Facebook Blogging

Edward Hugh has a lively and enjoyable Facebook community where he publishes frequent breaking news economics links and short updates. If you would like to receive these updates on a regular basis and join the debate please invite Edward as a friend by clicking the Facebook link at the top of the right sidebar.

Thursday, June 20, 2002


I used to have such a favourable impression of Canada, when compared, for example, with Australia, but some recent material coming out of the cold country is certainly making me pause for thought. This piece from Yahoo, for one:

"Prime Minister Jean Chretien abruptly sacked arch-rival Finance Minister Paul Martin on Sunday amid one of the most dramatic crises in recent Canadian political history....... The sacking is likely to trigger a civil war within the party, especially if Martin decides to challenge Chretien at a Liberal leadership review set for next February....."Unfortunately, matters unrelated to governing have gotten in the way of our working together on government policy," Chretien said in a letter to Martin.....The simmering feud was another heavy blow for a government already mired in a deepening scandal over how lucrative contracts were regularly awarded to friends of the Liberals....A poll in Saturday's Globe and Mail showed that 68 percent of Canadians want Chretien to step down before the next election, which is likely to be held in 2004."


As the professional pundits of our economic systems continue to naval gaze in the hope of finding something they'd previously missed, the latest batch of US unemployment data offers little for the full throttle ahead view, and some support for those who fear a jobless, profitless recovery:

"In a new measure of the US economy's continuing travails, the number of US residents on the dole hit a new 19-year high earlier this month, according to official data released Thursday........
the total number of US residents collecting benefits on a continuing basis rose to 3.89m in the week to May 18 - the highest number since January 15 1983 - from 3.84m the previous week."
Financial Times

Or, if you like it put simply, while there are less people actually loosing their jobs, the numbers actually finding the way back into work are still preoccupyingly small.

This fact, when looked at in combination with a hefty dose of more positive sounding data continues to leave the road ahead as shrouded in mist as ever. For eg:the latest batch of US manufacturing data, productivity and confidence data. According to Reuters

"U.S. manufacturing, which suffered the most during last year's recession, is on a firmer footing, reports on Friday showed, and combined with stunning productivity gains and soaring consumer confidence, demonstrate the start of a sound economic recovery."

Of course, what needs to be borne in mind here is that there is always a high noise to signal ratio in output and productivity during, and coming out of, recessions. So really the jury is very much still out here.

Meantime absent any serious push from Argentina's political class to resolve their problems, the Argentinians are going back to barter:

"In a country where half of the 36 million people live in poverty and one in five is jobless, swapping goods and services is no longer a novelty. For many it has become a dire necessity.

The Spanish word for barter, trueque — pronounced "treh-kay" — is on the lips of everyone from out-of-work maids and mechanics to idled career professionals
In 1995, Argentina had one barter club; now there are 5,000 of the clubs where people stand shoulder to shoulder trading anything from smoked hams and homegrown vegetables to videocassettes and babies' clothing.

Where once many Argentines talked of prices in pesos, many now talk of "creditos" or credits, the wallet-sized slips of paper that trade like quasi-currency.
Need homebaked bread? Five credits. How about a sweater? 12 credits. Mechanics, math tutors and birthday party planners will barter their services for credits per hour."

At the same time ex-economy minister Cavallo, languishing in the Campo de Mayo military jail, proudly proclaims that:

'El Gobierno de Duhalde es un gran defraudador'

According to the Spanish newspaper El Pais:

"El detenido ha perdido la cuenta de las causas que tiene pendientes porque, según dice, los jueces inventan cada día una nueva....Abundan las acusaciones y escasean las pruebas contra el ex ministro"

Not to be fooled lightly a whole bevvy of heavy weight economists, among them Paul Samuelson, Robert Lucas, Robert Mundell, Robert Solow,Franco Modigliani and Paul Volcker, have started a campaign to try and secure his release. Of course, holding Cavallo individually responsible for the trauma which Argentina is currently going through is obviously absurd - the mistake was obviously the dollar-peso peg, and then of course trying to hold it all through 01 when it was obviously going to have to give, but wasn't the IMF also in the thick of this one - but, as they say in Spanish, I personally wouldn't put my hand in the fire to declare him a Santo Innocente when you look at all that was going off there right through the ninetees. And if you do take the trouble to read through his interviews in Spanish over the years, something of a raving paranoid he does seem to be.

On another front El Pais also informs us that:


According to the Spanish newspaper:

"La falta de dinero, el desempleo, la sensación de frustración y el corralito financiero no sólo erosionan el ánimo de los argentinos en estos tiempos de crisis, sino que además les provocan múltiples inconvenientes cuando de hacer el amor se trata."

The Argentine Psychiatrist Adrian Helien has been able to detect not only a decline in sexual activity, but also a reduction in the quality of sexual relations (I wonder what kind of metric you use for that). She states the most frequent problems she treats are inhibited desire and premature ejaculation (in men) and anorgasmia (in women). Even if her opinions might be considered by some to be rather subjective (or by others boringly predictable, yawn, yawn) there are some nice metrics to serve as a proxy for the missing ejaculations: sales of erotic underwear are 30% down (year on year), occupation rates in motel and other hourly rented accommodation has dropped between 30-40%, and sales of condoms are plummeting. Put another way, down there right now the chimpanzee faction is definately winning out over the Bonobo side. (Giving credit where credit is due, this story seems to originate in Clarin, but I don't have the time right now to go down there and chase the link).

No comments: