DannyQuah

Making large things visible to the human eye

Category Archives: malaysia

The world needs new leadership not from those whose lives have been easy, but from those whose lives have been hard.

Malaysia finds itself more and more in international news headlines. No one needs to tell ordinary Malaysians how their daily lives fill to overflowing with myriad concerns and challenges. The nation’s political leadership is challenged and changed with lively ongoing debate. Malaysia’s people unite in the face of adversity and national tragedy, and in national sporting triumph. Increased international competition and a global consciousness in its people; finite oil and gas and other rapidly-depleting natural resources; a promise of ever greater national unity that many feel has failed: there is no room for political and economic complacency.

If the world were a democracy, this is where  decisions would be made on matters of global significance.    (Idea from <A HREF="http://techno-anthropology.blogspot.co.uk/2013/05/the-valeriepieris-circle.html">Kenneth Myers, The Valeriepieris Circle, May 2013</A>.)

If the world were a democracy, this is where decisions would be made on matters of global significance. (Idea from Kenneth Myers, The Valeriepieris Circle, May 2013.)

Malaysia’s stock of talented and hardworking people want their economy and their fellow citizens to succeed. But they struggle daily in circumstances they consider unfair and unjust. This is a nation that sees ethnic, religious, and urban-rural fracture. It sees heated parliamentary debate that tests the noble ideals of democracy, at the same time that it witnesses manipulation of the ugliest of populist instincts, and allegations of high-level corruption and wrong-doing.

And Malaysia’s place in the world?  Malaysia today invests more in Africa than does China.  In London commercial real estate, Malaysia is a bigger presence than is China.  Even as China intends US$1tn in trade with ASEAN by 2020, it is Malaysia that remains China’s largest ASEAN trading partner, with bilateral trade continuing to rise 16% a year.

What about incidents such as the MH370 tragedy and their impact on Malaysia’s state relations generally, but with China in particular?  Angela Merkel might have been irritated with the US for its bugging her cellphone, but Germany did not declare Transatlantic war as a result.  The US became global hegemon through building inclusive collaborative state relations with those around it.  So too if China is to become the benevolent leader of nations that is a global hegemon, that will be through China’s continuing to build relations of trust and cooperation with countries like Malaysia.

Malaysia is a full-service, one-stop shop, middle-income level developmental experience.

It is appropriate then that the eyes of the global community are transfixed on what happens here. Malaysia sets an example—good or bad—on how the rest of humanity will need to deal with the great challenges of the coming century.

The rest of the world sees hope in Malaysia, not because life and progress here have been easy, but the opposite, in how Malaysia has met its challenges. Today hundreds of countries around the world face the middle-income trap, a slowdown in economic progress before the country reaches maximum potential: What has made Malaysia believe it is successfully escaping the Middle-Income Trap?

Today nations the world over confront the racial and social tensions from sharp income inequality. What in Malaysia’s political complexion allowed it four decades ago to roll out its national dream, a New Economic Policy that would eradicate poverty regardless of race and that would eliminate the identification of economic function with ethnicity? If Malaysia has lost its way in that struggle, how have its leaders and its people together fought back, to keep alive that national dream?

How has Malaysia continued to succeed following the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, with global financial systems in disarray? In this time Malaysia has kept secure its credit systems, ranked in 2014 first in the world in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business survey. Malaysia has simultaneously maintained a no. 6 ranking for well-developed and secure financial markets and a no.8 ranking for low burden of government regulation, both in the 2014 World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Index. How did Malaysia do this?

In 2013 Transparency International ranked Malaysia worst in 30 countries surveyed for bribery. The same year the Asia-Pacific Fraud Survey Report Series ranked Malaysia worst in the region for corruption and bribery (alongside China, Indonesia, and Vietnam): how will Malaysia’s leadership deal with this challenge?

So, to repeat, why is Malaysia the focus of so much international attention? Because Malaysia has had to confront problems that are in extreme those everyone else needs to deal with as well. The example Malaysia sets is key, not only for its internal political dynamics but also for its external relations.

Emerging economies in general and the East in particular realise they can no longer run unthinkingly on Western models of propriety, policy, and governance. Even the West today does not run on Western models of propriety, policy, and governance.

The world has grown economically and financially unstable because its historical global hegemon has gone missing in action. The US is no longer the fount of legitimacy; it is no longer benevolent builder of inclusive international systems. The US has failed on the world stage, partly from the rise of the East, partly from its domestic political paralysis. But this vacuum in world leadership has not met useful replacement. Instead, in this uncoordinated and leaderless world, political leaders pay mind ever more only to short-term national interests, ignoring how their actions inadvertently destabilize the global economy.

With Malaysia as an important hub, the ASEAN region today faces these same challenges of cooperation and leadership. ASEAN seeks ever greater consolidation towards an ASEAN Economic Community by 2015. ASEAN’s concerns might be regional rather than global, but the problems are identical to those faced by a world economy that is uncoordinated and leaderless. The danger is how the benefits to regional economic integration and cooperation might be sacrificed on the altar of national expediency, as member states attempt to engage with domestic populations showing ever greater political clout, ever more visible political dissatisfaction, and ever greater sensitivity to the need for the benefits to economic growth being distributed equitably.

How has Malaysia dealt with these tensions internally, and how has it remained hopeful for successful development towards a first-world country? How is Malaysia navigating regional relations across groups unified neither by political vision nor ethnic affinity?

Today Malaysia sits on a cauldron of profound, history-changing domestic dynamics. It sits on a hub of critical regionalisation in a period when the world economy is dramatically shifting.

The world needs new political and economic models of success and leadership, not from those whose lives have been easy but from those whose lives have been hard. Malaysia needs to step up to that challenge. Its success will be good for its people and for the world.

(Adapted from the author’s “Malaysia – Why the World Wants In“, The Edge, 17 March 2014)

 

OFA – Be a little foolish, be a little different

PFS to celebrate its 200th year

PFS to celebrate its 200th year – from The Star newspaper

When I left Penang for university in the US, I also left Penang Free School before the school year ended. I felt I did so without disrupting much the life of the School: I wasn’t editor of the School magazine. I wasn’t Break Monitor, Class Monitor, Traffic Warden, House Prefect, or School Prefect. I didn’t captain any School sports team. In some subjects, I would usually get close to failing marks — ok, not in “some subjects” but in Art, specifically. Fellow students who were my seniors would routinely reject my writing submissions to school publications for my being too flippant (I had to look up what “flippant” meant the first time I heard back from one editor). School teachers would openly warn me in class for being disruptive, every so often. Fellow students who were my seniors and who trained with me in gymnastics would ask me why I kept coming back as I never seemed to get any stronger, faster, or better.

At PFS I hadn’t failed at everything. But I wasn’t a remarkable student at PFS. In the eyes of people in charge, I was in the middle of the pack. That felt about right to me as that’s where most people are, generally. Where I’d not done well at School, I figured perhaps those things didn’t matter.

I’m now Professor of Economics at the LSE. My CV makes plain what that involves. But compared to when I was a PFS student, I have also had to do a few things where I have felt a little more exposed — no longer so much middle of the pack — and that are less obviously associated with my job but perhaps more interesting. These are not typically things that come with being a Professor. So I undertake added risks when I take them on.

Before thousands of graduating university students and their families, for three years as Head of Department for Economics at LSE, I announced the names of fresh graduates and congratulated them as they undertook the last of their university rites. Over decades of teaching and travelling, I lectured to tens of thousands of people — in New Zealand, Beijing, Southeast Asia, the Gulf, and nations in between all the way through to North and South America. CNN, Reuters, Bloomberg, and the BBC tell me they broadcast to hundreds of millions of people worldwide — so I could potentially have spoken to some reasonable fraction of that many people each time I’ve appeared on TV or radio from London.

My research has, over the years, varied from the extremely mathematical and obscure on the one hand, to the politically more visible on the other. As a consequence, I’ve gotten feedback on what I do from many different segments of society. Some of my writings have been translated into 18 different languages. What I work on now, the rise of the East in the global economy, gets more than usually varied reactions. Some tell me to hide away this work:

‘Americans, as is, are already paranoid enough, just short of trumping up a shooting war with China. Can you please tone down your “research”, and better yet file it in your basement and wait for 50 years before publishing them? Please let the world be a more peaceful place.’

counts among the gentler of messages I regularly receive. Other feedback can be slightly more encouraging.

Not that I think I have to be ready for my own shooting war, but I also train regularly in taekwon-do, now as a second-dan blackbelt. Five years after I started taekwon-do here in the UK, I managed to fight my way to being runner-up in sparring at the British championships and I managed to become British champion in patterns.

When I correlate the things I do now that draw for me the greatest sense of achievement with what I’d previously done well at PFS, I’m struck by how orthogonal these two sets of attributes are. At PFS I’d excelled in mathematics and science, but that is now only a small part of what I need to do to be a productive contributing member of the community. What matters more instead? A good sense of of what is artistically compelling and linguistically convincing. A political awareness of what ought to matter to people in international society. Articulatenesss in writing and speaking, and an ability to debate effectively. Physical acuity and a feeling of confidence and security in my own skin.

What is strange is that those characteristics I now find most valuable are the same as those where PFS had challenged me most and found me most wanting, exactly those areas I’d been most dismissive of when I’d been at PFS (they were only “soft skills”).

Perhaps PFS does this to everyone, although in different ways. PFS is an educational institution of such deep and profound historical achievement, it ferrets out those areas where you the student need most to build, and then it challenges you there. How you respond — do you turn your back and say it’s all meaningless; do you say, let me learn so I can be better — is up to you.

At PFS, as in most of life, you only get one go-round. You can make that one pass-through be everything to you, or you can make it mean much less. On the one hand, this lesson I’ve learnt about PFS as an institution is awesomely frightening: no one there is going to give you easy answers but you can be sure they’ll be there to ask you the hard questions. On the other hand, this realization is staggeringly optimistic: PFS challenges each of us to leave as better people than when we began at the School. And by being a little foolish — admitting we don’t know everything even as we don’t pander to everything old people say they want us to be — we can each indeed end up a little better.

(This appears in FIDELIS, the 200th anniversary commemorative book of the Old Frees Association.)

Malaysia’s New Economic Model: Making choices

In June 2009, Malaysia’s Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak asked if I would serve on his council of economic advisors, the National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC). This Council was to come up with a New Economic Model for the country. It would not be a group that got together every month to finetune the economy. This Council was not to sift through the entrails of inventory reports, and propose economic policies to lean against the wind.
1. Background
No, the task assigned the NEAC was to put Malaysia back on a high-growth path, reinstating Vision 2020 that Malaysia would within these next 10 years achieve the status of a developed nation. Council was to do this against a post-1997 background of annual economic growth having nearly halved; investment as a fraction of GDP having plummeted to 50% what it used to be (private investment, to one third); with the economy relying on a workforce of which four-fifths were educated only up high-school level while over one quarter of local public university graduates remained unemployed 6 months after graduation, and with the human capital brain-drain becoming freshly re-energized (350,000 Malaysians in 2008 lived and worked abroad, half of them with university education).

By 2007, Malaysia seemed as far from the World Bank’s notion of a high-income economy as a decade earlier, in contrast to economies such as Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland, all of whom had by 2008 broken through that high-income boundary but had earlier been roughly level with Malaysia.
Yet, Malaysia had been previously identified by the Spence Commission on Growth and Development as one of only 13 countries in the world that had for more than 25 years grown at rates exceeding 7% annually. At different times since the 1960s, despite having a population not even one-third the UK’s, Malaysia had been the world’s largest producer of tin, of rubber, and of palm oil.
Today, forty percent of Malaysia’s households earn less than US$15 a day (RM1500 a month), two thirds the World Bank’s low-income threshold. With Malaysia’s domestic income distribution what it is, only one million people pay income tax at the highest rate of 26%; there is no goods and services tax. Oil and gas revenues have, on occasion, provided up to nearly half the government’s total revenues, although by 2014 Malaysia is expected to become a net importer of oil. As much as 20% of the nation’s public expenditures routinely get spent on subsidies that keep prices of basic goods low but distort reality for Malaysia’s citizens.
Certain policy questions – for instance, monetary control and inflation; financial markets oversight, regulation, and development – are outside the NEAC’s remit, and rightly so. In Malaysia, all those issues were taken care of by others, and already attain world-class standards of performance.
The large facts I’ve just described seemed to me (and many other observers) precisely the ones raising the critical, first-order challenges for economic policy in Malaysia. The problem was how to organize them coherently and understand their resolution. But there is, further, the other critical, first-order challenge unmentioned so far: namely, Malaysia’s 40-year-old program of affirmative action.
I say unmentioned but of course that is not how the outside world viewed this. The international press emphasized most of all this dimension to Malaysia’s policy framework; I will bring this out further in the discussion that follows. For now, however, I just note that some foreign financial houses I spoke to about NEAC work downplayed the significance of all the other problems I have mentioned. They said to me, “Malaysia needs to fix its affirmative-action program; everything else follows.”
That proposition, by itself, is almost surely demonstrably false. On the other hand, the perception is obviously one that colors the views of many market participants who actually shift significant financial resources.
Article 153 of Malaysia’s Constitution, ratified in 1957, requires that the King protect the special position in Malaysia of the Bumiputras (ethnic Malays and a small number of other indigenous groups). The Article allows the federal government to protect Bumiputra interests by establishing quotas for public scholarships, public education, and the civil service.
In 1971, following racial riots, declaration of a state of national emergency, and suspension of Parliament, the then-Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak—father of the current Prime Minister—introduced the New Economic Policy (NEP). This policy sought to eradicate poverty regardless of race and to eliminate the identification of ethnicity with economic function. The enabler for both these goals would be rapid economic growth, the speedy expansion of the economic pie to divide across all Malaysians, so that no subgroup would feel absolutely disadvantaged. A key feature of the NEP was its effort to raise Bumiputra equity ownership from 2.4% in 1971 up to 30% within two decades.
What has NEP progress been? At a fixed absolute income threshold (its exact value holding no significance as long as it’s fixed and applies across the board), poverty rates for Bumiputras declined from 65% in 1970 to 5% in 2007, while that for Malaysians overall, from 49% to 4%; Chinese, 26% to 1%; Indians, 39% to 2% (Table 4, p. 57, NEM). Wealth figures are widely disputed but most sources give Bumiputra equity ownership of 2–4% in 1971; official KL Stock Exchange statistics suggest Bumiputra shares of 29% by 1990 and 37% by 1996.
That was the background when in August 2009 PM Najib Razak delivered his keynote speech at the NEAC’s inaugural meeting, asking Council for ideas and direction to transform Malaysia into a developed nation by 2020. Malaysia, having successfully drawn foreign investment as low-cost producer was populated with businesses that, at the margin, had neither incentive nor vision to climb the quality ladder. Infrastructure and expertise in key areas remained under-developed. For Malaysia as small open economy, the global trading environment has already shown time and again how it could change suddenly, as it had just done during the 2008 global financial crisis, and further looked set to change even more dramatically but less suddenly from longer-term global carbon considerations. Reforms already begun in Malaysia by the Central Bank, the Securities Commission, and others were already liberalizing capital markets and taking forwards expertise and comparative advantage in Islamic Finance. Government transformation work had already begun to introduce meritocracy and performance measurement in the public sector itself.
What could Council do to help Malaysia re-locate its strategic position in the global economy?
2. The New Economic Model

In the ensuing six months, Council met 4 times in Kuala Lumpur. At these meetings, Council members listened to presentations, mapped strategic visions, and debated subtle differences in emphases. Now and then, we would as a group take such a big-picture perspective that we would form a collective blindspot over the single largest difficulty in whatever we were discussing, completely missing the key concern. Now and then, we would micro-drill down and heatedly argue over whether the appropriate punctuation should be a comma or a semi-colon. But all of us remained energetic and enthusiastic and committed, and sometime during the 15 hours of meeting each day, or in seemingly interminable rounds of email 24/7, we would correct course and converge on the right balance.
We agreed our report had to be in two steps: First, to identify, propose, and persuade on the over-arching framework and strategic vision; second, to steer from that vision its delivery to be led by the executive branch and implemented by the civil service. Without successfuly convincing on the first, the second would never be executed. Without successfully executing the second, the first would have been in vain.
The single big-picture vision was that Malaysia had to become an advanced economy by 2020. Sure that included the Malaysian economy generating sufficiently high income. But that vision also included a subtext of inclusiveness – so that the poorest and most vulnerable in society would be taken care of – and one of sustainability, so that higher economic growth would continue into the future, not at the expense of degrading the environment for generations to follow.
Council concluded many of Malaysia’s malperforming situations were inter-linked. Underperformance in one setting was the rational response to underperformance in the next: Why work hard in school if you’re convinced it doesn’t benefit you afterwards? Why work hard in your job if your productivity is held back by so many unskilled around you? In these circumstances, what is needed is a big push to break out of that vicious circle of under-performance. But disruption would be needed not just in your own circle of school-mates and colleagues, but everywhere in the economy. Hence, we emphasized the big push of economic transformation needed to break the logjam of entrenched, special interests. We sought to build momentum and confidence in the mindset of citizens that more positive changes would continue to emerge but all of us needed to keep pushing.
This economic transformation would come with reform along eight strategic initiatives – slightly more concrete but only slightly:
  1. Re-energize the private sector so it could lead the process of economic growth;
  2. Develop a high-quality workforce;
  3. Create a competitive domestic economy;
  4. Streamline and make efficient the public sector as facilitator for private enterprise, when in the past large government-linked corporations (GLCs) had been viewed as competitors instead;
  5. Move to affirmative action that is (a) transparent, (b) market-friendly, (c) merit-based, and (d) conditioned on need ;
  6. Build infrastructure for a knowledge base;
  7. Enhance the sources of growth;
  8. Ensure the sustainability of growth.
Early on, Council decided it couldn’t be swayed by arguments about whether it was doing something truly novel or new or different. The only thing that mattered should be whether a proposal for implementation was likely to succeed and whether it would bring the highest benefits to the greatest number. Good ideas are hard enough to come by generally; why straitjacket oneself to not look at certain of them? This isn’t an exam: why not copy good ideas however and wherever you find them?
Nonetheless, having come to the end of putting in place the over-arching vision, we could see several ways where our approach differed from earlier ones.
First, we focused on growth through enhancements in productivity, not the sheer brute force of capital accumulation. It’s not that we ignored the latter – if we had, we wouldn’t have expressed concern about the sharp fall off in Malaysia’s investment. Instead, it is that we figured it would be innovative processes and cutting-edge technologies that would provide the surest platform for Malaysia’s producing high value-added goods and services in the future.
Second, we envisioned economic growth being private sector-led and market-driven, no longer dominated by large public investment through GLCs in selected economic sectors.
Third, we described the benefits of the government moving towards local autonomy in decision-making. State and local authorities needed to be empowered to develop and support more of their own growth initiatives – without unnecessarily duplicating function or project. While flat-out competition to produce identical public goods, over and over, would be obviously wasteful, a little competition between local authorities is healthy.
Fourth, we wanted to encourage local geographies to emerge – whether in clusters or corridors – as long as they exploited economies of scale and concentration, and thus raised productivity over the long term.
Fifth, we saw the need for continuing government support of private industry, as long as that support was geared towards innovation, entrepreneurial risk-taking, and high value-added goods and services. It would be those general principles that guided support, not past principles of picking winners.
Sixth, we welcomed talent and skills from everywhere: as long as anyone, local or foreign, is able to contribute to Malaysia’s transformation to an innovative, high-value added economy, they would be accepted and welcomed.
Finally, we emphasized how the global economy was changing, and we figured Malaysia’s strategic position within it needed to re-orient as well. For the entire 20th century, the world’s strongest economic powers have been the US, Western Europe, and Japan. Malaysia, like many others, tuned production and supply networks to service those markets. While we weren’t arguing that policy should be based on the economic centre of the world suddenly shifting tens of thousands of kilometers east, we felt that it was reasonable to acknowledge the change in that global landscape, and to develop further new regional networks centred on the fast-growing, Asia-focused emerging economies.
In a nutshell, that’s it. That’s the New Economic Model (NEM).
3. After, for now

For a relatively technocratic problem and solution, the NEM announcement on 30 March by PM Najib attracted unexpectedly heavy attention from the international press. All the major world press worked in discussion of Malaysia’s affirmative action program, both historical and prospective. The New York Times (30 March 2010) described the revision of Malaysia’s policy to focus on need, not race.

The Wall Street Journal ran articles on two successive days (30 March, 01 April 2010), talking about the recalibration of Malaysia’s decades-old affirmative action and asserting how “the New Economic Policy has hindered Malaysia’s competitiveness in recent years. The U.S. and European Union have singled out Malaysia’s insistence on maintaining preferences for ethnic-Malay owned businesses in government procurement contracts for stalling the development of free-trade pacts”. The Journal’s Opinion Asia column (01 April 2010) contextualized PM Najib’s speech by observing how ‘A few years ago it was inconceivable that a Malaysian premier would express dissatisfaction with the “rent-seeking and patronage” inherent in the country’s four-decade-old affirmative action policies and call for a more “transparent” system based on merit and need. Former strongman Mahathir Mohamad used to label people with such ideas “extremists.”‘
Great cynicism continues to be expressed by some of my friends, Malaysian and otherwise, who say they have seen over the years many politician promises made only to be broken subsequently. Personally, however, I see great optimism instead. Why? I contrast PM Najib’s 30 March speech with what I imagine someone wanting an easy ride through life might have said, in light of both the general skepticism and fervent fear-mongering in the runup to the event.
Two days before the NEM announcement, Kevin Brown wrote in the Financial Times (28 March 2010) how there was “widespread doubt” that PM Najib would take any political risk at all of dismantling Bumiputra special privileges, not least in a new economic model that might greatly dilute that historical affirmative action. James Hookway’s Wall Street Journal article of 22 March 2010 gave considerable space to Ibrahim Ali, a right-wing extremist Malay MP, and to Perkasa, the NGO that Ibrahim Ali founded devoted to defending Malay rights, reporting how “Mr. Ibrahim reckons Mr. Najib is misreading the depth of anger many Malays feel toward any change in a policy that has given many a leg up and helped to build a large middle class.” The Economist newspaper (11 March 2010) extrapolated from their interview with Najib and with others to sub-lead their article, “Najib wavers over undoing affirmative-action policies”.

Not least, of course, there is the now-infamous interview Ibrahim Ali granted Al-Jazeera on 29 March 2010, the eve of the launch of the NEM, where Ibrahim Ali gets bleeped three times speaking, with some vitriol, on the position of other races in Malaysia.

Domestic reporting too emphasized the emerging political tensions (e.g., Malaysian Insider, 04 March 2010; 28 February 2010; and many others). And the Malaysian blogosphere – sometimes thoughtful and insightful; sometimes not; always vicious – don’t even go there.
Now, contrast what PM Najib actually said with what all these observers predicted he would say. Think of the political onslaught, the wavering, the self-protection going on around him. If Najib had wanted an easy way out, he could have taken it and no one would have been surprised. He didn’t. He continues along that difficult but worthwhile path.
One final comment. In this international reporting, by far the greatest attention has gone towards Malaysia’s New Economic Policy and its possible adjustment. In Council’s work, we knew this was important, but so too were all other seven strategic initiatives. Affirmative action matters. No significant advanced country in the world gets by without affirmative action programs of some kind – it is in human nature to take care of the weakest and most vulnerable in our society. So too for the members of Council, where that bottom 40% of the Malaysian population is targetted to receive significant help and attention. But fixing all the other problems matters too: it’s one big push for all of them.
Council has now finished Step 1. Step 2 starts. Everyone likes to say, Now the hard work begins – as if I’ve never heard that one before. But I am energized. I continue to do this work (and, for the record, for practically no pay compared to outside options) because I think things actually are looking up in Malaysia.
(This appeared also on Wednesday 14 April 2010 Business Times, New Straits Times Malaysia B4ff and, in Chinese, in Sinchew Daily, again 14 April 2010.)

Oh no! Which camera?!


At the Malaysia Gala dinner Tuesday evening (05 June 2007, here in London) Jimmy Choo won yet another richly-deserved award for fashion design.

I was lucky enough to have our photograph taken together. But, err, whose camera did that go into?! Not mine. There were an awful lot of flashing lights and digital cameras and cellphones and reporters out. Hmmm. A picture lost forever, unless it magically shows up in one of those photo albums visitors get to browse at Jimmy Choo Couture.

(Or as the lovely Francesca told me about shoes, “Men. You just don’t get it, do you?”)

New Year’s Day 2007 I’d run into Jimmy and his wonderful family at Oriental City. We worried over the state of parts of the national press and their understanding of intellectual property rights. Sherwin Rosen’s Economics of Superstars figured too, for both what it got right and what it got wrong (no deep secret: Rosen thought what he called shoemakers would never be superstars. So just keep thinking “Jimmy Choo” as you work through the equations in the paper, and remember Sex and the City didn’t start broadcasting until 1998. Or just read again what Francesca said).

When this OC closes, all that wonderful serendipity will go. If you’re reading this not too late in the millennium, sign the petition.


On an earlier occasion (January 2007, at LSE) I fortunately managed to locate the camera where this photograph went. (Thanks Dennis!) We discussed the role of human capital in the economic development of small, open fast-growing economies.

Learn economics. Get the terminology right. Mingle with interesting people. A friend of mine still believes that her saying “I’m an economist” sounds much, much cooler than saying “Bond. The name is Bond.”

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