My son always wants to watch motorbikes on the telly. While watching an old episode of motorcycle adventurer Charley Boorman traveling through India by various means, I took note of Charley’s description of the ambulance service in Mumbai. He said that until recently there were no ambulances, so a group of entrepreneurs set up a service.
It is called Dial 1298 and it provides scheduled and emergency medical transportation. Even the poor are catered for:
The principle of cross subsidy is used wherein:
- Full charge to a patient going by choice to a private hospital.
- Subsidized charge to BPL (Below Poverty Line) patient going by choice to a government / municipal hospital.
- Free service to accident victims, unaccompanied, unconscious individuals and victims of mass casualty incidents.
One of their investors is Accumen Fund, who say: “We use philanthropic capital to make disciplined investments – loans or equity, not grants – that yield both financial and social returns.”
All good, voluntary stuff. Socialists hate it.
Last year, for the first time, sales of adult diapers in Japan exceeded those for babies.
- Here. I found it here.
In China, the government wanted to build a road where there were some flats. Instead of evicting the residents, they lured them away with money. But for one couple the money was not enough, so the rest of the building was knocked down and the road was built anyway. The couple who refused to move now live in the middle of the road.
The article does not mention whether they still have water and electricity, but it does give some other examples of similar situations where utilities were disconnected.
This is China, so it is likely that there is more going on than meets the eye. But on the face of it no property rights have been violated. The land the road sits on was bought fair and square. This situation demonstrates that compulsory purchase and eminent domain are not necessary to solve the problem of recalcitrant landowners: if all your neighbours sell it is likely that your property is about to lose value and you would be wise to sell also.
Economic wisdom from a rather surprising place:
Since 2007, 15 bridges have collapsed in China. Only three of them were more than 15 years old at the time of their collapse, according to a report by the Shandong Business Daily.
On Aug. 24, a 330-footlong approach ramp of Harbin’s Yangmingtan Bridge fell over, killing three and injuring five. The bridge had been in use less than a year and is the eighth bridge collapse in China this year. The Harbin administration has so far not openly addressed the case.
Zhao Wenjin, the lead commentator of Lanzhou Daily, commented on the incident, saying, “With each collapse, we need to reflect: why are we chasing GDP?”
According to a Jingyang Net report, Wang Yang, Party secretary of Guangdong Province, said at a provincial Party meeting in 2009: “Sometimes the GDP number looks good, but it didn’t really create wealth for society. It was, instead, a waste of society’s wealth.
“For example, building a bridge creates GDP. When the bridge collapses and is taken down, it creates another addition to the GDP. When the bridge is rebuilt, more GDP is created. As such, one bridge resulted in three additions to the GDP. But it was a tremendous waste of resources.”
Mainland media Chinese Business Daily said that sticks and pebbles were found in the concrete that made up the Yangmingtan Bridge, and the metal wires on the surface were also not tied together properly.
The headline above the article that the above paragraphs come from reads: Frequent Bridge Collapses Help Boost China’s GDP.
My thanks to Sean Corrigan of the Cobden Centre for sending out the multi-recipient email that told me about this story.
Nepal to ban independent trekking. Public safety, job creation and ‘stimulus’ all in one; how long before other nations follow Nepal’s lead?
It is said, probably apocryphally, that in rejecting an appeal for the great French chemist Antoine Lavoisier to be spared the guillotine, the revolutionary judge said, “The Republic has no need of scientists”.
The great Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, the first Muslim to win a Nobel prize for science, has been written out of Pakistani history for being the wrong sort of Muslim, writes Rob Crilly in the Telegraph. Among the saddest aspects of this story is that when reading this I could not wholeheartedly join in with Mr Crilly’s wish that Professor Salam’s name should again be honoured in his homeland. While public and elite opinion in Pakistan remains such that it does not wish to claim a great nuclear physicist – and one of the architects of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons programme – as its own, better for the world that Pakistan gets its wish.
In April, a Chinese government minister proudly announced that there are now 152m people using 3G mobile phone services in China.
An ongoing story in the Apple world is that the world’s largest mobile phone company, China Mobile (which has about 650 million customers and 70% of the mainland Chinese market), does not offer the iPhone to its customers. There has been much speculation as to when Apple and China Mobile will “do a deal” in order to offer the iPhone to its customers, many stories written by financial analysts (many working for large equities houses) expressing their puzzlement about the lack of such a deal and pressuring the two companies to get on with it. There has been much discussion as to what the business reasons for the lack of such a deal might be – possibly the two companies are at odds about shares of revenues when they sell Apps and music and movies to iPhones over their networks. Such arguments have long characterised arguments between handset vendors and mobile networks elsewhere in the world, although generally Apple has won the argument outside China.
This seems puzzling, however. There is a great deal of money to be made, right now, and this money is simply not being made by anyone at the moment. It requires parties to be very stupid indeed to concede that two parties will have 100% of nothing, rather than undecided shares of many billions of dollars, which is apparently happening here. Neither Apple nor China Mobile are stupid.
This isn’t it. There is more going on here. Or possibly less.
Last week, another piece of information came out of China. The real number of 3G users in China was in fact only half this – between 75 million and 80 million. China Mobile had “mistakenly” provided the whole number of devices sold using its TD-SCDMA technology rather than the number using 3G data services. As well as using this technology for 3G data services, China Mobile also uses it for cordless (but fixed) telephone services. The vast bulk of devices sold had been very simple essentially fixed telephones that could just be used for simple voice and text services.
So how many 3G customers does China Mobile have? Well, there are two other mobile networks in China. China Unicom operates a 3G network using W-CDMA (people who refer to “UMTS” or “HS(D)PA” are generally also talking about this technology, although the terms actually mean slightly different things), the technology used exclusively in Europe, by AT&T and T-Mobile in the US, by NTT in Japan, and by the majority of carriers elsewhere in the world. China Telecom operates a 3G network using the CDMA2000 (often referred to simply as “CDMA” in the US), used by Verizon and Sprint in the US, KDDI in Japan, and by many carriers elsewhere in the world, although far fewer than the number that use W-CDMA. China Unicom apparently had 51 million 3G customers in April. China Telecom claimed 45.56 million.
China Telecom’s number is easier to exaggerate than is China Unicom’s number, as the CDMA2000 technology was developed as a gradual evolution of the (2G) CDMAOne technology, and where you draw the line between “2G” and “3G” is somewhat arbitrary for this technology. W-CDMA was an all new air interface compared to its 2G predecessor, so (if you are being at least reasonably honest, which is never guaranteed in China) it is harder to fudge the numbers than it is for CDMA2000. Assuming that the 51 million number for China Unicom is relatively sound, and bearing in mind that China Telecom has around half the overall market share of China Unicom, a fair estimate might be that China Telecom really has around 25 million 3G customers, assuming that “3G” means people achieving similar data speeds to what is being achieved on China Unicom’s network. (China Telecom clearly do have a significant number of 3G customers. 3G devices bearing their brand were readily available and being sold aggressively in the electronics markets of Beijing when I visited last November, as were those of China Unicom. China Mobile, much less so). So that would mean that the two smaller carriers, China Unicom and China Telecom, have around 75 million 3G customers in all. Which would suggest that China Mobile, the largest mobile phone operator in the world, has, as a first order estimate, none.
This might help explain why they are unable to offer the iPhone.
So, it appears that the largest Mobile carrier in the world, in a country perceived as being rapidly advancing technologically, may have no 3G customers. Why is this?
To answer this question, we need to go back around 20 years. → Continue reading: How the Chinese screwed up their 3G mobile phone networks
Incoming from my friend Tim Evans:
Today is the sixty-first anniversary of one of the most extraordinary actions by a British army unit during the Cold War. Please, just spare 9 minutes of your time to quietly watch and reflect on a battle that has long fascinated me: the Battle of the Imjin River.
I’ve been out and about most of the day, but tomorrow morning, I will do what Tim suggests.
Mumbai, India. February 2012
What if my problem is “I cannot find anywhere to park”?
Your teeth belong to the collective.
- From a Planet Money piece quoted by Alex Tabarrok (who was linked to today by David Thompson), about how China went from the bad old days of the Great Leap Forward to the better days that followed. The above words, which Thompson also singled out for attention in his link, were an answer to a property rights query to those in authority, in the bad old days. Do we even own our teeth? No you do not.
The switch from collective “property” to actual property, as Tabarrok makes clear, was initiated by the people of China, rather than by their rulers. It began in the village of Xiaogang, whose farmers decided to go back to actual property for each individual farmer and his family, with immediate beneficial effects. And then it became a movement. The rulers of China didn’t decide to make this change. They merely decided not to stamp it out.
From a Cricinfo piece by George Dobell, about the one day cricket international between Afghanistan and Pakistan, played in the United Arab Emirates yesterday:
A spokesman for the Taliban contacted the Afghanistan Cricket Board on the morning of the game to wish the team well and assure them they would be remembered in their prayers.
Pakistan won at a canter, but the Afghans did not disgrace themselves, in their first ODI against a top ranked, Full Member, test playing nation.
Afghan minister of finance Dr Omar Zakhilwal:
“The event appears to have united the entire country. … There is nothing that can touch cricket in popularity or as a force for good in Afghanistan. There is absolutely nothing else that mobilises our society in the same way. Not politics, political events or reconstruction.”
Cricket, says Dobell, is booming in Afghanistan:
Not only is the international team now full time, but there are league teams in 28 of the 34 provinces …
However, Dobell goes on to report that:
… the sport will be made compulsory as part of the school curriculum.
And you get the definite feeling that Dobell thinks that’s good. I am a rabid cricket fan, but I say that nothing puts many people off a sport more completely than being made to play it against their will. For sport, read: anything.
I remember school contemporaries who would have preferred being in the Taliban to playing bloody cricket.
This article over at the Foreign Policy website, by Helen Mees, dusts off an argument that I have mentioned here on Samizdata before, (in relation to a comment by the US investor and commentator Peter Schiff) namely, that China, by using its vast foreign exchange reserves to buy Western government debt, thereby pushed down long-term interest rates and encouraged the kind of reckless lending that ended up going ker-boom! in 2007-2008. And if only the Chinese had not flogged us all those artificially cheap computer parts and children’s toys (made cheap by that naughty fixed exchange rate regime for the yuan), they would not have made so much money to then lend to us Westerners to blow on housing we cannot really afford. (Here is another old post of mine on the same subject of debt/savings imbalances between the West and China.)
The problem with this line of reasoning is that if, say, a country has earned genuine income by selling something valuable and useful (like toys, cars, electronic components or whatnot), and invested the proceeds abroad in things that can generate new wealth in the future, what is the problem? The problem is not that China invested huge savings and other surpluses into the West – after all, in the 19th Century, the UK invested large capital surpluses in places such as the US, Canada and Argentina (now there’s an irony, Ed). And there was nothing “imbalanced” about that. If real savings – not central bank funny money created out of thin air – gets lent to people to invest, that’s hardly bad. The problem is if the money is lent to people buying homes as part of a broader speculative bubble in real estate, say. And there is no doubt that domestic policy in the West, most definitely in the US, encouraged unwise lending and borrowing for property, consumer goods and so on, rather than investment in new technologies and industries.
The comment thread on the FP item are interesting, where it is contested that subprime borrowing made up only a tiny fraction of the US mortgage market. It did not, since one of the issues with the sub-prime market and the huge losses sustained by banks was how sub-prime debt was mixed up with better quality stuff and then sold to investors as if it is was all investment-grade, when it was wasn’t. For example, here is a comment from a person called “RRAFAY”:
“Actually, 5% of Subprime is enough to cause a crash. Especially, when no mention is made of how these mortgages were leveraged. Secondly, Alt-A is not mentioned either. When both are taken together, they represent roughly 15% of the US mortgage market. Secondly, the idea that Chinese surplus capital led to an excess supply of money is so weak, that it is mind boggling that someone would even suggest this. China only holds 7% of total US debt. Each country mentioned had a housing crisis, Ireland, Spain, and the US.”
In my view, it is certainly true that in a world of free capital movements, if a country A can export a vast amount of its capital into country B, and people in the latter country are not constrained by proper market disciplines and there is already a full-blown encouragement of high borrowing and lax lending, then the added money will pour fuel on the fire. But in the main, I think it is a pretty silly line of argument to say that it is the fault of the Chinese for having earned so much money and then reinvested it. There’s something just not quite right about that argument on so many levels.