Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Smart Environmentalism

Says Ed Glaeser,

Smart environmentalism has three key elements. First, policies should be targeted toward the biggest environmental threat: global warming. Second, our resources and political capital are limited. This means we must weigh the benefits of each intervention against its costs. Third, we must anticipate unintended consequences, where being green in one place leads to decidedly non green outcomes someplace else.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

So what does 'hero' really mean here?

Remember the time not so long ago when there were a couple of ex business crooks who were invited to Istana after they expressed their willingness to return the money they had stolen? Yes, many people were outraged. Calling the government a dirty whore who did not have dignity. A minister reportedly said that if those crooks were asking for forgiveness and managed to return the money (not even the whole!), it would be good enough. Some agreed, some not. Nevertheless, the law seemed so flexible.

Now, another story. The moral is basically the same. But because this one involves Amien Rais, who are heroes to many, people easily overlook the similarity. Amien confessed that he took some amount of illegal money from Rokhmin Dahuri the then Minister for Fishery and Marine Resources for his presidential campaign in the last election. Rokhmin, on the other hand, has announced that the current president SBY, along with the former president Megawati and another then-candidate, Wiranto did accept similar funding. Following the Rokhmin's report, Amien confessed and said he 'was ready to go to jail, if he had to'.

Of course Amien's confession seems loaded: to at least bring SBY down. Well, we agree: if SBY is proven guilty, of course he should be punished. So should Megawati and Wiranto and Amien himself. So, let's hope that these cases are taken seriously by the law people.

But, now come the interesting part. The chief of MPR, Hidayat Nur Wahid seems to think that Amien Rais is a hero. He suggests that Amien should not be taken to jail. Because Amien is 'a national figure who is well respected'. If Amien is found guilty, Hidayat conutinues, he can just return the money. Now, that sounds familiar (see the first paragraph above).

Seems that we really don't need Laws. After all, forgiveness is what matters. No wonder we're so safe.

Update 1: It is just getting more and more interesting. Now a law expert thinks Amien has given enlightenment to the study of law. I wonder, if he is such a noble person, why did he have to wait more than 2 years before admitting his misconduct? Why did he have to wait until Rokhmin blew it all?
Update 2: From the court, as reported by Kompas, Amien Rais actually received Rp 600 million, not Rp 200 million as he confessed. Let's wait and see if he 're-confesses' or denounces the extra Rp 400 million.
Update 3: President SBY reacted (yes, after long deliberation, I guess, as usual). Basically he accused Amien Rais of trying to ruin his reputation. Quoting the Law, SBY stressed that such action by Amien Rais was against the law and could lead to nine months in jail. But then, SBY implied that he would not take the case to the court, "unless Amien accuses me directly in public". That is ridiculous. If SBY is so troubled by Amien, why doesn't he just sue him now? If he doesn't think he should sue Amien, why bother with press conference to explain?

In the meantime, Sutrisno Bachir, the head of PAN (Amien's party, too) said he would return the money Amien and PAN received from Rokhmin. In TV, Bachir said, "We should return the money, because it belongs to the people of Indonesia". Another hero, I guess. Who rushes to do good deeds when found guilty.

Fahri Hamzah from another accused party PKS, who now is a House member, said that the House Board has no right to investigate him, because at the time (of accepting the money from Rokhmin), he was not yet a House member. OK, but does that mean you're innocent?

What a comedy.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Fixing a distortion with yet another distortion

As reported by The Jakarta Post today, Indonesia's biofuel producers are urging the government to make the use of biofuel mandatory for factories and vehicles.

How can you expect a progress if this kind of thinking persists? I hope the government doesn't approve this silly idea. There is a better way to become more eco-friendly : remove the subsidy on the competing, fossil-based fuels. Biofuel is a good idea. But protection like that asked by the Biofuel Producers Association is not.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Another new article

Accepted conditional on minor edits (more detail, later). This paper explores on the same survey as this.

Xiaolin Ren (U Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Arianto A. Patunru (U Indonesia)
John B. Braden (U Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)

Language Related Differences in Environmental Benefits Estimation:
Evidence from a Mail Survey


In a contingent valuation study, failing to accommodate populations with limited language skills might yield biased estimates of environmental benefits. In the United States, there are many residents primarily fluent in Spanish. This study uses conditional logit models applied to data from a bilingual (English and Spanish) conjoint choice mail survey to evaluate the effects of language proficiency on estimates of the economic benefits of contaminated site cleanup. After correcting for other factors, the results of both pooled and separate analysis of the language subsamples indicate that language does have significant effects on estimates of the economic benefits. Differences between the subpopulations who declare Spanish as their primary language and those who responded to the Spanish version of the survey suggest, although not conclusively, that translation of a survey into a second language can change the variability of the responses and pose econometric challenges. The results suggest that a mail survey addressing an environmental issue that may affect a linguistically diverse population should be designed at the outset with multiple languages in mind.