Day for the crime of being alone with a member of the opposite sex, a practice that makes up part of a national Islamic-inspired anti-Valentine’s day campaign that started in 2005.

Clamping down on might-have-been sweethearts is expensive punishment for Malaysia when jail terms are projected to last 2 years. Lengthy terms gauge tax payers’ contributions. From Malaysia’s vantage point, that spending could be looked at as lost fiscal resources for what might have otherwise been productive spending, like quickening the pace of Malaysia’s hot electronics export market.

Sogginess Is Expensive for Colombia

Flooding in Cali, Colombia

February 2012

Lately, life in Colombia resembles fiction more than anything else. That is foreboding considering that its literature, when not whispering about love, is strewn with scenes of political violence and the wrath of nature. This time the imagery leans more toward the latter.

Flooding that followed the Niña, a series of Pacific warm weather patterns that agitate Colombia’s wet season, caused mudslides, eroded farmland, and left a painful proportion of the country homeless.

What is worrisome is that the damage looks worse than it was last year, where costs associated with the flood stung at the touch of $5.1 billion or 2% of Colombia’s GDP. But it might not be as much of a burden to clean up. One reason the costs will not climb that high this year, according to analysts, is because after the 2010 floods, the Colombian government decided to set aside $850m for over 4,000 government led projects that intended to corral the chaos expected out of the following wet season. Seems like a good preventative step, doesn’t it?

That is how the floods are viewed from Bogotá’s perspective.  But the wrath brought on by the floods is still a very immediate threat to the real time cash flow of workers and businesses.

For the herders whose cattle are stranded while trying to graze in standing water, and for the truck drivers who cannot meet their shipping partners because the road linking them to the port city of Buenaventura is being diced up by mudslides and washouts, the costs are sure to keep feeling suffocating.

Of Dragons, Fire and Shaky Optimism

When you are a young kid sitting around a crowded, crackling campfire in a small, lonely American town, it is easy to feel that the hot coals flickering out from underneath a pile of six or seven chunks of firewood is enough to ward off the darkness surrounding you.

But a flickering campfire is not enough for the Chinese people when it comes to showing off their optimism for the new year.  From New York to Beijing some 1.3 billion Chinese citizens set off fireworks to usher in the Year of the Dragon, part of a celebration that will last fifteen days. For the past 5,000 years fireworks have been used to ward off evil spirits in China.
This is in fact the Year of the Water Dragon, a year that signals optimism and growth, but only swings around every 60 years on the Chinese lunar calendar. Optimism will be a tricky thing to share though. No matter the hopeful astrological signals and thundering growth, members of China’s Communist Party will have to find a way to make growth not the malaise, but instead make it the treatment for episodes of China’s swelling unrest, like this recent steelworker’s strike in Sichuan province.

Dear Brazil, Meet Haitian Diaspora

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A tent camp in Port-au-Prince where Haitians prepare to leave for Brazil.

After passing through five countries using planes and buses, and sometimes bribes, Haitians arrived in droves at a small Amazonian town in Brazil near the Bolivian border. Prejudice toward Haitians is alive, but not universal in Brazil. But the obstacles of difference are no matter for some Haitians. New arrivals study Spanish and Portuguese in an attempt to acclimate. On one side of the dilemma Brazilian authorities are feeling overwhelmed by the struggle to absorb the diaspora that has landed on their doorstep. But on the other side of it they should feel a touch of pride. Haitians have chosen Brazil as their destination because they are looking for work, and that is what Brazil’s growing economy offers right now.

Could There Be a Market for Migration?

Even though government sees disorganization, having multiple citizenships is natural and part of the future, according to an article published in The Economist. What citizenship should be based on is your conscious decision to live in a country, and that having more than one is OK if that is what you will. So stake a claim for residency, pay your taxes, and get your rights and responsibilities as a citizen in return. Sounds good in theory, doesn’t it?

But where things get tricky is when it comes to the price of gaining admission. Gary Becker, a member of the Institute of Economic Affairs, has the right medicine. He thinks that building a market for migration could work. Trading cash for a visa without the obstacle of quota lines would be the singular way for foreigners to gain access to work opportunities. So that would mean price would be dependent on an individual’s desire to live in a country, no matter what skill set, age, or background he possesses. Whomever sees the greatest benefit from migrating would put the greatest value on the price of of another citizenship.

The mistake to watch out for concerns who should set up the admissions criteria. Sure the U.S. might think that scientists and engineers will help the economy, but how many the economy needs and how they are attracted is a matter for companies to figure out, not governments. Companies know what their needs are. Meeting them is a matter of efficiency. That is why Gary Becker wants a way for companies’ human resources departments, and not government quotas, to determine the demand for citizenship.

Caught in between the booms.

As its copper mining industry quickly swells in the middle of the Gobi dessert, the landscape of Mongolia is changing too. But so is its capital, Ulaanbaatar. Stuck in between two worlds is how everyone from rural herders to expatriate security guards feel inside the mining boom that is expected to significantly push up the country’s GDP of $2,000 per capita over the next decade.

Abu Dhabi’s New Newspaper Signals A Step Toward Democracy

Abu Dhabi now has its own newspaper called The National, meaning that it has made one step further toward democracy. What the newspaper lacks though is a sense of Abu Dhabi authenticity. Globalization and the spread of democracy can be good for a people and a country, but not when a sterile sort of imitation blurs a country’s history into forget. The National might instead be the thing to help Abu Dhabi rediscover its past, not merely imitate its course toward the future.