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Grant McDermott

Data. Economics. Environment.

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Some things that I've been meaning to write about, but short on time[*]...

1) A heavily fancied South Africa bombs out during the knock-out stages of the Cricket World Cup. As I wrote on facebook: "Wait. I've seen this movie before." Or, in the endearing words of Yogi Berra: "It's déjà vu all over again!" (In related news, the ever reliable Zapiro brokes little sympathy for the apologists.)

2) Speaking of déjà vu... South Africa's favourite electricity monopoly, Eishkom Eskom, has covered itself in glory yet again. This time, serving up "a comedy of errors" that ultimately resulted in a massive explosion at a key power plant. The end result: Expenses of R3bn ($440m) for the company - thanks tax payer! - and a "severely compromised" national electricity supply. Seriously, is there anyone left who believes that we can delay the move to a competitive power market any longer?

3) More promising news is that South Africa is finally set to hike water rates in a bid to secure desperately needed investment for ageing infrastructure. A.F.T, as far as I am concerned. If you don't charge people rates commensurable to the cost of supplying water, sooner or later you won't be able to supply anyone at all. Or, as I commented: "To speak some 'economese', we need to charge water rates equivalent to the long-run marginal costs of providing it." You can see some of my (brief) previous thoughts on water pricing here and here.

4) I'm less optimistic about the Chinese command-and-control approach to water management, as officials announced plans to reduce water use per unit of GDP by 7%. I share the sentiments of many in thinking that water will ultimately prove the defining barrier for China's continued growth explosion, which has thus far come at a very large environmental and health cost. That the government has pledged a 30% reduction in water consumption (per unit of GDP) over the next five years is a start. Like any good economist, however, I maintain that they'll have to get prices involved if they want to make real improvements in water conservation over the long-term. (Having said that, and while I much prefer the market mechanism, the Chinese have been successful in their stated aims of reducing energy intensity thus far... moderate as these may be in reality.)

5) And now, for something completely different:



Alan! Alan! Alan!... Al! Alan!

I also enjoyed this:
"What was the answer?"
"Spatula. They're just making them up now."

[*] That, coupled with the fact that I was somewhat overzealous at both the gym and (later) the bar over the weekend. I can still barely straighten my arms. Walking around like a hungover T-Rex.