September 2008


Paul Collier writes in the NY Times about the UN Millennium Goals, tax avoidance of foreign resource giants in Africa, the need for policies on governance, agriculture, security and trade to be pursued along with foreign aid, and the need to direct help towards the “bottom billion” countries with low growth prospects, rather than China and India. He gives Ban Ki-moon the big thumbs up.

I’ve been meaning to read Collier’s Bottom Billion book for a long time. You might find a podcast with econtalk and Collier interesting.

I’ve found a 2005 article by Josephn Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton that makes for interesting reading. They make the case for why the protectionist trade policies of rich countries are hurting the growth of the export industries of poor countries.

“The rich countries that make up the OECD give more than 200 billion pounds to their farmers each year, and maintain high tariffs to keep cheaper food out.”

and also:

“There is also much to gain from increasing the mobility of workers. Workers from poor countries should be allowed to carry out short-term projects in rich countries.

This would help the flexibility of the labour force, and also allow workers to send part of their pay home. The flow of money from migrant workers in rich coutnries is a crucial source of development finance, and is already greater than all the aid money that is give every year.”

Read more here.

Australia is planning to implement a migrant workers scheme to allow people from the Pacific to work in Australia’s agricultural sector. Singapore and Malaysia have a large number of migrant workers taking jobs as household staff. I can see that this could be a future growth industry in Australia as an attractive alternative to the rising costs of child care.

It’s interesting to see that there is a very large migrant worker community in Singapore. There are many Filipino shops set up to sell phone cards, products from home and Western Union money transfer services.

I think it would be a great thing for rich countries to open up their borders for Lao people to more easily obtain work there. Au pairs and masseuse staff are some industries that come to mind.

The Sydney Morning Herald describes Laos as the cheapest travel destination in Asia. It’s described as “living-like-a-king-on-the-cost-of-a-packet-of-chips-a-day”.

Contiki tours are soon to be starting their operations in South East Asia. Boo!

“Particularly in places like Laos, life moves at a languid pace. Are they ready for hordes of tourists demanding that the toilets be clean, the food not make them sick, the beer taste like home and the mozzies stop biting? I doubt it. And tour passengers aren’t known for their patience.”

The Australian reports the Thai Prime Minister is facing charges of breaching the constitution after receiving fees of 80,000 baht for appearing on a Thai cooking show Chim Pai, Bon Pai (Cooking and Grumbling).

I’m going to a Lao restaurant in Sydney tomorrow. It’s really only a fusion-lao restaurant, as I can see by looking at a review written in the Sydney Morning Herald. The review describes Green Papaya Salad as Taam Som, which is the Thai name – as would be obvious to anyone reading this blog. Atlantic Salmon is also on the menu, which is not very authentic for a landlocked country.

I went to a Isan Thai restaurant in Sydney a few days ago. The food was really good but I felt bad paying 35’000 kip for one basket (tip) of sticky rice (kao niaw).

I can see I’m going to annoy my dining colleagues by commenting on every dish with:

– “That’s not really authentic Lao food”.

– “That is really expensive, in Lao is would cost x”.

So yeah, generally complaining about how expensive and less tasty the food is when compared to Laos.

Update:

It’s a good restaurant but it’s not Lao food. No Kao Niaw (Sticky Rice) or Beer Lao.

I’ve worked out the perfect answer for the next time someone asks me how was Laos:

It was the best year of my life.