Business Feed

The man behind Louis Vuitton

CNN - Business Feed - Thu, 03/06/2014 - 10:43pm
CNN's Isa Soares interviews Louis Vuitton about the luxury sector outlook
Categories: Business Feed

Keep Calm. Singapore is the Most Expensive City in the World…For Expats

Global Voices - Business Feed - Thu, 03/06/2014 - 8:09pm

Marina Bay. Flickr photo by Nicolas Lannuzel (CC License)

Singapore was recently rated by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the most expensive city in the world. But many Singaporeans are disputing the tag which they claim to be misleading and even inaccurate.

The country’s finance minister clarified that the country’s cost of living continues to be affordable for most Singaporeans:

From time to time, these surveys will come up, and people will give it a spin, but they are measuring something quite different from the cost of living for our residents.

What is important for us is that Singaporeans, and particularly low- and middle-income Singaporeans, have incomes that grow faster than the cost of living. That is what is important and what we have fortunately been able to achieve.

Indeed, the survey examined 160 services and products in 140 cities in order to guide expats and business managers:

The survey itself is a purpose-built internet tool designed to help human resources and finance managers calculate cost-of-living allowances and build compensation packages for expatriates and business travellers. The survey incorporates easy-to-understand comparative cost-of-living indices between cities. The survey allows for city-to-city comparisons, but for the purpose of this report all cities are compared to a base city of New York, which has an index set at 100.

But Everything Also Complain wanted the government to go beyond the survey methodology and instead reflect on the economic situation of Singaporeans:

There are flaws in this survey, no doubt, but brushing it aside as one targetting just expats without a fair definition of ‘expat’ and making it a defensive ‘us vs them’ exercise is a typical symptom of blame-shifting instead of self-reflection.

Jay Teo described the ranking as inaccurate:

After living in Singapore for the past 25 years, I find this statement to be lacking in accuracy from the perspective of a local citizen.

Yes, Singapore may not be the cheapest place in the world, but the average Singaporean is doing pretty alright financially. So before people start packing their bags and move to India, Syria or Nepal to enjoy the lowest costs of living in the world (according to the survey), let's take a look at the facts.

A letter received by Five Stars and a Moon also rejected the conclusion that living in Singapore is costlier than in other global cities:

The article seems to give the impression that Singapore is the costliest city to live in even for Singaporeans. This, in my opinion is not true. Try getting a Singaporean to live in Oslo, Paris, New York or even London just for a week and they will return tell you how cheap Singapore is.

Blogging for Myself highlighted the growing inequality in ‘rich’ Singapore:

We are one city but two economies: the rich and the poor. The middle class are painfully caught between the two because part of their living is in the rich space where they are regularly out bidden by the rich. I think that is why they are raising a hue and cry on social media and the blogosphere over our new most pricey city laurel.

Jeff Cuellar warned that cost of living will continue to rise in Singapore:

The fact that a globally recognized survey measuring the “actual” cost of life’s necessities ranks Singapore as the most expensive city should be a wakeup call to everyone. The truth of the matter is this – life in Singapore will never get any cheaper.

Think about it, Singapore has been in the top 20 on this list for the last years! Why is that? Because Singapore’s high prices are maintained by the scarcity of resources, land, and the infrastructure to support motor vehicles for the average citizen.

The biggest takeaway you can get from this news is to prepare today for a future that will be even more expensive than it is today.

Benjamin Chiang urged Singaporeans to find ‘oasis of opportunities’ in the country:

Basic education is virtually free. The destitute are taken off the streets, housed and helped back on their feet. The handicapped have social assistance. The poor also have similar assistance and help with job placement. A strong tripartite alliance is lifting both wages and productivity. Government handouts that neutralise the effects of Goods and Services tax. Very low income taxes.

See beyond the high price and you will see an oasis of opportunities. Opportunities for one to capitalise off the wealth in this country and to build a niche of success for oneself.

My Singapore News sees a problem on how to convince Singaporeans to return home:

We are so expensive in two big ticket items, housing and cars. How are we going to tell our Singaporeans to come back home to live and work here when they have to pay a ransom just to get a roof over their head and a decent car to enjoy the good life?

Lifestyle is an important factor to determine whether living in Singapore is expensive or affordable, according to Limpeh Foreign Talent

Ultimately, it depends on your personal circumstances whether or not you find Singapore an expensive place to live. If you are a young person living with your parents (so you don't really have to worry too much about rent or utility bills), you're happy to use public transport, eat at hawker centers and hunt for bargains when it comes to shopping, then Singapore can be pretty affordable. But if you have to rent your own place, you insist on having a car, eat in nice restaurants and pay full whack at the designer boutiques on Orchard Road, then that kind of lifestyle can make living in any city an expensive experience.

Categories: Business Feed

Trinidad & Tobago Carnival in Danger?

Global Voices - Business Feed - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 9:39pm

This year's Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is practically over, but it has inspired a slew of blog posts – some explaining various aspects of the celebrations, but others lamenting the state of the festival.

Tony Deyal, writing at Abeng News Magazine, described it like this:

I am in Trinidad. It is hot and dry. The roads are crowded. The murder rate is high. The nights are noisy. It is a silly season beyond reason, adequate description and financial sanity. It is Carnival time.

The rest of his post was mostly a recollection of the “Old Time Carnival” of his childhood, but even amidst the revelry, he noted:

What struck me was that there was always an undercurrent of violence- perhaps because the majority of the people worked in the cane-fields, made their living with cutlasses and spent most of their recreation time in the rum shops. It was the way disputes were settled and started.

Photo of a Jab Molassie by Quinten Questel; used under a CC license.

Back in the present day, Mark Lyndersay, via a series of thoughtful posts, contemplated the challenges facing “Carnival's leadership”. Naturally, he consulted “people whose work [he] enjoy[s] and who also have both opinions on and skin in the festival”. His experts included Leslie-Ann Boisselle, a ten-time queen of Carnival contestant who suggested that calypso should be taken out of Dimanche Gras:

‘Leave the kings and queens for Dimanche Gras because tourists don't understand the calypso but the visual medium of the mas resonates with them.’
She believes that both shows, a calypso final and a costume based Dimanche Gras could be ‘tight, well coordinated productions, professionally produced…make it something that could be filmed and marketed for sale, something that could be run on international tv as a two-hour special.’

“Carnival Queen”; photo by Quinten Questel, used under a CC license.

Kenwyn Murray, part-time lecturer at the University of the West Indies Carnival Studies Unit, thought that there should be more training in the Carnival arts:

‘What we admire about the mas of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s is what we forget about it. They came out of yards, where there was informal training going on. The event has moved out of ritualistic expression to a larger commercial activity. There has been unchecked growth and people have been participating in an ad hoc way, based on what they know and what they can rely on. Training in the industry needs to be looked at deliberately.’

To help meet meet the need, the university is now offering a Practitioners Certificate in the Carnival Arts.

“Future bat head” part of the Cat in Bag Productions 2014 Carnival presentation and an example of the skill of wire bending; photo by Georgia Popplewell, used under a CC license.

Blogger BC Pires had an interesting perspective:

‘I'd axe out VIP sections of anything, including declaring all-inclusive mas bands illegal. If we keep turning what used to be something that brought us all together into the main device for separating us, it will end in bloodshed on the streets, and not the one or two choppings or stabbings we have now. There will be an eruption of violence that will make the steelband clashes of old look like primary school recess lock neck. We will all be playing casualty.

No, put that change as two. The first firetrucking thing I'd do is force music systems and bands to keep their volumes to a healthy level. NOTHING is ruining Carnival now more than the earsplitting volume of the music, it's like being beaten up.’

In another post, Lyndersay addressed “the geography of Carnival” by itemizing all the controversies that took place this year with regard to parade routes:

The road, this Carnival makes clear, is no longer made to walk as Lord Kitchener sang.
It’s now an event management challenge that must be planned and curated with immaculate clarity if everyone who hopes to enjoy Carnival is to have their space.

The country’s largest annual festival is being convened along roadways that no longer meet the needs of the vehicular traffic they were originally designed for, so it’s no surprise that they are also inadequate to meet the surge in Carnival Tuesday foot traffic.

The tweaks and adjustments that have sought to meet the growth of the festival amount to little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
The good ship Carnival is listing badly and there seems to be a dearth of either creative or sensible thinking about how to address the problem.

He continued:

It’s been more than 60 years since the administration of Carnival came under the oversight of the State, and this premier event has attracted increased taxpayer funding even as the planning invested in its long term development has withered.

In that time, calypso has become a ward of the state, the steelband is in desperate decline and design has been balkanized into traditional and fun silos, neither of which has advanced the design of Carnival over the last two decades.
Carnival needs better analysis, better management and better organization.
The continuing wonder, that the event is so exciting…and so much fun should not cloud the thinking of the festival’s leadership.

It’s time to seriously examine the issues and make hard decisions about the festival itself that separate history, tradition and sentiment from reality.
Carnival is creatively reinvented from the ground up each year, but there is no reason that its infrastructure and organization should follow that model.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule: small, creative Carnival bands springing up and bringing together the best of art, design and social commentary, all in a fun package.

“‘Miss Miles’ setting up”; an example of one of the small bands that blends creative design with social commentary; photo by Georgia Popplewell, used under a CC license.

Finally, Lyndersay wondered about “how tissue thin the difference between modern soca and European dance music has become” and why local music just can't seem to break through internationally:

It’s not the only spot in the Carnival landscape where international breakthroughs seem imminent, and it also isn’t the first instance of the type of creative osmosis that’s brought the festival to international attention.

From Who let the dogs out to Minshall’s command performances for the Olympics, to the impact of Differentology on international music charts, the products, aesthetic and creative potential of Carnival always seem just on the verge of being a big thing, before retreating determinedly to the safety of the parochial.

What is it about T&T that brings us global attention, as calypso did in the 1940’s and 50’s, only to lose momentum?

In his estimation, “a misunderstanding of roles is a big part of it”:

The State really needs to decide whether it is an investor in Carnival or its sponsor. When Carnival stakeholders begin to gripe about the lavish freeness expected by representatives of the State during events, perhaps it’s time to admit that you’re a sponsor, and a loutish one at that.

Yet the conversation about Carnival is always about investment and returns and earnings, business terms that mean nothing when more than $200 million can be ploughed into the annual festival with no expectation of serious accountability for spending on that scale.

An investor considers a plan, puts money behind it and expects accurate reporting on the progress of the business.
A sponsor buys into a brand in the hopes of leveraging their own fortunes, their return comes in winning attention.
The state needs to decide which it is and stop trying to be the worst of both.
Similarly, the NCC [National Carnival Commission] really needs to decide exactly what it is, because it’s acting like the serf of the stakeholders instead of the convenor of Carnival.

He summarized the state of Carnival by saying:

Tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday, there will be much celebratory backpatting on the success of another edition of the festival.
This will happen regardless of the conspicuous failures of so many State sponsored events to galvanise public interest or to contribute to the formation of anything that might resemble a sustainable Carnival economy.
Next up is Lent, when the literal eating of fish will accelerate, despite another year’s lost opportunity during Carnival to meaningfully engage the metaphor of making fishers of men.

The images of the Jab Molassie and the Carnival Queen are by Quinten Questel, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license.

The images of the Future bat head and “Miss Miles” setting up are by Georgia Popplewell, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license.

Categories: Business Feed

Trinidad & Tobago Carnival in Danger?

Global Voices - Business Feed - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 9:39pm

This year's Trinidad and Tobago Carnival is practically over, but it has inspired a slew of blog posts – some explaining various aspects of the celebrations, but others lamenting the state of the festival.

Tony Deyal, writing at Abeng News Magazine, described it like this:

I am in Trinidad. It is hot and dry. The roads are crowded. The murder rate is high. The nights are noisy. It is a silly season beyond reason, adequate description and financial sanity. It is Carnival time.

The rest of his post was mostly a recollection of the “Old Time Carnival” of his childhood, but even amidst the revelry, he noted:

What struck me was that there was always an undercurrent of violence- perhaps because the majority of the people worked in the cane-fields, made their living with cutlasses and spent most of their recreation time in the rum shops. It was the way disputes were settled and started.

Photo of a Jab Molassie by Quinten Questel; used under a CC license.

Back in the present day, Mark Lyndersay, via a series of thoughtful posts, contemplated the challenges facing “Carnival's leadership”. Naturally, he consulted “people whose work [he] enjoy[s] and who also have both opinions on and skin in the festival”. His experts included Leslie-Ann Boisselle, a ten-time queen of Carnival contestant who suggested that calypso should be taken out of Dimanche Gras:

‘Leave the kings and queens for Dimanche Gras because tourists don't understand the calypso but the visual medium of the mas resonates with them.’
She believes that both shows, a calypso final and a costume based Dimanche Gras could be ‘tight, well coordinated productions, professionally produced…make it something that could be filmed and marketed for sale, something that could be run on international tv as a two-hour special.’

“Carnival Queen”; photo by Quinten Questel, used under a CC license.

Kenwyn Murray, part-time lecturer at the University of the West Indies Carnival Studies Unit, thought that there should be more training in the Carnival arts:

‘What we admire about the mas of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s is what we forget about it. They came out of yards, where there was informal training going on. The event has moved out of ritualistic expression to a larger commercial activity. There has been unchecked growth and people have been participating in an ad hoc way, based on what they know and what they can rely on. Training in the industry needs to be looked at deliberately.’

To help meet meet the need, the university is now offering a Practitioners Certificate in the Carnival Arts.

“Future bat head” part of the Cat in Bag Productions 2014 Carnival presentation and an example of the skill of wire bending; photo by Georgia Popplewell, used under a CC license.

Blogger BC Pires had an interesting perspective:

‘I'd axe out VIP sections of anything, including declaring all-inclusive mas bands illegal. If we keep turning what used to be something that brought us all together into the main device for separating us, it will end in bloodshed on the streets, and not the one or two choppings or stabbings we have now. There will be an eruption of violence that will make the steelband clashes of old look like primary school recess lock neck. We will all be playing casualty.

No, put that change as two. The first firetrucking thing I'd do is force music systems and bands to keep their volumes to a healthy level. NOTHING is ruining Carnival now more than the earsplitting volume of the music, it's like being beaten up.’

In another post, Lyndersay addressed “the geography of Carnival” by itemizing all the controversies that took place this year with regard to parade routes:

The road, this Carnival makes clear, is no longer made to walk as Lord Kitchener sang.
It’s now an event management challenge that must be planned and curated with immaculate clarity if everyone who hopes to enjoy Carnival is to have their space.

The country’s largest annual festival is being convened along roadways that no longer meet the needs of the vehicular traffic they were originally designed for, so it’s no surprise that they are also inadequate to meet the surge in Carnival Tuesday foot traffic.

The tweaks and adjustments that have sought to meet the growth of the festival amount to little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.
The good ship Carnival is listing badly and there seems to be a dearth of either creative or sensible thinking about how to address the problem.

He continued:

It’s been more than 60 years since the administration of Carnival came under the oversight of the State, and this premier event has attracted increased taxpayer funding even as the planning invested in its long term development has withered.

In that time, calypso has become a ward of the state, the steelband is in desperate decline and design has been balkanized into traditional and fun silos, neither of which has advanced the design of Carnival over the last two decades.
Carnival needs better analysis, better management and better organization.
The continuing wonder, that the event is so exciting…and so much fun should not cloud the thinking of the festival’s leadership.

It’s time to seriously examine the issues and make hard decisions about the festival itself that separate history, tradition and sentiment from reality.
Carnival is creatively reinvented from the ground up each year, but there is no reason that its infrastructure and organization should follow that model.

Of course, there are exceptions to the rule: small, creative Carnival bands springing up and bringing together the best of art, design and social commentary, all in a fun package.

“‘Miss Miles’ setting up”; an example of one of the small bands that blends creative design with social commentary; photo by Georgia Popplewell, used under a CC license.

Finally, Lyndersay wondered about “how tissue thin the difference between modern soca and European dance music has become” and why local music just can't seem to break through internationally:

It’s not the only spot in the Carnival landscape where international breakthroughs seem imminent, and it also isn’t the first instance of the type of creative osmosis that’s brought the festival to international attention.

From Who let the dogs out to Minshall’s command performances for the Olympics, to the impact of Differentology on international music charts, the products, aesthetic and creative potential of Carnival always seem just on the verge of being a big thing, before retreating determinedly to the safety of the parochial.

What is it about T&T that brings us global attention, as calypso did in the 1940’s and 50’s, only to lose momentum?

In his estimation, “a misunderstanding of roles is a big part of it”:

The State really needs to decide whether it is an investor in Carnival or its sponsor. When Carnival stakeholders begin to gripe about the lavish freeness expected by representatives of the State during events, perhaps it’s time to admit that you’re a sponsor, and a loutish one at that.

Yet the conversation about Carnival is always about investment and returns and earnings, business terms that mean nothing when more than $200 million can be ploughed into the annual festival with no expectation of serious accountability for spending on that scale.

An investor considers a plan, puts money behind it and expects accurate reporting on the progress of the business.
A sponsor buys into a brand in the hopes of leveraging their own fortunes, their return comes in winning attention.
The state needs to decide which it is and stop trying to be the worst of both.
Similarly, the NCC [National Carnival Commission] really needs to decide exactly what it is, because it’s acting like the serf of the stakeholders instead of the convenor of Carnival.

He summarized the state of Carnival by saying:

Tomorrow, on Ash Wednesday, there will be much celebratory backpatting on the success of another edition of the festival.
This will happen regardless of the conspicuous failures of so many State sponsored events to galvanise public interest or to contribute to the formation of anything that might resemble a sustainable Carnival economy.
Next up is Lent, when the literal eating of fish will accelerate, despite another year’s lost opportunity during Carnival to meaningfully engage the metaphor of making fishers of men.

The images of the Jab Molassie and the Carnival Queen are by Quinten Questel, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license.

The images of the Future bat head and “Miss Miles” setting up are by Georgia Popplewell, used under an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic Creative Commons license.

Categories: Business Feed

Dozens of Policemen Watch Hundreds of Macedonians March Against Poverty

Global Voices - Business Feed - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 7:19pm

As planned, at exactly 11:55 am, the “5 (minutes) to 12″ March Against Poverty began at the Parliament in capital city Skopje, on March 1, 2014. Photos and multimedia galleries from the march suggest about a thousand people participated with a high number of police officers cordoning their route. The event ended in an open-air “Concert for Dignity” at the Jadran Square.

In Macedonia, ranked among the poorest countries in Europe, every third citizen lives below the poverty line [pdf].

March Against Poverty in Skopje. Photo by author on March 1, 2014. CC-BY- 2.0

Organizers of the event, 8th of September and the Macedonian Platform Against Poverty, are demanding a change in social welfare laws to provide decent basic income for Macedonia's poorest citizens. The event proceeded peacefully, with one exception – a police officer harassed a journalist and protester.  Activist Petrit Saracini wrote [mk] on Facebook:

Dobro pomina marsot i koncertot protiv siromastijata, bez incidentite koi gi najavuvaa mediumite na vlasta. Osven eden moment, koga, koj drug, ako ne policijata, povotrno prekardasi, i legitimirase snimatel, a koga direktorkata na Helsinski gi prasala sto pravat, grubo ja otturnale. Pred lugje i kameri. Ic ne im cue. Na edvaj ni 1000 lugje izvadija 1000 dzandari. Nazdravje neka im se dnevnicite. I tie gi plakjame nie.

The march and the concert against poverty went well, without the incidents ‘predicted’ by pro-government media. Except at one point, when, who else but the police, went overboard, and asked for the ID of a cameramen. When the director of Helsinki Committee asked what they are doing, she was roughly pushed to the ground, in front of people and in front of cameras. They didn't care. For maybe less than 1000 people they had 1000 armed police officers. May they spend their overtime pay in health. We pay for them anyway.

The director of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, a human rights organization, Uranija Pirovska stated [mk] that she intended to file a complaint with the Ministry of Interior based on a video clip that documented the event, along with eyewitness testimonies.

In September 2013, the private television channel Nova TV reported and analyzed [mk] a similar incident, in which police forced their cameraman to delete footage of police aggression against protesters who were trying to protect a landmark Skopje public park from destruction. To date, no action has been taken against the perpetrator of this incident.

In front of government buildings protesters were met by a police cordon and a cordon of ancient statues- real archeological artifacts – set there in 2007. Under the Skopje 2014 project, the Government is turning the modernist facade into a faux-baroque style at a initial cost of 9 million euros. Photo by author. CC-BY.

The march was organized and promoted through a Facebook event page, a blog and Twitter under the ahashtags #5??12 and #5do12 on Twitter.

Categories: Business Feed

Dozens of Policemen Watch Hundreds of Macedonians March Against Poverty

Global Voices - Business Feed - Tue, 03/04/2014 - 7:19pm

As planned, at exactly 11:55 am, the “5 (minutes) to 12″ March Against Poverty began at the Parliament in capital city Skopje, on March 1, 2014. Photos and multimedia galleries from the march suggest about a thousand people participated with a high number of police officers cordoning their route. The event ended in an open-air “Concert for Dignity” at the Jadran Square.

In Macedonia, ranked among the poorest countries in Europe, every third citizen lives below the poverty line [pdf].

March Against Poverty in Skopje. Photo by author on March 1, 2014. CC-BY- 2.0

Organizers of the event, 8th of September and the Macedonian Platform Against Poverty, are demanding a change in social welfare laws to provide decent basic income for Macedonia's poorest citizens. The event proceeded peacefully, with one exception – a police officer harassed a journalist and protester.  Activist Petrit Saracini wrote [mk] on Facebook:

Dobro pomina marsot i koncertot protiv siromastijata, bez incidentite koi gi najavuvaa mediumite na vlasta. Osven eden moment, koga, koj drug, ako ne policijata, povotrno prekardasi, i legitimirase snimatel, a koga direktorkata na Helsinski gi prasala sto pravat, grubo ja otturnale. Pred lugje i kameri. Ic ne im cue. Na edvaj ni 1000 lugje izvadija 1000 dzandari. Nazdravje neka im se dnevnicite. I tie gi plakjame nie.

The march and the concert against poverty went well, without the incidents ‘predicted’ by pro-government media. Except at one point, when, who else but the police, went overboard, and asked for the ID of a cameramen. When the director of Helsinki Committee asked what they are doing, she was roughly pushed to the ground, in front of people and in front of cameras. They didn't care. For maybe less than 1000 people they had 1000 armed police officers. May they spend their overtime pay in health. We pay for them anyway.

The director of the Macedonian Helsinki Committee, a human rights organization, Uranija Pirovska stated [mk] that she intended to file a complaint with the Ministry of Interior based on a video clip that documented the event, along with eyewitness testimonies.

In September 2013, the private television channel Nova TV reported and analyzed [mk] a similar incident, in which police forced their cameraman to delete footage of police aggression against protesters who were trying to protect a landmark Skopje public park from destruction. To date, no action has been taken against the perpetrator of this incident.

In front of government buildings protesters were met by a police cordon and a cordon of ancient statues- real archeological artifacts – set there in 2007. Under the Skopje 2014 project, the Government is turning the modernist facade into a faux-baroque style at a initial cost of 9 million euros. Photo by author. CC-BY.

The march was organized and promoted through a Facebook event page, a blog and Twitter under the ahashtags #5??12 and #5do12 on Twitter.

Categories: Business Feed

Solving Poverty in Malaysia

Global Voices - Business Feed - Mon, 03/03/2014 - 6:53pm

The group Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia is pushing for the passage of a Social Inclusion Act to address the problem of poverty in Malaysia:

Top-down prescription is not working despite the claims otherwise by the government. For aid to really work, one needs to get into the fine-grain pockets of pain and the ignored because each case is unique. For one it may be about education, for another about a gambling habit or a handicap or of self-esteem. It's not about opening the money tap per se, but how you distribute and use these funds.

Categories: Business Feed

Solving Poverty in Malaysia

Global Voices - Business Feed - Mon, 03/03/2014 - 6:53pm

The group Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia is pushing for the passage of a Social Inclusion Act to address the problem of poverty in Malaysia:

Top-down prescription is not working despite the claims otherwise by the government. For aid to really work, one needs to get into the fine-grain pockets of pain and the ignored because each case is unique. For one it may be about education, for another about a gambling habit or a handicap or of self-esteem. It's not about opening the money tap per se, but how you distribute and use these funds.

Categories: Business Feed

Funding Challenges for Scientific Research in France, African Countries

Global Voices - Business Feed - Mon, 03/03/2014 - 3:22am

The importance of the role of scientific research in the economy of the world's countries is rarely disputed. However this impact is mostly indirect, or direct but with only a long-term impact, due to the benefits of scientific discoveries. So the problem of research profitability in the short- to medium-term remains for many countries.

Research financing follows a variety of rules, with funds coming from the public or private sector. For public research, the French National Research Agency uses a few numbers to explain how research is financed in France [fr]:

Les laboratoires de recherche publics sont en partie financés par les crédits budgétaires des universités, des organismes de recherche publics et des agences de financement, dont l'Agence nationale de la recherche (A.N.R.). Ils bénéficient d'autres dotations provenant des régions françaises, des associations caritatives, de l'industrie et de l'Europe. [...] 7 000 projets financés rassemblant plus de 22 000 équipes de recherche publiques et privées entre 2005-2009 et le montant cumulé des financements 2005-2009 est de 3 milliards d'euros.

Public research laboratories are partially funded by budget appropriation from universities, public research bodies, and financial agencies, such as the French National Research Agency (A.N.R.). They also benefit from allocations from French administrative regions, charitable groups, industry, and from Europe. [...] 7,000 projects funded, bringing together over 22,000 private and public research teams between 2005-2009. The cumulative amount financed between 2005-2009 is three billion euros.

Public research funding in France – Public domain.
Research in France is financed by universities, research bodies, and the National Agency for Research (ANR). It also gets contributions from the pharma industry and European Commission.

Despite the resulting efforts of the government to re-energise the sector [fr], French research is suffering in comparison to its Anglo-Saxon neighbours and is showing signs of running out of steam. David Larousserie puts forward the premise that scientific research in France is competitive but brings little return, in an article entitled “The limited efficacy of public research funding” [fr]:

Les experts soulignent aussi “les bonnes performances en recherche de la France” mais les jugent “moyennes en termes d'innovation et de retombées économiques”. La France publie beaucoup (6e rang mondial) et dépose bon nombre de brevets (4e rang sur les dépôts en Europe), mais des indicateurs “d'innovation” la placent au 24e rang.

Experts also emphasise “the good performance of research in France” but judge it “average in terms of innovation and economic return”. France publishes a lot (ranked 6th in the world) and files a good number of patents (4th place out of all European filings), but ranks 24th according to “innovation” indicators.

He adds that:

Pour expliquer la réduction des marges de manœuvre en dépit d'une enveloppe globale en croissance, les magistrats rappellent que la cause essentielle est l'augmentation des frais de personnel dans les organismes de recherche. Au CNRS, avec des effectifs de fonctionnaires stables, la subvention publique a augmenté de 293 millions d'euros entre 2006 et 2011

To explain the reduced room to manoeuvre despite a growing global budget, magistrates recall that the root cause is the increase in personnel costs in research organisations. At the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS), with a stable employee workforce, public subsidy increased by 293 billion euros between 2006 and 2011.

Others think that there are different factors involved, like Patrick Fauconnier, who believes that coordination between the different research organisations leaves a lot to be desired [fr]:

Quand on veut monter une Unité mixte de recherche (UMR), la structure qui permet de partager des contrats de recherche, par exemple entre une université et le CNRS, beaucoup de temps et d’argent sont gâchés en gestion de problèmes administratifs complexes.

When we want to create a joint research unit (UMR), the structure which enables the sharing of research contracts (between a university and the CNRS for example), a lot of time and money is wasted in dealing with complex administrative problems.

NASA researchers on Project Stardust – Public domain

Research in Africa

If research is experiencing financial difficulties in France, it's still in its early stages in most African countries. Thus only South Africa appears in the top 30 countries in terms of investment in research and development (R&D). Worse, no French-speaking African country appears in the top 70 of countries investing in research.

And yet Juian Siddle explains that the African continent has everything it needs to become the next large global scientifc hub:

The groundwork is there – knowledge, ingenuity, willingness to learn and adapt, coupled with the rapid expansion of digital technology. All of this is really allowing Africa to play a major part in global scientific collaborations.

Calestous Juma, a professor of the Practice of International Development at Harvard University, adds that the context for the African continent is different:

The strategic focus for Africa should therefore be on generating research that has immediate local use. It is through such strategies that Africa will be able to make its own unique contributions to the global scientific enterprise

Chemistry lesson in Kenya from un.org, with their permission

Are we really helping research?

But perhaps, despite promises of help from many governments, scientific research is missing the real support of public opinion, support which would allow it to put pressure on politicians to help research in a sustainable way. That's John Skylar's argument, in an article which responds to the fact that the page “I fucking love science” is a viral phenomenon on the web, but in reality few countries are ready to invest in quality research: 

The pattern you’re seeing is a steady drop in funding of science by the government over the last 10 or 20 years. [...] You know what budget doesn’t match this trend? U.S. defense spending. [...] If you loved science, you’d vote based on candidates who want to increase funding for it. You’d make it an issue that actually generates media debate, that sees equal time with the wars we fight

Categories: Business Feed

Trinidad & Tobago: Between Governments

Global Voices - Business Feed - Sun, 03/02/2014 - 8:28pm

In the context of the number and scale of projects being undertaken via government to government arrangements, Afra Raymond explains why Trinidad and Tobago's current high-level State mission to China is “a critical issue to delve into.”

Categories: Business Feed

In Cuba, Everything Increases Except State Workers’ Salaries

Global Voices - Business Feed - Sun, 03/02/2014 - 5:37pm

The price of food products has been increasing in Cuba, while workers’ wages remain unchanged. (Photo courtesy of the author.)

The recently finalized congress of the Workers’ Central Union of Cuba (CTC), the only organization of its kind in the country, concluded with the confirmation that unless there is an increase in productivity, there will be no increase in the salaries of Cuban state workers.

In Cuba, the median salary of state workers stands at 15 dollars per month, according to the exchange rate of Cuba's national currency. Meanwhile, the cost of living has increased in recent years, after the implementation of economic measures such as the elimination of certain food products from the basic food basket subsidized by the State. In addition, there has been a significant increase in food prices in the private market.

According to the president of Cuba, Raúl Castro,

sería irresponsable y con efectos contraproducentes disponer un aumento generalizado de los salarios en el sector estatal, ya que lo único que causaría es una espiral inflacionaria en los precios, de no estar debidamente respaldado por un incremento suficiente de la oferta de bienes y servicios.

“It would be irresponsible and counterproductive to order a generalized salary increase in the state sector, because it would only cause an inflationary spiral unless it is fully backed by a matching increase in the goods and services on offer.”

Making a salary increase conditional on increased productivity has refocused the debate on the vicious cycle that has ensnared Cuba in recent times.

The recently elected secretary of the CTC, Ulises Guilarte, pointed out the consequences of this cycle [es]:

Los problemas del salario se identifican como el principal obstáculo para el incremento de la productividad y la eficiencia, señalándose en no pocos lugares como causa de desmotivación, apatía y desinterés por el trabajo, con las consiguientes afectaciones en la disciplina laboral, el éxodo de trabajadores calificados hacia actividades mejor remuneradas pero menos exigentes desde el punto de vista profesional, produciéndose sin dudas un proceso de descapitalización de la fuerza de trabajo, lo que ha impactado fundamentalmente en las ramas industriales básicas, el Ministerio de la Construcción y otros, además de la negativa cada vez más frecuente a ser promovidos a responsabilidades de dirección.

Salary problems are the main obstacle to increasing productivity and efficiency in many places, causing apathy and lack of motivation and interest in work, with consequent effects on discipline and the exodus of qualified workers towards better compensated and less demanding professional activities, resulting in a tangible decapitalization of the work force, which has fundamentally impacted the basic branches of industry, the construction ministry, and others, as well as ever-increasing denials of promotions to leadership positions.

In his speech, Raúl Castro confirmed that medical workers would receive a salary increase, “given that the country’s fundamental income at this time is a result of the work of thousands of doctors offering their services abroad.”

In January 2011, the Brazilian ambassador in Havana announced [es] that there would be 11,000 Cuban doctors working in the poorest and most remote parts of his country that year.

The South-South Cooperation, a partner of the Pan-American Health Organization, will give around $500 million dollars to Cuba annually.

On his blog Esquinas de Cuba, Alejandro Ulloa argues [es]:

(…) De no lograr abundantes inversiones extranjeras, al igual que la recapitalización de importantes sectores productivos, la economía cubana estará moviéndose en este círculo vicioso, que atenta a todas luces contra el incremento del poder adquisitivo de los salarios, verdadero problema que afecta a la población hoy.

(…) Without significant foreign investments, as well as the recapitalization of major productive sectors, the Cuban economy will continue in this vicious cycle, which clearly threatens the increase of the purchasing power of wages, the real problem affecting the population today.

Categories: Business Feed

The Sustainable Fishing Practices of Dhivehi Reef Fishermen

Global Voices - Business Feed - Fri, 02/28/2014 - 6:53pm

Maldivian blogger Hani Amir writes about the traditional fishing methods of the reef fishermen of Maldives which include catching tons of fish with their hands, instead of nets or rods. The bloggers also sheds light on how they are being exploited by greedy resort owners who tries to exploit them by not paying what they deserve.

Categories: Business Feed

Macedonians Prepare to March Against Poverty in Skopje

Global Voices - Business Feed - Fri, 02/28/2014 - 2:15pm

Macedonia is one of Europe's poorest countries, with an estimated 30 percent of the population living in poverty and a similar percentage of its people are out of work. The country even ranked as the most miserable in the world on The Economist's 2012 Misery Index, which ranks countries by unemployment rate plus inflation rate.

Two Macedonian non-governmental organizations, Platform Against Poverty and 8th of September, are trying to do something about it. They are organizing a March Against Poverty in the capital city Skopje for March 1, 2014 at 11:55 under the symbolic title “5 minutes to 12.”

The march is being organized and promoted through a Facebook event page and a blog by the same name, as well as under hashtags #5??12 and #5do12 on Twitter. It will end in an open air concert dubbed the Concert for Dignity. 

“5 minutes to 12″ flyer explains the march route: Parliament, Government and Jadran Square.

The organizers of the march explain [mk] their reasons on the official website:

????????? ? ????? ??????????, ????? ??? ????????? ????? ??????? ?? ???. ???? ?????? ?? ???????? ?? ?? ????????? ? ?? ?? ??????? ????????????? ???? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ???????????, ?? ? ???? ??? ?????? ?? ???????? ?? ???????? ?? ??????? ? ?? ????????? ?? ????? ?? ???? ??? ?????? ????

?é ?????? ? ??? ??? ????????? ????????? ?? ????????? „????? ????? ?? ???????“, ? ?? ??????????? ?? ?? ?????? ?? ??????? ?? ???? ??? ???? ????.

??? ????? ???? ???? ?????? ?? ???????? ???? ????????? ?????? ?? ?????? ? ??????, ???? ???? ???? ????? ?????? ?? ????????? ?? ???????????? ?? ??????? ???????? ?? ?????. ???? ???????????? ??? ?? ?? ???????????? ?? ????????? ???? ? ???? ?? ??????????? ????????? ?? ?? ??????, ????????? ?????? ?? ???? ? ???????????. ??????, ??????? ???? ???? ????????? ???? ??????? ? ????? ??????? ????? ??? ????? ?????????? ?? ??????? ?? ????? ????? ? ??????? ?? ?????? ?? ??????? ?????.

The answer is simple: because the citizens need it. This event calls upon all who live in poverty, but also those who want to stand on the side of the people and speak in the name of the voiceless.

We are glad that citizens have started asking “why should we go out,” and are not just joining marches by directive.

Throughout the month of March, we want to show that citizens live worse [than before], that no government so far has contributed to the improvement of their quality of life. That the stats presented to us about economic development and increase of social transfers are not real, that citizens live in misery and poverty. We also consider all previous events successful and good because every time the people go out in the streets they raise their voice for a better life.

Prior to the march, the organizers have been conducting research [mk] with focus groups and organizing public debates to get feedback and information from the people. They strive to get public support so they can initiate changes to the Law on Social Protection and debate in the Parliament for ensuring a decent minimal income for all.

To aid in the promotion and give a voice to the voiceless, several students from the Skopje Faculty of Dramatic Arts made videos in which they read portions of statements from the survey.

The monologue in the above video [mk] is transcribed and translated below:

??? ??? ????????? ????? ? ???? ??? ????. ?? ??? ????????? ? ????? ????????? ????? ??? ?????? ??????. ??? ??? ? ??????? ?? ????? ???? ?? ????????? – ???? ?? ?? ?? ??????. ??????????, ???? ?? ?? ????????. ??? ? ?? ?????? ? ????. ? ???? ???????? ?? ??????, ????? ???? ?? ?? ???????. ????? ?????? ?? ?????? ?? ?????????, ?? ??????? ????????… ????? ?? ?? ??????. ???? ?? ????? ?????, ?????… ? ??? ????? ?? ?????? ? ??????. ? ?????? ?? ???? ?? ?? ?????. ??? ???? ????? ?? ????? ?????. ?? ?????? ???? ??? ? ?????. ????? ?? ?? ??????? ?????. ???? ?????? ?? ????? ?? ???? ??? ????? ???? ?? ?????????. ?? ?? ?? ????? ?? ??? ??? ???? ? ?? ??? ??? ?????? ??????. ?? ?? ?? ?? ?????? ?? ?? ?? ????????

I am a single mother of two. Unemployed, I take social benefits of 3,000 denars [about 67 US dollars]. In our place it is shameful to say you are poor – everybody will laugh at you. Simply, they won't accept you. This is bad for the kids too. No matter which institution you go to, nobody will help you. I spent years dragging in the social welfare, in all kinds of institutions… Nobody helps. They just say wait, wait… and all your life passes waiting. While the kids have nothing to eat. Those kids need some food. They will also need to go to school. You'll need to clothe them in something. You only make the matters worse if you say you are poor. What should I do with those two kids and those 3,000 denars. What should I feed them? What clothes can I buy?

Categories: Business Feed

Cocoa farmers get first taste of chocolate

CNN - Business Feed - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 2:04pm
Cocoa farmers taste chocolate for the first time and after the smiles, the math as they calculate the markup, but also a pride that their work is part of the process.
Categories: Business Feed

Key trends from Mobile World Congress

CNN - Business Feed - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 1:48pm
Mobile World Congress spans the full spectrum of untethered gadgetry, from the next generation of mobile phone networks to wireless charging technology.
Categories: Business Feed

19 billion reasons for opportunity in Ukraine

CNN - Business Feed - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 9:46am
Alec Ross says a long tradition of Ukrainian emigres who achieve success in the U.S. sends a key message
Categories: Business Feed

Saving Primate Lemurs

Global Voices - Business Feed - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 6:33am

Mother lemur and her offspring by Tambako on Flickr CC-BY-2.0

A group of researchers from Madagascar, Canada, UK and USA published a detailed report in Science that alerts on the possible extinctions of 90% of the known lemurs of Madagascar following the prolonged political crisis in the country.  One of the researcher, Christoph Schwitzer,  explains to the Scientific American the dire consequences of such threat:

lemurs have important ecological and economic roles, and are essential to maintaining Madagascar’s unique forests through seed dispersal and attracting income through ecotourism.

Another researcher, Ian Colquhoun, explains what can be done to protect the unique Malagasy ecosystem in which the lemurs can thrive:

We highlight three key ways to save lemurs: community-based conservation management, the long-term presence of researchers at field sites, and ecotourism.

Categories: Business Feed

Selling the perfect filming locations

CNN - Business Feed - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 6:11am
Miles of sun-kissed beaches, breathtaking mountains and lush rainforests bathed in ethereal lights -- South Africa's varied and dramatic landscape has provided a photogenic backdrop for an increasing number of Hollywood productions in recent years.
Categories: Business Feed

Selling the perfect filming locations

CNN - Business Feed - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 6:11am
Miles of sun-kissed beaches, breathtaking mountains and lush rainforests bathed in ethereal lights -- South Africa's varied and dramatic landscape has provided a photogenic backdrop for an increasing number of Hollywood productions in recent years.
Categories: Business Feed

How ethical are our food companies?

CNN - Business Feed - Thu, 02/27/2014 - 5:05am
Love that chocolate Haagen-Dazs ice-cream? But what about the way its makers treat their farmers? How about KitKat and the way its production impacts the environment?
Categories: Business Feed
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