Want to Become a Good Research Analyst?

As posted on this blog, 5 simple tips are highlighted to those interested in polishing their research and analytical skills:

1. Doing: Have a go – learn by doing

2. Learning together: Learn off someone experienced – read their work, have them review yours

3. Reflection: Be your best critic – analyse your own work – ask if your analysis and conclusions are watertight

4. Validate: Always ask yourself – ‘what is the evidence telling me, what can I confidently say from it? Is there anything I am saying that the evidence doesn’t justify?’

5. Peer review: Always get an experienced person to proof-read, review and validate you final report. Get them to provide constructive feedback.

Click here for the full article.

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August 15, 2007 at 5:42 pm 1 comment

America’s (Not so free) Trade Policy

While US policymakers have always boasted about the gains from free international trade, urging their counterparts in other countries to lower tariffs and other trade barriers, America seems to be following their own strategy of “free trade”.

The US Finance Committee recently voted 20 -1 to give the government new tools to press China to raise the value of its currency, in light of the mounting budget deficit US has against the rising superpower. A significant provision made in the Bill is to take “currency undervaluation” into account when calculating anti-dumping duties on foreign goods.

The question is though, how can one justify such measures of protection when firstly, US continues to preach the benefits of free trade to other countries, urging them to lower barriers to trade, while at the same time, US imposes its own set of barriers against what they argue as “unfair” trade practices. Sure, the low yuan is negatively affecting US export/import balances; but won’t it be more politically correct to discuss these issues with their Chinese counterparts and come to a peaceful agreement regarding the situation as opposed to imposing anti-free trade practices which could lead to further retaliation by China?

If China retaliates with their own set of protective measures against the US, the situation can only get worse for both countries where NO country benefits from trade protection.

August 11, 2007 at 7:48 am Leave a comment

Should economists run for president?

In many countries, policy decisions are often made by politicians who barely know any economics – let alone – the economic impact their decisions are likely to have on the economy and consumers as a whole. Yes, they have their “economic advisors” to whom they consult – or should be consulting – when making important decisions related to the economy; but do they really make decisions that are at all times beneficial to the economy – ignoring their own selfish political agendas? No.

One could then argue, if economists are, after all, the backbone behind which political leaders make policy decisions – why shouldn’t they be given some prominence in the political running of the country as well? May be because (unfortunately) it isn’t just a sound understanding of economics that makes for a good president. You need to be charismatic, a leader, a person who can influence people. And unfortunately, many of the political leaders who possess such qualities, lack a thorough understanding of the subject area they love talking about.

For those interested, James Pethokoukis of the U.S. News and World Report, gives a thoughtful analysis on recent statements made by US democratic presidential contenders – and the weird economics behind them.

So to answer the question posed in the title: should economists run for president – I say yes. One can only imagine what progress could be made if we had our own Manmohan Singh running our country.

August 10, 2007 at 8:12 am Leave a comment

A history of India

An interesting article in the New Statesmen, looks at the history in India and explores reasons why India has defied predictions made a hundred years back regarding the progress – or rather lack thereof – of the country economically and especially democratically.

Sir John Strachey, a high official of the British Raj during the nineteenth century, once publicly stated that there would never be an “India” in the sense of a nation state with a unified system of government rule, due to the great number of languages spoken and religious beliefs that existed in the country.

As is quite visible today, India has proved a lot of skeptics wrong. But how did they manage to integrate successfully a Democratic system of governance and create a national identity when there existed – and still exist – such a diversified number of races, religions and languages spoken.

The answers lie, according to the writer, in many things that as economists, we may not have previously taken into account: Cricket and the local film industry.

The writer tends more on the sociological side, arguing that the Hindi Film Industry, popularly known as Bollywood, and Cricket, “an Indian sport accidentally invented by the West” (described by the sociologist Ashis Nandy), could have played as much a part in creating a solidarity among people as did the British legacy of the English language which allows goods and people to move about somewhat peacefully across India.

If it can be rightly proved that Bollywood or Cricket did inadvertently play a role in the creating a solidarity among people, then one can only wonder how many other ‘accidents’ and random events in history – good or bad – could be playing a significant role in explaining various phenomena experienced in the world today – which otherwise would have been given an economic, or rather a more ‘rational’ explanation.

After all, who would’ve thought that the legalizing of abortion in the US in the late ’80s could possibly have been the main explanatory factor in the significant drop in crime rates another 20 years later?

August 6, 2007 at 5:40 am 1 comment

India’s Expensive Rupee

While the Sri Lankan rupee continues a downward spiral, losing value against other currencies, India’exchange rate currently stands at Rs 40: US $ 1, and doesn’t show any sign of losing steam.


This outcome is an obvious sign of the attractiveness of the Indian economy – the high demand for the Indian rupee sparked mainly by the large influx of foreign funds. But the picture isn’t all that rosy to everyone, having negative repercussions on one of the drivers of economic growth – exports.

According to an article published by the Economist, exporters in India have expressed their concern over the rising rupee, arguing it has reduced foreign demand for their products. Rakesh Mohan, Republic Bank of India’s Deputy Governor, recently suggested that India were experiencing symptoms of the Dutch disease.

In the apparel sector – one of India’s major export industries – the strong currency has eaten into the value of exports to the US, which declined by 3.5% year on year in January-April 2007.

The Republic Bank of India have responded by making it more difficult for Indian firms to borrow in foreign currency and eliminating the exemption from ECB limits. While one wonders the extent to which this measure can counteract the effect of massive inflows of foreign currency into the country, it definitely is a start.

July 27, 2007 at 4:36 am 1 comment

The Economics of…Anything.

I am often astounded at the number of fields Economics can be related to, and the vast body of research done by economists, which in a sense, wasn’t very economic. Take, for example, Emily Oster, a renowned economist at the University of Chicago, whose main research area has been to do with diseases in Africa. Sure, one could label such research as relating to Health Policy (another economic field I was surprised to learn, existed), but this really relates to, (and is often pointed out by her critics) Epidemiology – the study of factors affecting the health and illness of populations. Seems more of a Natural Science field than a Social Science, doesn’t it?

Nevertheless, her efforts have been well rewarded, being named by the New York Times as one of 13 up-and-coming academic economists in the world today. And the truth is, her research is pretty darn good. I think what gave her an edge was the training in mathematical and analytical thinking that a degree in Economics gives, (over a degree in say, Sociology) which enabled her to effectively analyze econometric models and the like, thus arriving at theoretically sound, yet factually-based, conclusions.

Does that mean then, that as future economists, it can be possible to conduct research on any topic that catches our fancy – and be able to label it as (somewhat) economic – so long as we apply the principles of economics we learned in college and elsewhere? I would like to think so. The question we must ask is, where then do we draw the line?

July 25, 2007 at 6:21 pm Leave a comment

The Trendalyzer

Are you tired of looking through heaps of boring data…and coming up with nothing? Look no further. Introducing…the Trendalyzer. A new piece of software which enables you to access and view data in amazingly new ways.

gap-world.jpg

Created by Hans Rosling, this software animates statistics, thus allowing users to actually visualize movements of statistical data rather than just looking at a bunch of numbers. It is especially beneficial to those interested in analyzing the extent of Millennium Development Goals achievement across countries, for which free software is available on their website.

Presently, only parts of the Trendalyzer are available for free download. However, Google, new owners of the software, plan to make their statistics available for free on the Internet.

The Gapminder foundation is also intensifying efforts to make all official statistics produced by international agencies around the world, available on the Internet and free of charge. Thanks to their persistence, the UN statistical Division have responded, making their data accessible and free of charge as of May 1st this year.

Try it out for free, here. I must warn you though – this software can be highly addictive 🙂

July 25, 2007 at 11:55 am 1 comment

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