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Monthly Archives: February 2015

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Too Big to Grow



The Bank of International Settlements (BIS) recently released a new report analysing the relationship between the growth of the financial sector and productivity growth. The empirical findings are particularly worrying. The BIS economists estimate that in countries experiencing rapid growth in their financial sector, financially-dependent industries experience 2.5% lower productivity growth than in countries with slower growing financial sector. To put that into perspective, the OECD average of productivity growth was 1.6% during 2009-12. Clearly, this is a disturbing finding for any economic policy-maker. What do the BIS findings tell us are the appropriate macroeconomic policy settings for productivity growth? What does this mean governments can actually do? And what does it mean in terms of winners and losers in an economy?


Lucky Money and Information Revelation

Happy Lunar New Year! Or if you want to impress your Chinese friends, in Mandarin you could say, xin nian kuai le (新年快乐) Or in Cantonese, gong hei fat choy (恭禧發財). Handy tip: find out what dialect your friend speaks before showing off your cultural expertise (I’m assuming you know they are Chinese). For some of you, you may partake in the celebrations at a family home or in a Chinese restaurant (food is always involved when the Chinese celebrate anything). If so, you may witness the bizarre tradition (to non-Asian people) of older people giving money to the younger generation in red envelopes. You may also witness three generations stuffing their faces with unseemly haste, don’t worry it’s polite in Chinese culture to eat too much and complain afterwards. Some Western people think giving money is a materialistic way of gift-giving since you couldn’t even bother to invest time and effort to get a proper gift. Actually, a lot of thought has gone into it. How much you give reveals private information on what you really think of your younger and unmarried relatives. Here is a useful guide for those of you new to giving ‘Lucky Money’.


Love: the Biggest Investment You Will Ever Make


Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. This is a special day for some of us. It could mark the start of an exciting contractual arrangement to co-invest in each other’s labour productivity and future financial security. It could result in significant future stream of ongoing financial commitments such as mortgage repayments and educating and caring for children. Hopefully, you have thought of all of this as you checked out that hot guy/girl in real life or Tinder. As the passion wears off, you may want to consider conducting a rigorous due diligence process to assess if that person you have nicknamed ‘Snookie’ would be the ideal investment partner in your home, retirement and children. Also, you would want to assess if you would have economic complementarities that can allow both of you to smooth out economic uncertainty such as unemployment, starting new business ventures or looking after your parents. If you’re still not convinced on the value of due diligence, maybe just being happier will make you scrutinise your potential life partner a bit more closely. This article will explain some economic and financial concepts that will be useful in implementing your due diligence. Happy Valentine’s Day!


Tying the Hands of the King: Impact Investment as a Commitment Device for Governments

Yesterday, I made a pitch to a foundation to fund the development of an adaptation of the Social Impact Bond idea. During the discussion, one of the selection committee asked me, “this bond will lock government in to producing these outcomes for ten years. Do you think that is a good idea?”

I wasn’t expecting such a question, but the role of commitment on the outcomes of government policy has been a concern of mine (see this report for more details). So while I was unprepared, I had definite views on commitment and government policy. So, I replied, “as someone who has worked in government for a while, one of the main problems is that government lacks credible commitment. So, yes, I think it is a good idea for government to be locked in to produce social and environmental outcomes. Otherwise, their priorities will change every three years with a change in government. I think impact investment is a great commitment device. It ties the hands of the King.”