Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Arbitrage in Action

You say smuggler, I say arbitrager (HT:Poverty News Blog):
Social Solidarity Minister Gouda Abdel Khaliq cited smuggling to Libya and Gaza as a reason for [gas] cylinder scarcity in Egypt… . "Smugglers benefit from the difference in the price of the cylinders in Egypt," said Hossam Arafat, chairman of the petroleum section at the Federation of Commerce Chambers. "What makes this possible is that the government subsidizes the cylinders to the tune of 90 percent here."
Arbitrage in … used t-shirts?
Now along comes the notion of Project Repat that wants to exploit hipster demand for the double-irony of used t-shirts from Africa by buying these shirts at developing world markets, shipping them back to the United States, and using the profits to finance charitable activities.
Arbitrage in … investment opportunities
The arrival of large numbers of Chinese over the past few years is not something that Africans are so worried about (compared to the fixation in the western press). A Minister in Angola looked at us incredulously asking why we were so obsessed with the Chinese. He said they were only one amongst a range of new investors, and his country was open for business to all of them. …
A Chinese businessman in Accra told us “I don’t think I will be able to make more money in China than I can do here. The conditions in China are getting quite bad, and will be worse with this world crisis”. Commonly businessmen talked about earning anything up to three times what they could make in China for the same investment.
You say “misuse of scarce development funds,” Moss says “development” (emphasis added):
The project will also turn a disused old hotel site into an active hive of economic activity.  If that’s not development, then what is?  … When President Bill Clinton visited Ghana in 1998 he couldn’t spend even one night in Accra because of a shortage of suitable hotels.  Today, Ghana has several world-class business hotels, but if the country is going to live up to its ambition to become a regional business hub, then it needs places for business elites and tourists to sleep, eat, and meet.  Even if this is somehow distasteful to critics who may imagine that poverty-reduction is only about romantic notions of selfless activists helping peasants, development is really about building a vibrant business sector
While staying at one of these more luxurious estates for a development conference for the first time, I proposed a research agenda to my advisor: measure the importance and attention of development institutions in a country based on the presence or absence of luxury hotels. It seems there is some interest in coming to more of an answer of that question. Now if only I can get a grant to stay at a few more of them so I can do some data collection....

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