Archive for August 24th, 2016

Doing economic history in Africa: experiences from the archives in Uganda

August 24, 2016

Nice post by Michiel de Haas, Felix Meier zu Selhausen and Kate Frederick. Two of them are economic historians in Africa.

They point to their experiences in building archives and connecting dots in Uganda:

The field of African Economic History is flourishing. The rising number of participants at the annual meeting of the AEHN, the increasing flow of articles in mainstream economic history journals and thriving research groups in Lund, Wageningen and Stellenbosch, just to name some of the larger research clusters, testify to this. The ‘new economic history of Africa’ is strongly data driven, with researchers using published and unpublished sources to create datasets, establish and compare trends, and conduct statistical analysis to tease out causality (for discussion and an overview, see the recent paper by Johan Fourie (2016)

To further expand our empirical knowledge of long-term African development, the potential of colonial archives in Europe is hardly exhausted, with researchers using trade, tax, wage, price, climatological, and criminal statistics to make a wide range of new and compelling contributions. However, there is much scope to venture beyond Europe’s missionary and government archives, which tend to focus on key administrative matters and provide only limited information on the seemingly mundane and practical intricacies of colonial rule. Previously neglected, individual-level data sources have already shown to harbour great potential to advance our knowledge of long-term African development. Recent contributions have utilized sources preserved in archives on African soil, including military recruit records, the performance files of police officers, hospital registries, and the marriage records of Anglican Africans.  

Archival documents in Uganda are in a state of flux after having been largely neglected or even destroyed during Uganda’s troubled post-colonial history. In recent years, things have been changing for the better. Social, cultural and political historians such as Derek Peterson (Michigan), Holly Hanson (Mount Holyoke) and Shane Doyle (Leeds) – just to name a few internationally renowned scholars – have been producing work that is firmly based on local source materials found in Uganda’s national, district and missionary archives.

Michiel de Haas and Felix Meier zu Selhausen share some of their experiences exploring a variety of source materials in Uganda. Michiel has been affiliated with the Makerere Institute of Social Research (MISR) in Kampala and visited the National Archives in Entebbe and five district archives. He has also conducted oral history interviews with cotton farmers in Eastern Uganda. Felix lived in Fort Portal for three years where he taught at Mountains of the Moon University. He has digitized marriage records from Anglican churches all over Uganda and in-patient registers from Western Uganda’s Kabarole Hospital.

Wow. This must be one of its kind experience. Church or any centre of religion archive is such a crucial place to understand initial development.

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Are Public sector bankers underpaid or private/foreign ones overpaid?

August 24, 2016

We are highly  highly biased against the public sector especially the banks. It is as if these banks are govt owned and remain inefficient by choice. These banks at one time were private and run pretty much like other private banks of today and were highly efficient and dynamic minus all the technologies of today. It is a pity that they all were nationalised and things changed dramatically for them in future years. Less credit is also given to public sector as it provided most of the talent which shaped private banks later. But that is another story for another post.

One perennial issue since coming of private sector banks in 1994 is the disparity in pay scales. Actually, these differences would have existed even between 1969-94 as foreign banks and remaining private sector bank etc must have paid higher salaries than nationalised banks. But as nationalised bank jobs carried element of prestige as well, these differences would not have mattered. Now, there is not much prestige left and pay scales were low anyways. It has turned out to be a worst of both the worlds – low pay and low job status. This status bit matters as one continues to see talented people taking up central bank jobs which has similar low salary base but not in public sector banks.

We usually put the answer as salaries of public sector banks are too low. Another way is to question the high salaries of private sector/foreign banks.

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Capping price of movie tickets in multiplexes…a good idea?

August 24, 2016

There is little doubt that movie going has become a thing for the haves. There was a time that most people could afford going to cinema halls. There was just one screen and tickets were priced across income levels. There was dress circle for the lower income groups and balcony for the higher income ones. Dress circle seats were pretty much at level with the screen. Balcony seats like its name were much higher than dress circle seats and you actually had an ascending stair case with seats at the top being most preferred just like today as well. Some had box too appealing to even higher income groups than balcony ones.

Due to just one screen there were several seats and there was space for everybody. Then came this multiplex idea where one movie hall was broken into several ones and multiple screens were introduced. These screens were much smaller and so were number of seats in one hall. Unfortunately, the earlier policy of pricing tickets for all was done away with. The pricing was done keeping interests only of balcony and box goers. The prices were kept way too high and the dress circle audience has been mostly ignored. The older version of cinema is barely functional now and multiplexes run the show.

Infact, the prices continued to increase despite being already on the high side and it is now difficult for even balcony goers. This has caused resentment. Now there is little doubt that experiencing movies in today’s halls is much better than the past. But there is still a market for people which just want to see the movie and do not want to pay for the experience.

Ideally cinema industry should have figured this bit and tried to have cinemas for other income groups as well. This is especially true for the student community who just don’t have enough money to pay for movies but is a huge market. After all one tries to release movies after board exams knowing students will miss movies during this time. Likewise there are other low income groups as well.

But as industry has not figured this bit, govt is intervening and capping prices. First Tamil Nadu capped prices to 120 and now Karnataka is thinking of the same:

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