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Danh Nguyen
Lexington, Va
Some days I'm a gem. Some days I'm a germ.
Interests: Sing in the shower and have some terrible karaoke nights with friends
Recent Activity
The main argument in “We can end world poverty without destroying the planet” resonates a lot with what I am doing research on regarding renewable energy, and how revolutionary renewable energy can be in the long-run. Throughout my research, I have ceased to believe that renewable energy is not price competitive and started to wonder why people have not turned to these sources of energy that can possibly pave the way for future generations to achieve so much more in the long run. It all boils down to what Quiggin said about it is not about a matter of achievability but rather, a matter of willingness to adopt. It is so eye-opening to see how solar photovoltaics have had significant price reduction from 27 cents for utility-scale PV in 2010 to only 6 cents per kWh as of right now (a 78% cost reduction). Residential photovoltaics have had its price reduced from 42 cents to only 9 cents per kWh (79% cost reduction). This technology has only been developed since 1990Yet, despite this rapid expansion, photovoltaics only accounted for 1.5% of the U.S’ total energy generation in the past year. Green technology has the potential to achieve so much more than its current pace of development. It is a matter of whether we are willing to spend more on it. Renewable energy has ceased to be a luxury and have the full potential to become a general source of energy. Yet, if we continue to pursue lower price from energy generated from fossil fuels, can we actually achieve a certain amount of energy capacity for future generations for decades to come when we cannot afford to emit any more emissions due to increasing climate change and pollution. The climate report from the World Bank was quite interesting as well. We have witnessed how agriculture has suffered from extreme weather conditions as cattle experience heat stress, unexpected pest outburst from changing weather patterns, and these problems disproportionately affect the farmers. It ties back to what Solow said about how we should focus on both the future and the people who are currently shortchanged right now. It has come to show that dealing with climate change and emissions can benefit current populations right now let alone future generations. Although there are ways to tackle environmental problems, including water use and land use, through regenerative agriculture, agrobusinesses have gone out of its way to drown out the voices advocating for these sustainable agricultural practices. It is disheartening to see how the government and businesses turning a blind eye to this issue, but it simply is not a problem that can be dealt only from a bottom-up approach.
Toggle Commented Dec 5, 2019 on Last Blog Post for the Year at Jolly Green General
I find Parker and Vogl’s “Do Conditional Cash Transfers Improve Economic Outcomes in the Next Generation? Evidence from Mexico” very uplifting. Through the data on labor outcomes and years of education, they have managed to tell a story of how the Progresa program have made positive improvements in the well-being, intellectual development, and shared value in the community. Having learned about the Conditional Cash Transfers system in India for female birth certifications, I have been much more fascinated about the full potential of this policy, especially when applied in a low-health and low-education context. The fact that conditional cash transfers actually increase the years of schooling, participation in the labor market, and the rate of health check-ups revokes any claim that subsidies are a waste of financial resources. The effects were significant across the board, more impressive in children and females. Although the conditional cash transfers in Mexico were not specifically designed to empower women, the results show that the effects on female labor participation is particularly more significant than that of males. This has come to show that women empowerment in developing countries start at the roots. In my opinion, the years of schooling alone does not have a significant impact on women labor participation, but how empowered they feel when exposed to education and being able to improve and compete side by side their male peers. Conditional cash transfers have the potential to be developed into a female assistance program so as to close the gender inequality gap currently existing in Mexico and other developing countries. It is disheartening to see women only earned one third of that of men prior to the studies, but hopefully with the appropriate measures and program design, they can actually earn whatever men earn for the same amount of job. I feel like this conditional cash transfer system can also fit very well with what has been implemented in India to minimize the instance of “missing women” in Mexico and other developing countries. The conditional cash transfers system has the potential to solve a lot of social issues that we have discussed throughout the course of the class, including gender inequality, urban bias, poverty, education, and healthcare. This paper inspires me to do some more research into CCT currently in place to find out more about the full potential of this policy and also what policies can complement CCT to explore its potential.
Toggle Commented Nov 20, 2019 on Next Week at Jolly Green General
“Interest Rates in the North and Capital Flows to the South- Is there a Missing Link?” focuses on a piece of the big Development Economics puzzle that I care a lot about throughout the course of the term: extending foreign credits to developing countries. It has always been interesting to me how some developing countries have turned into some of the biggest economies in the world. Taken out of context, their regulations seem really internal; however, the paper expands on how foreign aid, foreign credits, and foreign relations play a very important part in their general development. The paper also talks about Latin American countries, which have been lagging behind after strictly implementing the Washington consensus as discussed in The Growth Strategies paper. This is a perfect example as to how deregulation and trade liberalization should be approached carefully as foreign credits, if not approached carefully, can keep an economy stuck in a vicious cycle of debt. The foreign credit system is getting more and more complicated these days as the biggest players keep expanding in influence, with China and the United States trying to one up each other causing fluctuations in the exchange rates of the currency. This in turn leads to the fluctuations of most economies in the world that are affiliated with these countries. Foreign credits incentivize businesses in developing countries, but is the incentive great enough for people to actually be willing to take the risks? The paper, though did not suggest any regulations, does provide insightful information on foreign credits and the increasing need to be prudent when approaching foreign credits. Some of the information went over my head due to the complexity of the analysis, and I will certainly dive deeper into the paper to figure some of the statistics out.
Toggle Commented Nov 14, 2019 on For Thursday's Discussion at Jolly Green General
In “The economic and social burden of malaria”, Sachs and Malaney analyzes how malaria and the failure to tackle viral diseases can lead to detriments to every element of society: health, economy, social equity. Looking back at historical evidence, viral diseases, such as the black death and tuberculosis have dealt quite a blow to many past civilizations, and thus, it is important to regard these diseases as a global problem rather than a local one. Yet, viral diseases, particularly malaria, disproportionately affects the poor, who are more exposed and vulnerable to the disease and lack access to effective treatments. Thus, malaria and poverty have a bidirectional relationship where malaria further impoverishes the community and more members in the community got malaria. Out of three measures of development, income, health, and education, I always believe that health is the most fundamental of the three, and it is disheartening to see how there are still so many people suffering from malaria. I think part of this issue can be tied back to urban bias, where people focus much spending on healthcare in urban areas, especially those where the more affluent concentrate, rather than rural areas where the natural and sanitary conditions of farmland increase exposure to malaria. Healthcare and insurance are also not offered to those that actually need them. It boils down to the cost-benefit analysis process of policymakers in their respective countries. It is more ethically sound to invest in healthcare for the poor, which will thus create a great positive economic development in the long run. Yet, policy makers tend to strive for short economic profit from industrialization and trade expansion. At this point, policymakers and the people in power in every country need to look beyond the election period to see through the needs of the people in the world, because in the end, borders divide us but empathy ties us together.
Toggle Commented Nov 6, 2019 on 3 readings for next week at Jolly Green General
Schultz’s article emphasizes the importance of investments in human capital and the rural areas. Schultz made some interesting claims about treating the entirety of the labor force as a homogenous group and how the urban bias can be detrimental to the general population and the country’s economic growth. By criticizing the practice of treating the entirety of the labor force as a homogenous group, Schultz is challenging the whole field of Economics as we know it. As we have read in “The Fall and Rise of Development Economics”, the field of Economics is justified by simplified economic models. By “simplified”, Rodrik meant that economists cannot account for the individual predicament of each person, but instead treat them as a group with similar traits. Schultz argue that each and every person has a different set of traits and backgrounds that cannot be generalized with each other. Both Rodrik and Schultz have their points, and I am conflicted as to picking a side. However, if we seek to understand economic dynamics on a micro-level to design a set of policies for a specific country, I will lean towards Schultz practices. If we seek to understand development economics as a whole, I will lean towards Rodrik. Yet, I feel that there is something about the fields of Economics that I think people should redefine or at least take a deeper look into: the definition of Rational Decision-making. I recently watched a video about rational addiction, which is addiction through the views of some economists, and I found that particularly disturbing. Decision-making in poor households may seem “irrational” from an elitist standpoint yet is completely rational in their point of view. The definition of rationality is thus should be tailored for each considered group. What I am not sure about is Schultz’s claim about urban bias. From an altruistic standpoint, urban bias is a problematic practice as it discriminates against the agricultural sector where a large proportion of the poor concentrates. From an economic standpoint, a country may feel pressured into pushing economic growth in the short-run while making gradually making progress to alleviate poverty in the long run, resulting in urban bias and greater divergence between the rich and the poor. I feel conflicted between the pros and cons of urban bias, and I hope to find an answer for myself as I dig deeper into the field of Development Economics.
Toggle Commented Oct 30, 2019 on Blog Post for Next Thursday at Jolly Green General
In the paper, Esther Duflo has made important connections between gender equality and development economics while emphasizing the need for governmental policies to promote the bidirectional relationship between women empowerment and economic development. The paper, along with the readings from “Development as Freedom”, further asserts that providing choices and rights for females is not just a means but an end of development economics in and of itself. These choices and rights include but not limited to the choice to be married to anyone they want, the choice to follow any profession they want, and the, the right to have an identity, the right to have access to healthcare and education, and the right to live. Economics is the field of study that creates models based on rational choices, but the discrimination against women and how women in a lot of countries have endured the oppression for so long to the point of their lives being jeopardized do not seem rational or ethical to me. As the problem of gender inequality is so deeply rooted in some culture, both education and governmental policies should be bolstered so as to tackle this problem from both the top-down and bottom-up approach. The paper also makes an important point about the role of women in governmental bodies and effective gender equality policies. Once again, the long-term impact of women empowerment far exceeds the short-term costs, improving the lives and health of men, women, and children across the globe, especially in developing countries. This ties directly to the findings I have found during our Spring Term class about women empowerment initiatives in the Sub Saharan Africa. It is impressive and uplifting for me to see that proportion of women holding important governmental positions have been increasing in the SSA, with some countries having up to 50% of women in their government. However, in a perfect world, 50% of female individuals and governmental agencies should be the norm not something to be impressed about, and it is our responsibility to improve gender equality. With the proportion of women on the increase, countries in the SSA have made substantial progress in providing girls with access to education, awareness of sexual health and sanitation, self-defense against predatory individuals and domestic abuse, etc. I am also glad to see that Professor Sandberg is going to bring a group of students during Spring Term to raise awareness for the women’s justice in a domestic setting. A lot of progress is being made, and I know that there is still a lot more to come.
In “Growth Strategies”, Rodrick has done a good job in distinguishing between igniting growth and sustaining growth. Through his points, he also proved with an abundance of evidence that there is no one-size-fits-all regulation package for every country, and the regulation package also depends a lot on multiple factors, namely in the socioeconomic, political, and technological front. It is so interesting to me how once-developing countries’ pathways to sustainable growth differ tremendously to one another. Through a lot of the classes I took, the general theme running throughout is that deregulation will encourage foreign investment and privatization will encourage internal economic development. However, this reading helps me realize that there is a bigger picture to be considered. Without sufficient technologies, innovative knowledge, and proper education, the majority of people in developing countries may not have the right capabilities to make the best decisions. For example, privatizing the land in the agricultural sector may prove to be problematic if the market for land keeps on increasing in demand, while the demand for crops remain relatively stable. The incentive for farmers to produce more can also be problematic for this reason. With the existence of a general governmental body that can regulate the amount of crop produced and the area of land allocated, the level of poverty in the agricultural sector can be controlled and resources can be allocated to other sectors. Yet, although development policies for each country can vary greatly, a lot of internal problems must be solved before drastic changes can be made. A country cannot thrive if corruption still occurs in the political sector. As corruption plagues a political entity, resources are not allocated efficiently, and the lack of trust in leaders prevents savings for investment. It is crucial that the government establish trust in society and clears up any corruption that is going on if they hope to make great economic strides. One takeaway that for me, was very interesting is that the role of the government when it comes to the economy is always of the utmost importance whether the economy is more private-based or more public-based. It has been argued that the market will regulate itself to generate what is deemed most desirable by the invisible hand. However, more growth and more trade should equal more protection. As the market starts expanding and trade starts to occur in both greater quantity and quality, regulations must be in place to make sure that small players are protected, and big players don’t make detrimental decisions that impact both himself and the economy. Trade barriers although looked down upon by many economists are the government’s way of regulating capital inflow and protecting their own people’s job security. Resource allocation to other sectors also cannot be expected to happen naturally. As a country industrializes, less resources are going to be allocated to agricultural sector, further exacerbating the problem of poverty in rural areas.
Toggle Commented Oct 2, 2019 on Rodrik article for Thursday at Jolly Green General
“The Fall and Rise of Development Economics” by Krugman tells the story of the progress and debate relating to the field of development economics, particularly the development economics models. I completely understand people’s demand for a perfect economic model that takes into account exogenous factors and explanations for social phenomenon because these economic theories are taken into account when the government makes a decision. However, just like in physical science, it takes a very long time to make a good economic model, let alone a perfect one, and since countries vary so widely from one another, it is impossible to have a model that is representative of every economy. However, simplified models can further be elaborated by individual country to form applicable policies. The biggest takeaway from the article in terms of development economics for me is how wage level is directly involved in the theory proposed by Hirschman. When wage is low, countries have more incentive to industrialize because people are paid at a premium when work in urban areas. When wage is high, there is no need for people to leave their homes and find a job somewhere else because they are already satisfied with their current state. People assume that wage is low in development countries, but I think one piece of the puzzle that plays a big role in this is how high the wage level is also depends on each country since the exchange rate vastly differs across countries. Right now, the GDP is adjusted to fit with the inflation rate and also the prices for baskets of goods. However, in the 1950s, this was hardly considered. Southeast Asian countries at the time had wage levels though lower than many developed countries but they could afford more compared to the same person with the same wage level in a developed country. They also failed to account for how some cultures were so deeply ingrained in agriculture, and the opportunity cost to leave their farm and family members behind was simply too much compared to the wage level offered in industrialized areas. The Big Push Theory is also a very risky one. It is said that the Big Push Theory might push a country into a virtuous cycle of positive economic development. However, debt budgeting is always a big decision for countries to make. Wrong decisions can lead to a push towards a virtuous cycle of lagging behind as the interest piles up and no money is reinvested into the economy. The answer to almost every economic and their applications is almost always “It depends.” So much more novel ideas are needed in the field of development economics, but as the article has proven, a lot of trials and errors are needed to test such novel ideas to see if they are applicable to a nation’s economy.
Toggle Commented Sep 25, 2019 on Reading for next Thursday at Jolly Green General
“Institutional Barriers & World Income Disparities” is both interesting and non-assuring to me in a way that makes me feel confused as to whether I should be hopeful or pessimistic about the fate of the poor as we enter the third industrial revolution, with the emergence of AI and automation. Countries that have changed their status drastically from “developing” to “developed”, “four Asian tigers”, “two emerging giants”, or “economic miracles” did so in a time where innovations were not as widespread and developing at a slower pace as the trend right now. Currently, almost every country is trying to have their finger on the most innovative capital that is introduced in the market. So, what are the prospects for countries whose people have little access to basic rights and decisions let alone embrace technological advances? If they lower the institutional barriers, their underdeveloped credit system might not be able to handle the strong inflow of capital and investment. Their people don’t have the necessary skills to utilize the technology provided to them through foreign investment. If they maintain the institutional barriers and focus on providing jobs for the poor, their economy will be lagging behind in terms of capital. Seeking the right institutional barrier balance requires time and a lot of trials and errors. Time is something they lack. Trials and errors are simply not something they can afford given their vulnerable population and economy. However, I am still hopeful that international assistance will be able to provide developing countries with an escape from this dilemma. Subsidies and conscious efforts to provide the poor with enough financial assistance to sustain themselves will help strengthen the resiliency of a country, particularly its economy. People are every country’s greatest asset, especially developing countries. Thus, fortifying such an asset will help a developing country deal with economic issues in the long-run. Globalization has had both positive and negative effects on a country. Throughout my formative years in Vietnam, I got to bear witness to the drastic changes that this country has undergone under the influence of globalization. The country was plagued with corruption, business distrust, and a weak credit system in the early 2000s. Yet, due to the influence of globalization and global immersion, Vietnam got the chance to completely transform its economy. It has evolved from a mainly agriculturally based country to more industrially based. Adopting accounting policies and attracting the attention to big global accounting companies in the world, Vietnam has taken strong steps to eradicate business corruption. In 2019, Vietnam is making a conscious effort to change its accounting system to IFRS (International Financial Reporting Standards) to prove to the world that it has got what it takes to embrace globalization and earn the trust of foreign investors. However, it is hard to imagine how these achievements can be accomplished without the financial assistance from foreign countries and the eradication of abject poverty in the early 2010s. Some people have a doom and gloom view about a developing country’s future and have a disbelief in whether the financial assistance will make a difference, as in the case of Greece which have been in financial trouble for years and years on end. However, assisting a country is definitely not a bet of whether that country will succeed. It is actually the responsibility that we have as fellow human beings. And as human beings, albeit from a developing country or not, we have a moral obligation to always keep on trying and moving forward, and that’s why I am hopeful that the developing countries will one day find the economic stability and a wealthy (and healthy) population to stand on their own two feet.