Thursday, 31 May 2012

Blog log 5/6

The end is nigh and there is only 4 weeks of research leave left before it is back to reality. Unfortunately, the month of May has not been as productive as I had hoped, but it was busy.

For hard outputs:
  the revised and resubmitted paper of last month's log has been accepted for publication (total 5)
  the one submitted paper has been rejected and is now submitted elsewhere (that's 2 in the pipeline)

For softer outputs:
  a version of the green Two Oceans research has been accepted in Woord and Daad
  the Kindle single that Riaan Rossouw and I published is available at

I also evaluated an article for SAJE and a funding application for the NRF.

One Masters student submitted her dissertation for examination and two of last year's students received their degrees at the autumn ceremony.

There was also a lot of other stuff on campus, including two ITOU evaluations, a seminar of e-study guides, a fancy function, graduation ceremony, teaching committee meeting, mock radio interviews with the radio journo's and quite a few meetings.

On the social media front:
  9 blog posts here
  and 17 at the School's blog, including some resources for the Reserve Bank's MPC Schools challenge
  59 tweets

June looks like it is going to be a busy one, but there is one article that's been written and just needs some panel beating for submission and one other one for which the data is ready, that I would like to finish up before the end. Once more unto the breech.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

I don't need to be convinced about the joys of blogging

But maybe you still need a reason to jump in?

This morning I came across three nice posts describing blogging as academic break dancing, the vitues of blogging and a proposal for blogging for promotion. Here are some nice bits:

From the blog Transition times:
All I can tell you is that it’s been a long time since I’ve felt as intellectually engaged as I do now that I’ve started blogging again.
Blogging–and publicizing my posts via Facebook, Twitter, Google, and other social media outlets–has allowed me to connect with people I never would have been able to reach in any other way.
Previously if I wanted to convey an idea or a research finding, my choices were limited to a conference paper or journal article or, if I could work it up, a book. These choices still remain, but in addition I can create a video, podcast, blog post, slidecast, and more. It may be that a combination of these is ideal—a blog post gets immediate reaction and can then be worked into a conference presentation, shared through SlideShare, or turned into a paper that is submitted to a journal. In each case the blog or social network becomes a key route for sharing and disseminating the findings.
From Greg Downey writing on a blog about Neuroanthropology:
But we can also act locally, serving as a body of peers for each other’s reviews.  As an online anthropology writer on Neuroanthropology, and commenter and participant in discussions in lots of online forums, you may very well be precisely the sort of person who is my ‘peer’ if you’re reading this.  So why not crowd source our letters of reference to make the case for the importance of our online publishing? 

Monday, 28 May 2012

More on e-tolls

With all the media coverage of  "The Spear" painting last week, government's Constitutional Court appeal against the interdict that has temporarily halted the e-toll project did not receive much air time. Minister Gordhan has also been saying that the government is exploring alternatives to funding the Gauteng road improvements. With the story rolling on, I thought that I should post a few views:

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Workshop: Urban governance and service delivery

I receieved a mail about this workshop and want to add the details here:

The African Centre for Cities and the United Nations University-World Institute for Development Economics Research have the pleasure of inviting you to a seminar on:

Urban Governance and Service Delivery in Africa
5 June 2012
University of Cape Town
Studio 5, Environmental and Geographical Science Building, Upper Campus

Africa is one of the fastest urbanizing regions of the world.  On the one hand, this demographic transformation offers important opportunities for growth, economic development, and innovation.  On the other hand, rapid urbanization generates high demand and formidable challenges for delivering basic services, including housing, water, sanitation, and electricity.

In preparation for the 2012 World Urban Forum VI, this seminar emphasizes the role of governance structures and institutions for addressing these opportunities and constraints, paying particular attention to the interaction between local actors and national political contexts.  The presenters will offer both an understanding of urban governance and service delivery across Africa while also elaborating on specific case studies of cities in Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, and Uganda.  Through these empirical examples, the seminar will also aim to provide practical policy recommendations for confronting the region’s rapid urbanization and highlight areas for greater 

Since space is limited, you have to confirm your participation by 1 June 2012 by registering online.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Behavioral economics

I found this cool post at Marginal Economics over the weekend. It describes the Busara Centre of Behavioral Economics and what they offer development economics researchers through experiments in their lab. Now I'm just mailing this idea to myself: we need a lab like this for firm-level research in South Africa. Surveys are expensive and time consuming and we may also learn a lot about firms and entrepreneurs in an experimental setup.I know that Prof Wim Naudé at MsM has been thinking about this too.

Does anyone out there know more about firm-level research and the ways that experiments have been used to examine questions related to entrepreneurship, risk-return, deciding to export or to hire more people?

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Publishing a Kindle e-book

A blog is one way to write about the latest research, but the rule for a good one is that it should be similar to a mini skirt: long enough to be proper, short enough to be interesting. Every now and then one wants to get the whole story out there. In academic circles that could be via a working paper, journal article or chapter in a book. An alternative process that I have recently been a part of is to publish your own Kindle e-book.

My colleague Riaan Rossouw and I have a paper that gives an overview of the history of CGE modelling in South Africa. The work was part of Riaan's Master's dissertation and I was the supervisor. The trouble is that the dissertation is not an effective way to disseminate results. Anyone who is interested have to request it via their university's inter-library loan desk, get it days or weeks later and keep it for two weeks before snail mailing it back. We think that students, researchers and policymakers should be interested to know more about the issues and the CGE models used to examine them in South Africa, but journal editors do not care much for reviews. Economics journals want current analysis with new results for their readers. History journals want more about the people and the context, of for example the trade negotiations in which CGEM's were used in the mid-1990's, but in our case this is impossible to get from published accounts. Thus we decided to make our overview available through the e-book option.

Over the past few months Riaan took the lead, formatted the Kindle Single and engaged with Amazon's publishing service. The end result is now available online and we are very happy. The work is out there and available for everyone to download and read. For a specific type of academic content the e-book is the future!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Analysis possible! New Zim firm-level data

Over the past 10 years the Zimbabwean economy has suffered political repression, expropriation of private property and mass emigration of the skilled workforce. Analysis of what has been an economy-wide disaster has been limited due to a dearth of data. Today the World Bank for first time released enterprise survey data from Zimbabwe. 599 firms were interviewed from May 2011 through March 2012. It paints an interesting picture of firms and the business environment.
  • The firms in the survey are established survivors with an average of 33 years.
  • On average the firms have 53 permanent full-time workers and 10 part-time workers.
  • 46% of production workers are unskilled and 31% of firms offer formal training.
  • Female participation in ownership is markedly high at 56%, but only 23% of the permanent full-time workers are female.
  • Capacity utilization is only 45%.
  • 97.7% of sales are domestic sales and 63% of inputs have a domestic origin.
  • 11% of firms report exporting more than 1% of sales, but direct and indirect exports account for 2.3% of sales.
  • On average the firms hold 48 days’ inventory, compared to 24 in the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The firms are clearly finance constrained – 84% of investments are financed internally and 63% view finance as a constraint to doing business.
  • 71% of the firms reported that they are competing against informal firms – compared to 65% in Sub-Saharan African and 56% in the world. Of these firms, 47% view this competition as a major constraint.
  • The firms report fewer power outages per month than those in other Sub-Saharan African countries, but a much greater share of firms report owning a generator.
  • A notably small share of firms (10%) report identifies transportation as a constraint to doing business.
  • 41% of firms identify tax rates as a constraint.
  • Compared to other Sub-Saharan African countries, licensing seems to be less of a concern.
  • 32.6% of firms identify corruption as a constraint, compared to the average of 37% in Africa and 36% in the rest of the world.
It is possible to further slice and dice the data by sector, firm-size and location. I hope to follow up with some proper analysis soon.

Econ geography in the news

I am slowly revising an article for resubmission and not really writing the posts that I want to. But here are some links to interesting things in the news that I have been reading:

The #CityTalk discussion on Twitter last night

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Blog log 4/6

It is the 1st of May and on Workers' day I would like to give a Twitter-style FF to Prof Frederick Fourie's Three discourses paper on unemployment in South Africa. With all the nonsense out there about employment, unemployment, labour brokers etc this should be required reading for everyone.

But this not a labour economics post, it is time for the April blog log. I am 4 out of 6 months into research leave and unfortunately I have dipped into recession. There are only a few outputs to list:

No new articles submitted, but for one accepted paper we checked the proofs and I received a revise & resubmit on one of the submitted papers.

Then I made a visit to the Beijing Foreign Studies University for two guest lectures. Thanks again to the BFSU colleagues.

Being cut off from Facebook, Twitter and blogs in China served as an exogenous shock to my social media productivity:
  5x blog posts
  and only 9x tweets in April!

After getting back I did spend some time setting up the School of Economics' new blog and writing 6 short posts for that. A big part of that effort is for this coming Saturday's Open Day and we now have some cool infographics and prezi for that.

Now I'm hoping for a big push in May.