Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Right diagnosis, wrong prescription

From Kompas today (28/12) we read that Minister of Agriculture, Suswono, has a solution to Indonesia's low competitiveness in agriculture products. Rightly, he points out that the reason for the low competitiveness is high transportation costs due to poor infrastructure. So, again rightly, the country needs to improve the road infrastructure.

But, now comes the tricky part, he also says that the government is preparing "cheap car for farmers" program. It will sell a 700 cc energy efficient car at the price of Rp 60 million per unit. He believes this will help reduce the costs faced by the farmers - and hence logistics costs will go down, then competitiveness will improve.

Good intention, however, usually comes with unintended consequences. Imagine you're an average farmer. What would you do with such car? I would use it for many activities outside farming. Or I will resell it with some extra margin. Or I will just rent it out in daily basis. So, rather than increasing the productivity of agriculture sector, the car might be good for other things, which leads to lower-than-expected impact on the competitiveness of ag products.

The news also reports that the government is ready for the first 1000 units. Presumably, there will be follow up batches. I wonder if the money can be of better use should it be directed towards improving the road condition, or building railway access to the bulky ag products rather than "cheap car program". We, by the way, experienced a program like this before. It was called "people's car". And it was a major failure.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Pick from The NBER Digest -- December 2011


Judd B. Kessler and Alvin E. Roth

The "priority rule," which grants priority on organ waiting lists to those who have previously registered as organ donors, can significantly raise the number of potential donors.

In Organ Allocation Policy and the Decision to Donate (NBER Working Paper No. 17324), Judd Kessler and Alvin Roth find that an organ allocation policy known as the "priority rule," which grants priority on organ waiting lists to those who have previously registered as organ donors, can significantly raise the number of potential donors. Their results suggest that the priority rule, which is currently used in Singapore and which is being introduced in Israel, is a potentially powerful policy tool for encouraging donor registration.

The researchers devise an experimental game which captures some of the key features of the organ donation problem and collect data when students play this game. Each player begins the experiment with "kidneys" that may, with some probability, "fail" during the game. Players receive monetary compensation for each round of the game in which they remain alive. A player may "die" from "kidney failure" if he cannot obtain donated organs. He may also "die" during the game for other reasons - that creates a potential supply of donors whose "kidneys" may be assigned to still-living players who face organ failure. A player gives up some money if he registers to donate his "kidneys" in the event of death -- this captures what the authors view as the psychic cost of registering as an organ donor. A larger pool of potential donors conveys benefits for all players, because it raises the likelihood that if a player experiences "kidney failure" a replacement organ will be available.

The authors compare the effect of reducing this cost of donation, which in their game is a monetary cost, with the effect of adopting a priority rule. Both approaches increase the number of registered donors, but the "priority rule" performs at least as well as, and sometimes better than, an equivalent decrease in the cost of donation. The authors try introducing the priority rule after subjects have made donation decisions a number of times, as well as at the start of the game. In the latter case, the increased performance of the priority rule is even greater. With regard to actual policy design, Kessler and Roth point out that one advantage of the priority rule over strategies for compensating registered donors, and thereby reducing their costs of registering, is that the priority rule seems feasible and can be implemented without any additional costs to the system.

--Matt Nesvisky

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Mitigating the crisis?

Kompas today (3/12) reports that the government is preparing a mitigation scenario to anticipate the impact of the crisis of Eurozone on Indonesia. Good.

But some of the efforts listed in the newspaper might not be feasible. For example, budget absorption. The state budget aims a deficit of 2.1% this year. That translates into around IDR 150 trillion. The last updated data of government expenditure that I have shows by October the net spending totaled to positive IDR 4.8 trillion. Now we've entered December. I don't think the government can meet the deficit target - just like in the previous years.

Secondly, the news mentions about Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization. This is still a tall order. In the midst of the Lehman crisis, nobody could use it, due to small scale amount of fund and more importantly, the strict conditionality linked to IMF if you asked a bigger amount. Until CMIM is reformed further, it will not serve as a good shock cushion in the region. We still remember that Korea didn't get helped from Chiang Mai. They got it from US Fed.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Our product is expensive. We demand yours to be equally expensive

Minister of Trade Gita Wiryawan, as quoted by Kompas (2/12) said that foreign products should not enter directly into "the heart of Java", namely Jakarta. Because, here is his reason: our Pontianak mandarin orange has to take a rough and long way to Jakarta leading to its expensive price. So foreign goods should also experience the same difficulty. The policy to do that is to send foreign goods to a quarantine located far from Java.

So, by Gita's logic, if our product is expensive, we should tell foreign products to be equally expensive. His solution is not to fix the root of the problem, i.e the poor infrastructure and logistics across regions in Indonesia, but rather to punish the more efficient albeit foreign products at the cost of domestic consumers' welfare.

Very bad, Minister.

Addendum: On the same newspaper, Chairman of Indonesia's Transportation Community Danang Parikesit offers a better solution: improve the transportation infrastructure. The Deputy Head of Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Trade Natsir Mansyur shares this view, namely to improve on the logistics. Way to go, gentlemen.