Archive for June 4th, 2014

Why not go for Surface Rail public transport instead of Metros/Rapid Bus system?

June 4, 2014

The blogger has always wondered why we don’t go for Mumbai Local train system in Indian cities instead of fancy metro? Mumbai local may not be as elegant but carries far larger number of passengers. Moreover, in some cities the existing train lines could be used to atleast connect some points in the city. This will save both costs and time.

Anyways, here is an interesting paper by experts in the matter making a case for surface rail. It is written by M Ravibabu of  Ministry of Railways and V Phani Sree of Jawaharlal Nehru Architecture and Fine Arts University:


What’s New in Tobacco Control?

June 4, 2014

William Savedoff revisits tobacco control policy across the world as we recently celebrated World No Tobacco Day on May 31.

The no of tobacco users has increased by about 30 million in the last year. ANd most in low and middle income countries:

Saturday was World No Tobacco Day which prompted me to ask: “What’s new?” After looking at the press releases, I decided that the most significant thing that happened last year was that another 30 million young people have started smoking around the world. Of these, 25 million are in low- and middle-income countries and about 12 million of them will die prematurely from disease linked to tobacco – 10% of them because of second-hand smoke. This epidemic is not caused by a virus or spread by mosquitoes. It is intentionally planned and profited from by large tobacco companies – for-profit multinationals as well as state-owned monopolies.

The irony is that 178 countries are parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an international agreement that commits them to implementing a series of highly effective and legal measures to reduce the prevalence of smoking – raising tobacco taxes, restricting advertising, prohibiting smoking in public places. The World Bank and IMF have staff available to provide technical support to countries wishing to proceed with these measures. WHO has all the technical materials and explanations necessary for countries to implement six basic cost-effective strategies which are part of the MPOWER initiative. The Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, with additional funding from the Gates Foundation, have contributed to MPOWER and have their own research material, advocacy documents, and toolkits to help out.

There’s no excuse for inaction, and yet the epidemic is growing – particularly in low- and middle-income countries.

He says there has been progress but in most countries lobbying to keep tobacco flowing remains.

Three factors conspire to keep the tobacco epidemic spreading. First, tobacco doesn’t look like a crisis to anyone with the power to do anything about it. Second, tobacco companies apply enormous resources and ingenuity to keep policymakers ignorant or cowed. Third, academics, technical staff in international agencies, and government officials repeat and elaborate Tobacco Company propaganda – like worrying about the regressive impact of tobacco taxes without understanding the enormous burden of smoking on poor people or treating smoking as a consumer choice without recognizing its addictive quality and the lengths to which tobacco companies go to get adolescents hooked.

Officials in rich countries are used to smoke-free environments and find it easy to forget the invisible costs in shortened lives. In institutions like the World Bank, regional development banks, and aid agencies, most health sector staff are focused on improving the delivery of health care services and addressing diseases that require medical treatment – like the cancers and strokes caused by smoking – and have limited standing to push for changes in tax policies or trademark protection laws. For staff who work on fiscal policy, trade, and private sector development, tobacco is frequently viewed as a distraction, and the need for laws and regulations that distinguish a legal-but-toxic product from legal-and-non-toxic ones are simply a headache. Low- and middle-income officials have plenty of other things to do, particularly when the international community offers limited resources to tackle the problem.

However, there is a constituency with a very focused interest in tobacco: tobacco companies and the people who work for and profit from them. British American Tobacco, Japan Tobacco International, Phillip-Morris, the China National Tobacco Corporation, and their peers have billions of dollars and plenty of time to spread deceptions, obfuscate issues, and file lawsuits.

Nice stuff..

A Reading List – Understanding Economic Development

June 4, 2014

Arvind Subramainan taught a course on econ development recently. He has put up his reading list and is quite a comprehensive one. It is spread across  14 topic with each topic having multiple things to read..

A nice way to read on different perspectives of development..

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