Monday, March 31, 2008

Vulgar Indonesianism

Some stupid and funny words I noted recently:
  • Vulgar and useless adaptation of foreign (English) words: 'kontestasi' (funny because it is supposed to mean 'competition' and stupid because Bahasa Indonesia already has a good word to mean just the same: 'persaingan').
  • Same as 'koinsidensi'  (Bahasa Indonesia has a better 'kebetulan' -- maybe because 'koinsidensi' sounds more English, as in coincidence?)
  • Or 'distingsi' (for 'distinction', while we have 'perbedaan')
I'm sure there are more out there. I know, I myself am not good when writing in Bahasa Indonesia. But at least, I don't adopt foreign words just because I'm lazy to find the right words. And even if I do adopt them, it is not because I just want to sound cool.

Diskusi Ekonomi discusses again

Just in case some thought Diskusi Ekonomi has died, no, it has not. Rizal just posted one of his pieces that was ignored by Kompas. Others (yes, more guest bloggers will participate) will resume posting there shortly. Sorry for the long absence.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Report and learn and report

We love this type of journalist. Who, when wrong, admits and qualifies. A rarity.

HT: Greg Mankiw.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

New working paper

Zooming Out Indonesia's Supply Constraints

M. Chatib Basri, Arianto A. Patunru, Masyita Chrystallin
University of Indonesia, 2008

The paper argues that Indonesia's main problem that impedes its economic growth (and lackluster performance of export) lies on the supply side rather than the demand side. That is, in the aftermath of the economic crisis, the aggregate supply has become less responsive. This problem is traced back to problems of exchange rate appreciation, high cost economy (esp. bribery and logistic costs), and the change of investment pattern. To help ensure a sustainable economic growth, therefore Indonesia needs to resolve the problem of supply constraints which itself is closely related to the issue of investment climate. The paper, however, is careful not to over-emphasize the role of investment climate in explaining the performance of Indonesian industries. It summarizes the recent discussions of investment climate given such qualification and elaborate on its most important factors, namely regulatory framework, governance, and infrastructure. In doing so, it also gives an assessment to the ongoing regulatory and policy reforms with a highlight on the policy areas where improvements are needed the most. The paper ends with a discussion on the 'dilemma of reform': reforming the bureaucracy is pivotal, but at the same time it is likely to be much more difficult than reforming the policy, because the former will encounter strong political challenges from various interests and groups; its benefits come later while the costs are immediate; and there is always a lag of time between implementation and results. The paper suggests that in countries as complex as Indonesia, reform in a 'piece-meal' approach focusing on the most binding constraints is more sensible than a 'wholesale reform'.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Dentists call

Reported in The Jakarta Post today, Indonesian Dentists Association complained that Indonesian people only go see a dentist when they have toothache.

Of course. D'oh.

Monday, March 17, 2008

FB's take on BI's brouhaha

Faisal Basri's Kompas column today is interesting.

According to FB, the source of controversy is SBY's clear preference toward Agus Martowardoyo (AM) and hence Raden Pardede (RP) was just a "pelengkap penderita" (maybe "background dancer" is a good analogy). I think FB was right.

Next, FB said that ideally BI should just focus on monetary issues. Can't agree more.

FB also said BI governor should be eloquent in explaining economic dynamics to market agents in a laymen language. And he or she should be able to explain them himself/herself to DPR members. Implicitly according to FB, it would be weird if the governor always delegated hearing with DPR to his/her senior deputy. I don't quite understand this. What's the problem if such task is delegated? I agree that the governor should master the monetary and banking theories but that does not mean he or she should always entertain the DPR in person. That's why he/she has deputies.

As for the rest of the article, I'm not sure if I understand well enough. FB mentioned about "nilai-nilai" or values that the new governor should have. There was a notion about good, commendable "track record", strong personality, etc. Not really clear to me what that all means.

My bloghopping equilibrium

I have a long list of econ blogs in my Bloglines account. I can't possibly read them all everyday. But when I have the time I usually go in this order: Becker-Posner, Cafe Hayek, Marginal Revolution, EconLog, Env-Econ, Greg Mankiw, Dani Rodrik, Jim Hamilton, and Paul Krugman. Most of the time, I can only read them over the weekends (along with selected classic papers and while preparing my lecture notes for the coming week). Sometimes, I skip Krugman. Sometimes it is Krugman, Hamilton, and Rodrik. Becker-Posner is not as frequently updated as the others. So, many times I end up having coffee and the George Mason trio: CH, MR, and EL. That's probably my bloghopping equilibrium -- recently.

Of course Alfie can amend all that easily.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

How a real researcher does stuff

Intrigued, curious, digging data (and that includes getting it from reputable sources), checking for correlation, questioning causality, drawing careful lessons, offering qualifications...

Tim Haab shows us what a real researcher would do to answer a question (or even a mere curiosity).

Note. I'm sure Tim Haab does not remember me. But I'm proud to have given a (yes, lousy) presentation in Kerry Smith's prestigious Camp Resources back in 2003. Tim was the chair of my session. A fun guy.

Friday, March 14, 2008

on BI governor

OK, I've been restraining myself for commenting on this issue. It's just too political, too cheap, and at the same time embarrassing. But I'll vent out what I recently had in mind, so I'll die in peace if the world ends next week.

First, we want a central bank governor who of course, unlike me and most economic commenters, knows monetary and banking theory. We don't want an agronomist or political scientist for that position. We don't require somebody with vast experience as a chief or head or director of some institute or organization or even a big bank. Experience does not matter much. Knowledge does.

Second, we want him/her to be unapproachable, anti-social, or in short: towering figure who doesn't speak much. We don't want him to appear giving statements every day in newspaper or television. That's a job for information minister, not a BI governor. Our governor should just appear rarely only to lead the market. He or she should the one who set people's expectation, not the other way around. He or she should say we want an inflation of X percent next year and the year after. And he/she will do anything to meet that, no matter what. If needed, he or she can forget about other macro stuff. Just set an inflation target and meet it. Don't play too much with credits for SMEs or things like that. They have ministers for that.

Third, we want a BI governor who can say NO -- to the President, MoF, or to DPR people.

I guess we don't have that person, after all. Damn.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The ugly face of the blatant self revelation

Following their refusal of Bank Indonesia governor nominees, DPR members issue funny statements. A particular one that is so "revealing" is this:

[A parliament member] says that the solidity [he seems to be meaning: the strong determination, boldness] of the refusing camp is an indication that this time, there has been no money politics involved... (my emphasis)

Assuming that Kompas quoted him right and that money politics is still the common euphemism for bribe, this can mean: 1) in all the previous time, bribery was at play, 2) when the House approves a government's proposal it is because there is money politics involved

Oh boy, you said it yourself!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Enlightening the people

An anonymous accused me for never "enlightening people or decision makers". I guess he was totally right. Because I think blogging at Cafe Salemba, Diskusi Ekonomi, and Exegesis do not count as "enlightening". In fact I do all that for a completely selfish motive: fun. I don't get paid for that, but I benefit from the comments and interaction with other people (not always in a nice way, I should add): to know what I thought I knew but I didn't. I don't care if it is enlightening or not.

Come to think of it, I'm now wondering: what is the best way to "enlighten people"? Here's what I could think of, based on what I have seen many people do:
  • There are more people watching TV than reading newspapers. So get into that TV thing. Make your way to get invited into talk shows -- preferably those with some clowns in them or comedian host with pretty actress.
  • If you don't like acting on TV, write op-eds in newspapers or magazines, preferably the populists ones. Write something that suits its editor's taste. Better yet, get a contract for regular column called "analysis" or something. Doesn't matter what you write in there (can be a total crap). But hey, the newspaper names it "analysis", so relax. People will adore you, journalists will ask your opinion.
  • Give talks in as many seminars as possible, preferably those attended by guest celebrities. Doesn't matter if you are asked to talk about Indonesian Idol or inflation rate. Just don't forget one thing: never say you don't know when you are asked something. Mumble, if you like -- just don't stay silent.
  • Make good friends with journalists -- especially the lazy ones. The professional ones would do cross-checking, fact-checking and all that -- you don't want them. The lazy ones will just print whatever you say -- or send via SMS.
  • When interviewed by a radio station, mention the word "rakyat" as many as possible. Guaranteed, you'll be on air again soon.
  • Do not blog. Blogging is stupid and does not get you anywhere: government officials don't read it, parliamentarians don't give a damn. So don't waste your time.
  • But if you can't resist the temptation to blog, make sure you obediently link to a blog authority (usually the self-declared ones work quite well) so you can be famous through his or her endorsement (some sort of blogger of the year, maybe). Oh, don't blog with fake name or even worse, anonymously. You'll be called coward -- that's not good.
What else?...

Now let's see what I have done... Oh my god, nothing! I guess I'm just incapable or I'm a selfish little bastard... Or maybe a little bit of both.

Late lesson again

Finally people seem to realize the truth: we should cut the fuel subsidy. Yes, that means the price will increase. (Ironically, SBY and JK seem to be too afraid to push this through -- but that's another story).

One thing remains bothering. That is the whole useless debate about production and quantities. It's the price that matters! We have learned it the hard way with rice case: you all hated production data, but you refused to recognize price as the reliable indicator. Now you're doing it again with fuel. And god knows what's next.