Month: March 2013

The word that is Swedish

1. Bloggbävning, n.
Definition: Literally translating to “blogquake,” the word describes the process by which a topic explodes in the blogosphere and is then picked by by more mainstream media outlets.
Used in an English sentence: “Man, that ‘ogooglebar’ thing really caused a bloggbävning today.”

Somehow I don’t think this post itself is going to Bloggbävning.  Here are fourteen other Swedish words you should know, interesting throughout.

Should Cyprus leave the euro?

Krugman argued yes and I am inclined to agree.  From fortheisland, here is a case for no:

All of Cyprus’ physical inputs are imported. Everything; from feed to steel and from fertilizers to computers. Raw materials are imported. Intermediary goods are imported. Capital goods also imported.

This is an island economy with a GDP smaller than Vermont and a population 200.000 short of a million. So, when I say, “imported”, I mean “close to 100%”.  While the primary surplus that Krugman mentions is a 2013 projection unlikely to materialize (again), the trade deficit spikes with GDP growth and declines rapidly with recessions. This is not unusual, and Krugman would say that it reflects FDI flows as well. But a closer look reflects the extreme dependence on imported factors of production.

This changes the entire picture and makes one wonder about the level of inflation under a new currency, as well of the impact that this would have. All of the obvious concerns about a nascent currency borne out of crisis are suddenly multiplied into a nightmare.

In fact, as if all of this weren’t enough, note that Cyprus is also 100% dependent on energy imports. Gas prices have been rising at a dizzying pace in the last two years, although from a lower starting point than in most other countries. Electricity is another issue –prices accurately reflect how profoundly reckless Cyprus has been in managing its infrastructure: We managed to blow up our main electricity plant by storing munitions outdoors, nearby. Ever been in Cyprus in the Summer?

Krugman notes that Cyprus has two main exports- tourism and banking services. And, he is right in saying that banking was wiped out overnight, at least as export. On the other hand, the main question about tourism isn’t so much whether a devaluation will help the industry; of course it will.

The question, though, is more basic than that: After the glorious 1980s, can the industry be revived? One wonders, after the sun-sea-and-sex tourist wave 30 years ago, what the prospects are for Cypriot tourism. With a few bright and special exceptions, the industry has been in a steady wane since the early 1990s.

Barkley Rosser makes some similar points.  If I’m not convinced, it’s because I don’t see how the current regime of “Cypriot euro with capital controls” will boost either tourism or enable significant imports.  Nonetheless, at the very least, you can take these paragraphs as a further indication of just how much trouble Cyprus is in.

For the pointer I thank Dries de Smet.

Spain fact of the day

Now, if we look back over Spain’s “good” economic years, it is clear that even though growth between 1999 and 2006 was normally in the 3% to 4% range, most of this growth came from population increase, which was extraordinarily rapid, while productivity growth was miniscule, and even in the best of cases less than 1%.

And yet now the Spanish population is shrinking because of emigration:

In fact the negative movement in Spain’s population is accelerating and no one really knows how far this acceleration will go, or how long it will continue. What we do know is that the likelihood of Spain’s unemployment rate falling below 20% by 2020 is small (it is currently over 26%), and with such high unemployment the pressure to move will continue to be strong.

Of course protecting older workers at the expense of the young only makes this problem worse, since the young are more likely to leave.

That is all from Edward Hugh.

Malaysia (Africa) fact of the day

Malaysia was the third biggest investor in Africa in 2011, the latest year for which data is available, behind France and the United States, pushing China and India into fourth and fifth positions.

There is also the stock rather than the flow:

France and the United States also have the largest historical stock of investments in Africa, with Britain in third place and Malaysia in fourth, followed by South Africa, China and India.

Note that much of the Malaysian FDI went to Mauritius and also that FDI is not the only measure of foreign economic involvement.  The article is here, hat tip goes to @viewfromthecave.

A simple point about capital controls

John Dizard writes:

Capital controls turn into trade controls, as the locals attempt to find ways to turn hard assets or non-banking services into foreign exchange. At some price, for example, you can buy a boat in Cyprus with post-haircut, capital-controlled local deposits, sail it to Lebanon, and then sell it for real, usable money. The same with antiques, jewellery, or anything else you can think of. Even capital goods such as fork lifts can be motored off in the middle of the night.

Here is a long Cardiff Garcia post on capital controls, excellent throughout.  From Garcia, there is also this:

Reinhardt, Rogoff and Maduff did a meta-analysis in 2011 on prior studies of capital controls. The only uncontroversially (though mildly) successful use of controls on outflows they found was Malaysia in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis. Even then, the controls were accompanied by aggressive counter-cyclical spending, bans on short-selling the currency and trading it offshore, and defending the ringgit against speculators by fixing it to the dollar.

Australian free rider markets in everything

From the excellent and apparently inexhaustible Mark Thorson:

A poster telling customers they’ll be charged $5 for browsing if they don’t purchase anything has been put up at Celiac Supplies in the Brisbane suburb of Coorparoo, Reddit user BarrettFox reported.

Owner of the gluten free produce store, Georgina, says she resorted to putting up the sign after spending hours each week giving advice to people who leave empty-handed.

About 60 people a week would go into the store, ask questions and then buy the same or similar product at a supermarket chain or online.

“I’ve had a gut full of working and not getting paid,” Georgina, who didn’t want her surname published, told AAP.

The full article is here.  The store owner comments:

“I can tell straight away who are the rat bags who are going to come in here and pick my brain and disappear,” she said.

Cypriot vending machine markets in everything?

I don’t think this is a joke, and it is only a plan, and not a mainstream business project, in any case my apologies if I have been tricked by an early April Fool’s joke:

Upon examination of the marketplace and many discussions with Justin O’Connell (TDV Newsletter & Gold Silver Bitcoin), as well as another key strategic partner of ours, I have decided to move forward with what I believe could be the next multi-billion dollar business venture: Bitcoin ATM.

But that isn’t all. It is wholly our intention at Bitcoin ATM to put the company in the right position to open its very first ATM in Cyprus. If we did this now, and we are moving quickly to make this so, we would be the only functioning ATM on the island.

That is from “The Dollar Vigilante,” hat tip goes to Mike K.