Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thursday ramble - Ramana, Barratt, CPI & paywalls

Another wander today.

A story for Ramana

Until I found Ramana's blog, my knowledge of the Indian city of Pune was limited to bare name recognition. Since I became sensitised, I keep coming across the name.

The most recent example was the Sydney Morning Herald obituary of Nana Apte by Jyotsna Apte Field and Laurie Field. 

Vishwanath Ramchandra Apte was born in Pune on  June 12, 1923, the son of Ramchandra and Tara Apte. After local education, he graduated from the Sydenham College of Commerce in Mumbai with a bachelor of commerce. In 1958 he settled permanently in Australia with his family to establish a local branch of an Indian business.

I thought that Ramana might find the obituary interesting.

Further problems with measurement and mechanistic management

In yesterday's post On storage sheds, the past and a need for change I said in part:

I would no longer claim to be an expert in some areas such as telecommunications, although I still have a good working knowledge. However, one of the things that I find interesting looking at the material lies in the way I have come to reject things that I once argued with some passion.

Part of the reason for this lies in my return to history and writing, changing my perspective. A more important reason is that some of the areas I have been most passionate about in areas such as management or public policy clearly don’t work. I see this in my writing over time.

As it happened, this morning a tweet from Paul Barratt (@phbarratt) drew my attention to this story from The Age in Melbourne, State fails again on child abuse. Paul tweeted: "Distorting effects of KPIs in the public sector. Child protection is not a "business"".

I had been going to write a post on the use and abuse of competencies in education and training to illustrate the way my views have shifted over time. However, Paul's led me to respond: "Paul, I have written a fair bit on this one linked to what I call mechanistic management. I will try to do a consolidation post"

The misuse of competencies is actually linked to Paul's example because both are symptoms of a broader malaise that I have tried to explore in length. I spent some time looking as past posts. A consolidation post is needed, but its quite a big job!

Australia's low CPI conceals economic pain

The Australian CPI figures released today by the ABS suggest that Australian inflation is under control. A reduction in official interest rates looks increasingly likely. Yet the figures also show something that I have been talking about for some time, the way the dispersion of increases affects people differently.

A key feature of the CPI increases on both a quarterly and annual basis can be summarised this way: those items linked to basic living have generally increased faster then the CPI. Food, for example, is up 6.4 per cent on a year on year basis, housing up 4.2 per cent, as compared to a CPI increase of 3.5 per cent. On a quarterly basis, electricity was up no less than 7.8 per cent!

As a family, we are very conscious of this. In May, we moved into a smaller house but experienced a 5 per cent increase in rents. Our last quarterly electricity bill was over $1,000. Just because certain prices have fallen and have affected the CPI total has little meaning if you don't buy those things.

  This links to a point I made on the carbon tax. If you use averages and base compensation on averages, then it follows that some people will actually benefit more than expected, while others may be much worse off then expected. You cannot actually make any form of sensible judgement as to results and reactions unless you look at distributional issues.

The Australian's new web site

I wondered what people thought of the Australian's new web site and subscription model?

My focus has been on the impact on blogging. Now here I can already make a preliminary judgement. Not much, so long the paper continues to give two lines for each story. From there, you can go to equivalent stories in other outlets or the other source material.

Looking at the issue from a different perspective, my own interests independent of blogging, the change has helped me identify those things that I really value in the paper. Those are the better researched pieces that actually say something original.

I accept that this is a personal view. I know that some people, for example, follow Greg Sheridan. They may pay to keep reading. I used to read some of his columns, but they really only told me his opinions, did not add much to my thinking. So I wouldn't subscribe. But there is material in the paper that I want to read,- some of the higher education material is an example, so I may buy from time to time.

People who live in grass houses should not throw stones. I am in Greg's position, if on a micro scale.

My Express columns are not online because my editor considers that they actually encourage people to buy the paper on a Wednesday. Not all, just a very particular demographic.

I have now written 144 columns. While a small total compared to those who publish daily, it's still quite a lot. I enjoy it for it keeps me in touch with home. 


Rummuser said...

Though I had to do a bit of googling to find the obit as there was no link to it in the post, it was worth the trouble. Truly a remarkable man and that he flourished in Australia says as much about Australia as his own pioneering ways. Thank you Jim.

CPI in India also stands for the Communist Party of India, and endangered species! They also have a break away faction called the CPI(M) the M for Marxist!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jim

Not part of your 'ramble' but thought I'd note a follow up on that Rugby cruise I mentioned for your interest:


Jim Belshaw said...

A double apology, Ramana, for not including the link and then for your comment being caught in the spam trap! I had forgotten about the CPI and CPI(M).

Thanks, kvd. I can understand people getting upset. NRMA doesn't seem to have handled it very well.