Thursday, October 13, 2011

Global Poverty Estimates: A Sensitivity Analysis

Global Poverty Estimates: A Sensitivity Analysis. By Shatakshee Dhongde & Camelia Minoiu
IMF Working Paper
Oct 13, 2011

Summary: Current estimates of global poverty vary substantially across studies. In this paper we undertake a novel sensitivity analysis to highlight the importance of methodological choices in estimating global poverty. We measure global poverty using different data sources, parametric and nonparametric estimation methods, and multiple poverty lines. Our results indicate that estimates of global poverty vary significantly when they are based alternately on data from household surveys versus national accounts but are relatively consistent across different estimation methods. The decline in poverty over the past decade is found to be robust across methodological choices.

Global poverty monitoring has been brought to the forefront of the international policy arena with the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) by the United Nations. The first MDG proposes reducing global poverty by the year 2015 and is stated as “halving the proportion of people with an income level below $1/day between 1990 and 2015” (United Nations, 2000). Progress towards attaining this MDG is monitored using global poverty estimates published by the World Bank and a number of independent scholars. The process is not only expensive (Moss, 2010) but also mired with conceptual, methodological, and datarelated problems (Klasen, 2009).

Current estimates of global poverty proposed in the literature differ in magnitude as well as in the rate of change in poverty. Consider, for instance, Chen and Ravallion (2010) and Pinkovskiy and Sala-i-Martin (2009)—two studies that estimate global poverty using the international poverty line of $1/day (see Figure 1). Chen and Ravallion (2010) estimate that in 2005 nearly 26 percent of the population in the developing countries was poor, and the global poverty count fell by 520 million individuals since 1981. By contrast, Pinkovskiy and Sala-i-Martin (2009) estimate poverty to have been ten times lower in 2005, which implies a reduction of almost 350 million individuals since 1981. Although there is general agreement that global poverty has declined over the years, the estimated level of poverty and rate of poverty decline vary substantially across studies.

This paper aims to contribute to the debate on global poverty not by providing a new set of estimates, but by addressing two important questions. First, we ask why estimates from different studies differ so much. As we unravel the various assumptions made by researchers, we show that global poverty estimates are simply not comparable across studies. For instance, they differ in terms of underlying data sources, number of countries included, welfare metric, adjustments to mean incomes, and statistical methods employed to estimate the income distribution. Given this variety of methodological choices, we arrive at our second question: Can we assess the impact of different approaches on the resulting poverty estimates? Since global poverty estimation requires making multiple assumptions simultaneously, we aim to isolate and assess separately the relative importance of each such assumption by undertaking a novel sensitivity analysis.

An important hurdle in estimating long-term trends in global poverty is the lack of high-quality, consistent survey data. The poor are those individuals whose income is less than or equal to some threshold set by the poverty line. If countries had complete information on every individual’s income then with an agreed-upon global poverty line, identifying the poor would be a straightforward exercise. However, there are severe data limitations.

Data on income is typically collected through household surveys (HS) of nationally representative samples. However, survey data are often available for periods far apart and suffer from a number of inconsistencies (regarding sampling and interviewing techniques, definitions of variables, and coverage) that render them incomparable across countries. Nonetheless, they are the sole source of information on the relative distribution of incomes in a country—that is, the shares of national income possessed by different population groups (quintiles, deciles). HS also provide estimates of mean income/consumption which are used to scale the income shares to obtain mean incomes by population group. A more readilyaccessible and consistently-recorded source of information are national account statistics (NAS) which also provide aggregate income or consumption estimates and are available for most countries on a yearly basis.

A key methodological choice in estimating global poverty is whether to use data on mean income/consumption from HS or NAS or whether to combine data from the two sources. Some studies in the literature analyzed the sources of discrepancies between the levels and growth rates of income/consumption data from HS and NAS (Ravallion, 2003; Deaton, 2005). However these studies did not measure the precise effect of using HS and NAS data on global poverty levels and trends. In order to determine how sensitive global poverty estimates are to alternate data sources, we estimate global poverty by anchoring relative distributions alternately to HS and NAS estimates of mean income and consumption. This is our first sensitivity exercise.

The second sensitivity exercise concerns the choice of statistical method used to estimate income distributions from grouped data, that is, data on mean income or consumption for population groups (quintiles, deciles). We estimate global poverty by estimating each country’s distribution using different methods. These include the General Quadratic (GQ) and the Beta Lorenz curve, and the lognormal and Singh-Maddala functional forms for the income density function.2 In addition to these parametric specifications, we also consider the nonparametric kernel density method whose performance we assess in conjunction with four different bandwidths—a parameter that controls the smoothness of the income distribution.

As a benchmark, we follow the World Bank methodology to the extent possible and estimate global poverty in 1995 and 2005—the latest year for which data is available for many countries. Data on the relative distribution of income across population deciles is collected for 65 countries from the World Bank’s poverty monitoring website PovcalNet. Our sample covers more than 70 percent of the total world population and includes all countries for which both HS and NAS data are available in both years. Global poverty is estimated using international poverty lines ranging from $1/day to $2.5/day to provide further insight into how methodological choices impact poverty rates at different income cutoffs.

Our results are twofold. First, a large share of the variation in estimated poverty levels and trends can be attributed to the choice between HS and NAS as the source of data. Global poverty estimates vary not only in terms of the proportion of the poor, and correspondingly the number of poor, but also in terms of the rates of decline in poverty. Poverty estimates based on HS and NAS do not tend to converge in higher income countries. Second, the choice of statistical method used to estimate the income distribution affects poverty levels to a lesser extent. A comparison of poverty estimates across parametric and nonparametric techniques reveals that the commonly used lognormal specification consistently underestimates poverty levels. While there is little doubt that the proportion of poor declined between 1995 and 2005, our results underscore the fact that global poverty counts are highly sensitive to methodological approach.

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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Personalized Therapies Mark Significant Leap Forward in Fight Against Cancer

Personalized Therapies Mark Significant Leap Forward in Fight Against Cancer
October 12, 2011 

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the signing of the National Cancer Act of 1971. Indeed, the 12 million cancer survivors living in the U.S. today attest to the significant progress in cancer prevention and treatment we have made over the past decades. Despite the remarkable advances we have made there are still more than 550,000 men and woman who lose their battle to cancer each year.
Recently released scientific data demonstrate that the collective commitment to cancer research is unwavering and our knowledge of the biology of cancer and ability to treat it continues to expand. One promising trend in cancer research: drug developers are harnessing an improved understanding of the molecular basis of many types of cancer to develop therapies uniquely targeted to these pathways.
For example, a newly approved drug for lung cancer called crizotinib is targeted to a mutation in a gene called anaplastic lymphoma kinase, or ALK. Mutations in the ALK gene are found in approximately 5% of patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. In data presented at this year’s meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), 54% of patients who received crizotinib were still alive after two years compared to just 12% in a control group. Crizotinib received fast-track review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and was approved in August ahead of the six-month priority review schedule.
Dramatic advances are being made in the treatment of the skin cancer melanoma as well. More than 60 drugs are currently in development for the disease and this year two new medicines have been approved – the first approvals for the disease in 13 years. The first, ipilimumab, was approved in March and was the first treatment ever approved by FDA to show a survival benefit for patients with metastatic melanoma. In August the second, a new personalized medicine called vemurafenib, was approved to treat this deadliest form of skin cancer. This drug, which is taken orally, selectively inhibits a mutated form of the BRAF kinase gene. The mutated gene is associated with increased tumor aggressiveness, decreased survival, and is found in approximately half of all malignant melanomas. Recently reported clinical trials results demonstrate that the medicine reduces the risk of death by 63% percent.
Personalized medicine holds great potential beyond these two select examples in lung cancer and melanoma. MD Anderson Cancer Center recently reported on the results of a large-scale clinical trial examining the effect of matching targeted therapies with specific gene mutations across many cancer types. According to the results of the study, patients who received a targeted therapy demonstrated a 27% response rate compared to 5% for those whose therapy was not matched. This clinical trial marks the largest examination of a personalized approach to cancer care to date, and as principal investigator Apostolia-Maria Tsimberidou, M.D., Ph.D. concludes, "This study suggests that a personalized approach is needed to improve clinical outcomes for patients with cancer."
As these and many other studies illustrate, a dramatic transformation in cancer diagnosis and treatment is underway. Therapies targeted to the genetic and molecular underpinnings of disease are being developed, and patient outcomes are improving as a result. The studies highlighted above only begin to scratch the surface of the remarkable potential of personalized, targeted therapies, but are an indication of the great reward of years of research and investment, as well as great promise for continued innovation in the years to come.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The future of politics will be decided in Asia, and the US will be right at the center of the action

America's Pacific Century. By Secretary of State Hillary R. Clinton
November Issue of Foreign Policy Magazine 
The future of politics will be decided in Asia, not Afghanistan or Iraq, and the United States will be right at the center of the action.

October 11, 2011

As the war in Iraq winds down and America begins to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, the United States stands at a pivot point. Over the last 10 years, we have allocated immense resources to those two theaters. In the next 10 years, we need to be smart and systematic about where we invest time and energy, so that we put ourselves in the best position to sustain our leadership, secure our interests, and advance our values. One of the most important tasks of American statecraft over the next decade will therefore be to lock in a substantially increased investment -- diplomatic, economic, strategic, and otherwise -- in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Asia-Pacific has become a key driver of global politics. Stretching from the Indian subcontinent to the western shores of the Americas, the region spans two oceans -- the Pacific and the Indian -- that are increasingly linked by shipping and strategy. It boasts almost half the world's population. It includes many of the key engines of the global economy, as well as the largest emitters of greenhouse gases. It is home to several of our key allies and important emerging powers like China, India, and Indonesia.

At a time when the region is building a more mature security and economic architecture to promote stability and prosperity, U.S. commitment there is essential. It will help build that architecture and pay dividends for continued American leadership well into this century, just as our post-World War II commitment to building a comprehensive and lasting transatlantic network of institutions and relationships has paid off many times over -- and continues to do so. The time has come for the United States to make similar investments as a Pacific power, a strategic course set by President Barack Obama from the outset of his administration and one that is already yielding benefits.

With Iraq and Afghanistan still in transition and serious economic challenges in our own country, there are those on the American political scene who are calling for us not to reposition, but to come home. They seek a downsizing of our foreign engagement in favor of our pressing domestic priorities. These impulses are understandable, but they are misguided. Those who say that we can no longer afford to engage with the world have it exactly backward -- we cannot afford not to. From opening new markets for American businesses to curbing nuclear proliferation to keeping the sea lanes free for commerce and navigation, our work abroad holds the key to our prosperity and security at home. For more than six decades, the United States has resisted the gravitational pull of these "come home" debates and the implicit zero-sum logic of these arguments. We must do so again.

Beyond our borders, people are also wondering about America's intentions -- our willingness to remain engaged and to lead. In Asia, they ask whether we are really there to stay, whether we are likely to be distracted again by events elsewhere, whether we can make -- and keep -- credible economic and strategic commitments, and whether we can back those commitments with action. The answer is: We can, and we will.

Harnessing Asia's growth and dynamism is central to American economic and strategic interests and a key priority for President Obama. Open markets in Asia provide the United States with unprecedented opportunities for investment, trade, and access to cutting-edge technology. Our economic recovery at home will depend on exports and the ability of American firms to tap into the vast and growing consumer base of Asia. Strategically, maintaining peace and security across the Asia-Pacific is increasingly crucial to global progress, whether through defending freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, countering the proliferation efforts of North Korea, or ensuring transparency in the military activities of the region's key players.

Just as Asia is critical to America's future, an engaged America is vital to Asia's future. The region is eager for our leadership and our business -- perhaps more so than at any time in modern history. We are the only power with a network of strong alliances in the region, no territorial ambitions, and a long record of providing for the common good. Along with our allies, we have underwritten regional security for decades -- patrolling Asia's sea lanes and preserving stability -- and that in turn has helped create the conditions for growth. We have helped integrate billions of people across the region into the global economy by spurring economic productivity, social empowerment, and greater people-to-people links. We are a major trade and investment partner, a source of innovation that benefits workers and businesses on both sides of the Pacific, a host to 350,000 Asian students every year, a champion of open markets, and an advocate for universal human rights.

President Obama has led a multifaceted and persistent effort to embrace fully our irreplaceable role in the Pacific, spanning the entire U.S. government. It has often been a quiet effort. A lot of our work has not been on the front pages, both because of its nature -- long-term investment is less exciting than immediate crises -- and because of competing headlines in other parts of the world.

As secretary of state, I broke with tradition and embarked on my first official overseas trip to Asia. In my seven trips since, I have had the privilege to see firsthand the rapid transformations taking place in the region, underscoring how much the future of the United States is intimately intertwined with the future of the Asia-Pacific. A strategic turn to the region fits logically into our overall global effort to secure and sustain America's global leadership. The success of this turn requires maintaining and advancing a bipartisan consensus on the importance of the Asia-Pacific to our national interests; we seek to build upon a strong tradition of engagement by presidents and secretaries of state of both parties across many decades. It also requires smart execution of a coherent regional strategy that accounts for the global implications of our choices.

WHAT DOES THAT regional strategy look like? For starters, it calls for a sustained commitment to what I have called "forward-deployed" diplomacy. That means continuing to dispatch the full range of our diplomatic assets -- including our highest-ranking officials, our development experts, our interagency teams, and our permanent assets -- to every country and corner of the Asia-Pacific region. Our strategy will have to keep accounting for and adapting to the rapid and dramatic shifts playing out across Asia. With this in mind, our work will proceed along six key lines of action: strengthening bilateral security alliances; deepening our working relationships with emerging powers, including with China; engaging with regional multilateral institutions; expanding trade and investment; forging a broad-based military presence; and advancing democracy and human rights.

By virtue of our unique geography, the United States is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. We are proud of our European partnerships and all that they deliver. Our challenge now is to build a web of partnerships and institutions across the Pacific that is as durable and as consistent with American interests and values as the web we have built across the Atlantic. That is the touchstone of our efforts in all these areas.

Our treaty alliances with Japan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Thailand are the fulcrum for our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific. They have underwritten regional peace and security for more than half a century, shaping the environment for the region's remarkable economic ascent. They leverage our regional presence and enhance our regional leadership at a time of evolving security challenges.

As successful as these alliances have been, we can't afford simply to sustain them -- we need to update them for a changing world. In this effort, the Obama administration is guided by three core principles. First, we have to maintain political consensus on the core objectives of our alliances. Second, we have to ensure that our alliances are nimble and adaptive so that they can successfully address new challenges and seize new opportunities. Third, we have to guarantee that the defense capabilities and communications infrastructure of our alliances are operationally and materially capable of deterring provocation from the full spectrum of state and nonstate actors.

The alliance with Japan, the cornerstone of peace and stability in the region, demonstrates how the Obama administration is giving these principles life. We share a common vision of a stable regional order with clear rules of the road -- from freedom of navigation to open markets and fair competition. We have agreed to a new arrangement, including a contribution from the Japanese government of more than $5 billion, to ensure the continued enduring presence of American forces in Japan, while expanding joint intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities to deter and react quickly to regional security challenges, as well as information sharing to address cyberthreats. We have concluded an Open Skies agreement that will enhance access for businesses and people-to-people ties, launched a strategic dialogue on the Asia-Pacific, and been working hand in hand as the two largest donor countries in Afghanistan.

Similarly, our alliance with South Korea has become stronger and more operationally integrated, and we continue to develop our combined capabilities to deter and respond to North Korean provocations. We have agreed on a plan to ensure successful transition of operational control during wartime and anticipate successful passage of the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. And our alliance has gone global, through our work together in the G-20 and the Nuclear Security Summit and through our common efforts in Haiti and Afghanistan.

We are also expanding our alliance with Australia from a Pacific partnership to an Indo-Pacific one, and indeed a global partnership. From cybersecurity to Afghanistan to the Arab Awakening to strengthening regional architecture in the Asia-Pacific, Australia's counsel and commitment have been indispensable. And in Southeast Asia, we are renewing and strengthening our alliances with the Philippines and Thailand, increasing, for example, the number of ship visits to the Philippines and working to ensure the successful training of Filipino counterterrorism forces through our Joint Special Operations Task Force in Mindanao. In Thailand -- our oldest treaty partner in Asia -- we are working to establish a hub of regional humanitarian and disaster relief efforts in the region.

AS WE UPDATE our alliances for new demands, we are also building new partnerships to help solve shared problems. Our outreach to China, India, Indonesia, Singapore, New Zealand, Malaysia, Mongolia, Vietnam, Brunei, and the Pacific Island countries is all part of a broader effort to ensure a more comprehensive approach to American strategy and engagement in the region. We are asking these emerging partners to join us in shaping and participating in a rules-based regional and global order.

One of the most prominent of these emerging partners is, of course, China. Like so many other countries before it, China has prospered as part of the open and rules-based system that the United States helped to build and works to sustain. And today, China represents one of the most challenging and consequential bilateral relationships the United States has ever had to manage. This calls for careful, steady, dynamic stewardship, an approach to China on our part that is grounded in reality, focused on results, and true to our principles and interests.

We all know that fears and misperceptions linger on both sides of the Pacific. Some in our country see China's progress as a threat to the United States; some in China worry that America seeks to constrain China's growth. We reject both those views. The fact is that a thriving America is good for China and a thriving China is good for America. We both have much more to gain from cooperation than from conflict. But you cannot build a relationship on aspirations alone. It is up to both of us to more consistently translate positive words into effective cooperation -- and, crucially, to meet our respective global responsibilities and obligations. These are the things that will determine whether our relationship delivers on its potential in the years to come. We also have to be honest about our differences. We will address them firmly and decisively as we pursue the urgent work we have to do together. And we have to avoid unrealistic expectations.

Over the last two-and-a-half years, one of my top priorities has been to identify and expand areas of common interest, to work with China to build mutual trust, and to encourage China's active efforts in global problem-solving. This is why Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner and I launched the Strategic and Economic Dialogue, the most intensive and expansive talks ever between our governments, bringing together dozens of agencies from both sides to discuss our most pressing bilateral issues, from security to energy to human rights.

We are also working to increase transparency and reduce the risk of miscalculation or miscues between our militaries. The United States and the international community have watched China's efforts to modernize and expand its military, and we have sought clarity as to its intentions. Both sides would benefit from sustained and substantive military-to-military engagement that increases transparency. So we look to Beijing to overcome its reluctance at times and join us in forging a durable military-to-military dialogue. And we need to work together to strengthen the Strategic Security Dialogue, which brings together military and civilian leaders to discuss sensitive issues like maritime security and cybersecurity.

As we build trust together, we are committed to working with China to address critical regional and global security issues. This is why I have met so frequently -- often in informal settings -- with my Chinese counterparts, State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi, for candid discussions about important challenges like North Korea, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, and developments in the South China Sea.

On the economic front, the United States and China need to work together to ensure strong, sustained, and balanced future global growth. In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, the United States and China worked effectively through the G-20 to help pull the global economy back from the brink. We have to build on that cooperation. U.S. firms want fair opportunities to export to China's growing markets, which can be important sources of jobs here in the United States, as well as assurances that the $50 billion of American capital invested in China will create a strong foundation for new market and investment opportunities that will support global competitiveness. At the same time, Chinese firms want to be able to buy more high-tech products from the United States, make more investments here, and be accorded the same terms of access that market economies enjoy. We can work together on these objectives, but China still needs to take important steps toward reform. In particular, we are working with China to end unfair discrimination against U.S. and other foreign companies or against their innovative technologies, remove preferences for domestic firms, and end measures that disadvantage or appropriate foreign intellectual property. And we look to China to take steps to allow its currency to appreciate more rapidly, both against the dollar and against the currencies of its other major trading partners. Such reforms, we believe, would not only benefit both our countries (indeed, they would support the goals of China's own five-year plan, which calls for more domestic-led growth), but also contribute to global economic balance, predictability, and broader prosperity.

Of course, we have made very clear, publicly and privately, our serious concerns about human rights. And when we see reports of public-interest lawyers, writers, artists, and others who are detained or disappeared, the United States speaks up, both publicly and privately, with our concerns about human rights. We make the case to our Chinese colleagues that a deep respect for international law and a more open political system would provide China with a foundation for far greater stability and growth -- and increase the confidence of China's partners. Without them, China is placing unnecessary limitations on its own development.

At the end of the day, there is no handbook for the evolving U.S.-China relationship. But the stakes are much too high for us to fail. As we proceed, we will continue to embed our relationship with China in a broader regional framework of security alliances, economic networks, and social connections.

Among key emerging powers with which we will work closely are India and Indonesia, two of the most dynamic and significant democratic powers of Asia, and both countries with which the Obama administration has pursued broader, deeper, and more purposeful relationships. The stretch of sea from the Indian Ocean through the Strait of Malacca to the Pacific contains the world's most vibrant trade and energy routes. Together, India and Indonesia already account for almost a quarter of the world's population. They are key drivers of the global economy, important partners for the United States, and increasingly central contributors to peace and security in the region. And their importance is likely to grow in the years ahead.

President Obama told the Indian parliament last year that the relationship between India and America will be one of the defining partnerships of the 21st century, rooted in common values and interests. There are still obstacles to overcome and questions to answer on both sides, but the United States is making a strategic bet on India's future -- that India's greater role on the world stage will enhance peace and security, that opening India's markets to the world will pave the way to greater regional and global prosperity, that Indian advances in science and technology will improve lives and advance human knowledge everywhere, and that India's vibrant, pluralistic democracy will produce measurable results and improvements for its citizens and inspire others to follow a similar path of openness and tolerance. So the Obama administration has expanded our bilateral partnership; actively supported India's Look East efforts, including through a new trilateral dialogue with India and Japan; and outlined a new vision for a more economically integrated and politically stable South and Central Asia, with India as a linchpin.

We are also forging a new partnership with Indonesia, the world's third-largest democracy, the world's most populous Muslim nation, and a member of the G-20. We have resumed joint training of Indonesian special forces units and signed a number of agreements on health, educational exchanges, science and technology, and defense. And this year, at the invitation of the Indonesian government, President Obama will inaugurate American participation in the East Asia Summit. But there is still some distance to travel -- we have to work together to overcome bureaucratic impediments, lingering historical suspicions, and some gaps in understanding each other's perspectives and interests.

EVEN AS WE strengthen these bilateral relationships, we have emphasized the importance of multilateral cooperation, for we believe that addressing complex transnational challenges of the sort now faced by Asia requires a set of institutions capable of mustering collective action. And a more robust and coherent regional architecture in Asia would reinforce the system of rules and responsibilities, from protecting intellectual property to ensuring freedom of navigation, that form the basis of an effective international order. In multilateral settings, responsible behavior is rewarded with legitimacy and respect, and we can work together to hold accountable those who undermine peace, stability, and prosperity.

So the United States has moved to fully engage the region's multilateral institutions, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, mindful that our work with regional institutions supplements and does not supplant our bilateral ties. There is a demand from the region that America play an active role in the agenda-setting of these institutions -- and it is in our interests as well that they be effective and responsive.

That is why President Obama will participate in the East Asia Summit for the first time in November. To pave the way, the United States has opened a new U.S. Mission to ASEAN in Jakarta and signed the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation with ASEAN. Our focus on developing a more results-oriented agenda has been instrumental in efforts to address disputes in the South China Sea. In 2010, at the ASEAN Regional Forum in Hanoi, the United States helped shape a regionwide effort to protect unfettered access to and passage through the South China Sea, and to uphold the key international rules for defining territorial claims in the South China Sea's waters. Given that half the world's merchant tonnage flows through this body of water, this was a consequential undertaking. And over the past year, we have made strides in protecting our vital interests in stability and freedom of navigation and have paved the way for sustained multilateral diplomacy among the many parties with claims in the South China Sea, seeking to ensure disputes are settled peacefully and in accordance with established principles of international law.

We have also worked to strengthen APEC as a serious leaders-level institution focused on advancing economic integration and trade linkages across the Pacific. After last year's bold call by the group for a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific, President Obama will host the 2011 APEC Leaders' Meeting in Hawaii this November. We are committed to cementing APEC as the Asia-Pacific's premier regional economic institution, setting the economic agenda in a way that brings together advanced and emerging economies to promote open trade and investment, as well as to build capacity and enhance regulatory regimes. APEC and its work help expand U.S. exports and create and support high-quality jobs in the United States, while fostering growth throughout the region. APEC also provides a key vehicle to drive a broad agenda to unlock the economic growth potential that women represent. In this regard, the United States is committed to working with our partners on ambitious steps to accelerate the arrival of the Participation Age, where every individual, regardless of gender or other characteristics, is a contributing and valued member of the global marketplace.

In addition to our commitment to these broader multilateral institutions, we have worked hard to create and launch a number of "minilateral" meetings, small groupings of interested states to tackle specific challenges, such as the Lower Mekong Initiative we launched to support education, health, and environmental programs in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam, and the Pacific Islands Forum, where we are working to support its members as they confront challenges from climate change to overfishing to freedom of navigation. We are also starting to pursue new trilateral opportunities with countries as diverse as Mongolia, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, and South Korea. And we are setting our sights as well on enhancing coordination and engagement among the three giants of the Asia-Pacific: China, India, and the United States.

In all these different ways, we are seeking to shape and participate in a responsive, flexible, and effective regional architecture -- and ensure it connects to a broader global architecture that not only protects international stability and commerce but also advances our values.

OUR EMPHASIS ON the economic work of APEC is in keeping with our broader commitment to elevate economic statecraft as a pillar of American foreign policy. Increasingly, economic progress depends on strong diplomatic ties, and diplomatic progress depends on strong economic ties. And naturally, a focus on promoting American prosperity means a greater focus on trade and economic openness in the Asia-Pacific. The region already generates more than half of global output and nearly half of global trade. As we strive to meet President Obama's goal of doubling exports by 2015, we are looking for opportunities to do even more business in Asia. Last year, American exports to the Pacific Rim totaled $320 billion, supporting 850,000 American jobs. So there is much that favors us as we think through this repositioning.

When I talk to my Asian counterparts, one theme consistently stands out: They still want America to be an engaged and creative partner in the region's flourishing trade and financial interactions. And as I talk with business leaders across our own nation, I hear how important it is for the United States to expand our exports and our investment opportunities in Asia's dynamic markets.

Last March in APEC meetings in Washington, and again in Hong Kong in July, I laid out four attributes that I believe characterize healthy economic competition: open, free, transparent, and fair. Through our engagement in the Asia-Pacific, we are helping to give shape to these principles and showing the world their value.

We are pursuing new cutting-edge trade deals that raise the standards for fair competition even as they open new markets. For instance, the Korea-U.S. Free Trade Agreement will eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of U.S. consumer and industrial exports within five years and support an estimated 70,000 American jobs. Its tariff reductions alone could increase exports of American goods by more than $10 billion and help South Korea's economy grow by 6 percent. It will level the playing field for U.S. auto companies and workers. So, whether you are an American manufacturer of machinery or a South Korean chemicals exporter, this deal lowers the barriers that keep you from reaching new customers.

We are also making progress on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which will bring together economies from across the Pacific -- developed and developing alike -- into a single trading community. Our goal is to create not just more growth, but better growth. We believe trade agreements need to include strong protections for workers, the environment, intellectual property, and innovation. They should also promote the free flow of information technology and the spread of green technology, as well as the coherence of our regulatory system and the efficiency of supply chains. Ultimately, our progress will be measured by the quality of people's lives -- whether men and women can work in dignity, earn a decent wage, raise healthy families, educate their children, and take hold of the opportunities to improve their own and the next generation's fortunes. Our hope is that a TPP agreement with high standards can serve as a benchmark for future agreements -- and grow to serve as a platform for broader regional interaction and eventually a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific.

Achieving balance in our trade relationships requires a two-way commitment. That's the nature of balance -- it can't be unilaterally imposed. So we are working through APEC, the G-20, and our bilateral relationships to advocate for more open markets, fewer restrictions on exports, more transparency, and an overall commitment to fairness. American businesses and workers need to have confidence that they are operating on a level playing field, with predictable rules on everything from intellectual property to indigenous innovation.

ASIA'S REMARKABLE ECONOMIC growth over the past decade and its potential for continued growth in the future depend on the security and stability that has long been guaranteed by the U.S. military, including more than 50,000 American servicemen and servicewomen serving in Japan and South Korea. The challenges of today's rapidly changing region -- from territorial and maritime disputes to new threats to freedom of navigation to the heightened impact of natural disasters -- require that the United States pursue a more geographically distributed, operationally resilient, and politically sustainable force posture.

We are modernizing our basing arrangements with traditional allies in Northeast Asia -- and our commitment on this is rock solid -- while enhancing our presence in Southeast Asia and into the Indian Ocean. For example, the United States will be deploying littoral combat ships to Singapore, and we are examining other ways to increase opportunities for our two militaries to train and operate together. And the United States and Australia agreed this year to explore a greater American military presence in Australia to enhance opportunities for more joint training and exercises. We are also looking at how we can increase our operational access in Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region and deepen our contacts with allies and partners.

How we translate the growing connection between the Indian and Pacific oceans into an operational concept is a question that we need to answer if we are to adapt to new challenges in the region. Against this backdrop, a more broadly distributed military presence across the region will provide vital advantages. The United States will be better positioned to support humanitarian missions; equally important, working with more allies and partners will provide a more robust bulwark against threats or efforts to undermine regional peace and stability.

But even more than our military might or the size of our economy, our most potent asset as a nation is the power of our values -- in particular, our steadfast support for democracy and human rights. This speaks to our deepest national character and is at the heart of our foreign policy, including our strategic turn to the Asia-Pacific region.

As we deepen our engagement with partners with whom we disagree on these issues, we will continue to urge them to embrace reforms that would improve governance, protect human rights, and advance political freedoms. We have made it clear, for example, to Vietnam that our ambition to develop a strategic partnership requires that it take steps to further protect human rights and advance political freedoms. Or consider Burma, where we are determined to seek accountability for human rights violations. We are closely following developments in Nay Pyi Taw and the increasing interactions between Aung San Suu Kyi and the government leadership. We have underscored to the government that it must release political prisoners, advance political freedoms and human rights, and break from the policies of the past. As for North Korea, the regime in Pyongyang has shown persistent disregard for the rights of its people, and we continue to speak out forcefully against the threats it poses to the region and beyond.

We cannot and do not aspire to impose our system on other countries, but we do believe that certain values are universal -- that people in every nation in the world, including in Asia, cherish them -- and that they are intrinsic to stable, peaceful, and prosperous countries. Ultimately, it is up to the people of Asia to pursue their own rights and aspirations, just as we have seen people do all over the world.

IN THE LAST decade, our foreign policy has transitioned from dealing with the post-Cold War peace dividend to demanding commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan. As those wars wind down, we will need to accelerate efforts to pivot to new global realities.

We know that these new realities require us to innovate, to compete, and to lead in new ways. Rather than pull back from the world, we need to press forward and renew our leadership. In a time of scarce resources, there's no question that we need to invest them wisely where they will yield the biggest returns, which is why the Asia-Pacific represents such a real 21st-century opportunity for us.

Other regions remain vitally important, of course. Europe, home to most of our traditional allies, is still a partner of first resort, working alongside the United States on nearly every urgent global challenge, and we are investing in updating the structures of our alliance. The people of the Middle East and North Africa are charting a new path that is already having profound global consequences, and the United States is committed to active and sustained partnerships as the region transforms. Africa holds enormous untapped potential for economic and political development in the years ahead. And our neighbors in the Western Hemisphere are not just our biggest export partners; they are also playing a growing role in global political and economic affairs. Each of these regions demands American engagement and leadership.

And we are prepared to lead. Now, I'm well aware that there are those who question our staying power around the world. We've heard this talk before. At the end of the Vietnam War, there was a thriving industry of global commentators promoting the idea that America was in retreat, and it is a theme that repeats itself every few decades. But whenever the United States has experienced setbacks, we've overcome them through reinvention and innovation. Our capacity to come back stronger is unmatched in modern history. It flows from our model of free democracy and free enterprise, a model that remains the most powerful source of prosperity and progress known to humankind. I hear everywhere I go that the world still looks to the United States for leadership. Our military is by far the strongest, and our economy is by far the largest in the world. Our workers are the most productive. Our universities are renowned the world over. So there should be no doubt that America has the capacity to secure and sustain our global leadership in this century as we did in the last.

As we move forward to set the stage for engagement in the Asia-Pacific over the next 60 years, we are mindful of the bipartisan legacy that has shaped our engagement for the past 60. And we are focused on the steps we have to take at home -- increasing our savings, reforming our financial systems, relying less on borrowing, overcoming partisan division -- to secure and sustain our leadership abroad.

This kind of pivot is not easy, but we have paved the way for it over the past two-and-a-half years, and we are committed to seeing it through as among the most important diplomatic efforts of our time.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

White House: Now is Not the Time to Wave the White Flag on Clean Energy Jobs

Now is Not the Time to Wave the White Flag on Clean Energy Jobs. Blog post from Dan Pfeiffer, White House Communications Director
October 04, 2011

This morning, Chairman Cliff Stearns, who leads the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, told NPR that "We can't compete with China to make solar panels and wind turbines."

This comment reflects exactly the sort of counterproductive defeatism that Energy Secretary Steven Chu warned against this weekend when he spoke to a group of America’s most promising young solar innovators:

“The United States faces a choice today: Will we sit on the sidelines and fall behind or will we play to win the clean energy race? Some say this is a race America can’t win. They’re ready to wave the white flag and declare defeat… Others say this is a race America shouldn’t even be in. They say we can’t afford to invest in clean energy. I say we can’t afford not to.

“It’s not enough for our country to invent clean energy technologies – we have to make them and use them too. Invented in America, made in America, and sold around the world – that’s how we’ll create good jobs and lead in the 21st century.”

The race for clean energy jobs and industries is on – and it is a race well worth winning. The International Energy Agency projects that in the coming decades, solar power could grow to more than 20 percent of the world’s electricity.
Conservatively, this means that there is an economic opportunity worth trillions of dollars for whichever countries claim the lead. The global market for wind turbines is also growing exponentially.

But it’s not just the vast potential of jobs tomorrow – these industries employ a growing number of Americans today. In fact, business groups estimate that America’s solar industry accounts for about 100,000 jobs and the wind industry employs 75,000. Should we simply tell those workers that we’ve given up on them?

A study released last month showed that, in spite of the intense global competition, the U.S. remains a net global exporter of solar technology – with $5.6 billion in exports and an overall positive trade balance of $1.8 billion.

It is certainly true that China is playing to win. Last year alone, China offered its solar manufacturers $30 billion in government financing, vastly exceeding the U.S. investment. And China has overtaken the United States market share in solar power – a technology we invented.

Chairman Stearns and other members of his party in Congress believe that America cannot, or should not, try to compete for jobs in a cutting edge and rapidly growing industry. We simply disagree: the answer to this challenge is not to wave the white flag and give up on American workers. America has never declared defeat after a single setback – and we shouldn’t start now.

America’s entrepreneurs and innovators are still the very best in the world. Our workers are second to none – and we have never been afraid of a challenge. It’s time to do what we’ve always done in the face of a tough competitor: roll up our sleeves and recapture the lead.

Friday, September 30, 2011

EPA Inspector General Statement on Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding Report - Data Quality Processes

EPA Inspector General Statement on Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding Report - Data Quality Processes

Press Statement - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
For Immediate Release
Office of Inspector General
Washington, D.C., September 28, 2011Contact: John Manibusan. Phone: (202) 566-2391

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Statement of Inspector General Arthur A. Elkins, Jr., on the Office of Inspector General (OIG) report Procedural Review of EPA’s Greenhouse Gases Endangerment Finding Data Quality Processes:
“The OIG evaluated EPA’s compliance with established policy and procedures in the development of the endangerment finding, including processes for ensuring information quality. We concluded that the technical support document that accompanied EPA’s endangerment finding is a highly influential scientific assessment and thus required a more rigorous EPA peer review than occurred. EPA did not certify whether it complied with OMB’s or its own peer review policies in either the proposed or final endangerment findings as required. While it may be debatable what impact, if any, this had on EPA’s finding, it is clear that EPA did not follow all required steps for a highly influential scientific assessment. We also noted that documentation of events and analyses could be improved.

We made no determination regarding the impact that EPA’s information quality control systems may have had on the scientific information used to support the finding. We did not test the validity of the scientific or technical information used to support the endangerment finding, nor did we evaluate the merit of EPA’s conclusions or analyses.

We make recommendations that we think will strengthen EPA’s control over data quality processes. EPA disagreed with our conclusions and did not agree to take any corrective actions in response to this report. All the report’s recommendations are unresolved.”


Thursday, September 29, 2011

Publication Bubble Threatens China's Scientific Advance

Publication Bubble Threatens China's Scientific Advance
Chinese Academy of Sciences
Sep 26, 2011

As China's economy has soared to the second place in the world, the country's scientific strength has also surged -- if only measured by the numbers.

Chinese researchers published more than 1.2 million papers from 2006 to 2010 -- second only to the United States but well ahead of Britain, Germany and Japan, according to data recently published by Elsevier, a leading international scientific publisher and data provider. This figure represents a 14 percent increase over the period from 2005 to 2009.

The number of published academic papers in science and technology is often seen as a gauge of national scientific prowess.

But these impressive numbers mask an uncomfortable fact: most of these papers are of low quality or have little impact. Citation per article (CPA) measures the quality and impact of papers. China's CPA is 1.47, the lowest figure among the top 20 publishing countries, according to Elsevier's Scopus citation database.

China's CPA dropped from 1.72 for the period from 2005 to 2009, and is now below emerging countries such as India and Brazil. Among papers lead-authored by Chinese researchers, most citations were by domestic peers and, in many cases, were self-citations.

"While quantity is an important indicator because it gives a sense of scientific capacity and the overall level of scientific activity in any particular field, citations are the primary indicator of overall scientific impact," said Daniel Calto, Director of SciVal Solutions at Elsevier North America.

Calto attributed China's low CPA to a "dilution effect."

"When the rise in the number of publications is so rapid, as it has been in China -- increasing quantity does not necessarily imply an overall increase in quality," said Calto.

He noted the same pattern in a variety of rapidly emerging research countries such as India, Brazil, and earlier in places like the Republic of Korea.

"Chinese researchers are too obsessed with SCI (Science Citation Index), churning out too many articles of low quality," said Mu Rongping, Director-General of the Institute of Policy and Management at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China's major think tank.

SCI is one of the databases used by Chinese researchers to look-up their citation performance. The alternative, Scopus, provides a wider coverage worldwide.

"Chinese researchers from a wide range of areas and institutions are vying for publication, as it is a key criterion for academic appraisal in China, if not the only one. As a result, the growth of quality pales in comparison to that of quantity," said Mu, an expert on China's national science policy and competitiveness.

On the other hand, China also falls behind the United States in multidisciplinary research, which is a core engine for scientific advance and research excellence.

From 2006 to 2010, China published 1,229,706 papers while the United States churned out 2,082,733. According to a new metric introduced by Elsevier's Spotlight research assessment solution, China generated 885 competencies while the United States had 1,817.

In other words, China's total research output is more than half that of the United States, while the number of competencies showing China's strength in multidisciplinary research is less than half that of the United States.

Cong Cao, an expert on China's science and technology, put it more bluntly in an article he wrote: "When the paper bubble bursts, which will happen sooner or later, one may find that the real situation of scientific research in China probably is not that rosy."

China has been investing heavily in scientific research and technological development in recent years to strengthen its innovative capacity, The proportion of GDP spent on R&D grew from 0.9 percent in 2000 to 1.4 percent in 2007, according to the World Bank.

An IMF forecast in 2010 says China now ranks second globally in R&D spending. The IMF calculates China's R&D expenditure at 150 billion U.S. dollars when based on Purchasing Power Parity, a widely used economic concept that attempts to equalize differences in standard of living among countries.

By this measure, China surpassed Japan in R&D spending in 2010.

Many see China's huge investment in R&D as the momentum behind the country's explosive increase in research papers.

"Getting published is, in some ways, an improvement over being unable to get published," Mu said. "But the problem is, if the papers continue to be of low quality for a long time, it will be a waste of resources."

In China, academic papers play a central role in the academic appraisal system, which is closely related to degrees and job promotions.

While acknowledging the importance of academic papers in research, Mu believes a more balanced appraisal system should be adopted. "This is a problem with science management. If we put too much focus on the quantity of research papers, we leave the job of appraisal to journal editors."

In China, the avid pursuit of publishing sometimes gives rise to scientific fraud. In the most high-profile case in recent years, two lecturers from central China's Jinggangshan University were sacked in 2010 after a journal that published their work admitted 70 papers they wrote over two years had been falsified.

"This is one of the worst cases. These unethical people not only deceived people to further their academic reputations, they also led academic research on the wrong path, which is a waste of resources," Mu said.

A study done by researchers at Wuhan University in 2010 says more than 100 million U.S. dollars changes hands in China every year for ghost-written academic papers. The market in buying and selling scientific papers has grown five-fold in the past three years.

The study says Chinese academics and students often buy and sell scientific papers to swell publication lists and many of the purported authors never write the papers they sign. Some master's or doctoral students are making a living by churning out papers for others. Others mass-produce scientific papers in order to get monetary rewards from their institutions.

A 2009 survey by the China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) of 30,078 people doing science-related work shows that nearly one-third of respondents attributed fraud to the current system that evaluates researchers' academic performance largely on the basis of how many papers they write and publish.

Despite rampant fraud, China will continue to inject huge money into science. According to the latest national science guideline, which was issued in 2006 by the State Council, the investment in R&D will account for 2.5 percent of GDP in 2020.

"If China achieves its stated goal of investing 2.5 percent of its GDP in R&D in 2020, and sustains its very fast economic growth over the next decade, it would quite likely pass the U.S. in terms of total R&D investment sometime in the late 2010s," said Calto, adding that it is also quite likely that at some point China will churn out more papers than the United States.

According to Calto, China does mostly applied research, which helps drive manufacturing and economic growth, while basic research only accounts for 6 percent, compared with about 35 percent in Germany, Britain, and the United States, and 16 percent in Japan.

"In the long term, in order to really achieve dominance in any scientific area, I think it will be necessary to put significant financial resources into fundamental basic research -- these are the theoretical areas that can drive the highest level of innovation," Calto said. (Xinhua)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Global growth and sovereign debt concerns drive markets

In a "Special Feature" in the last Bank of International Settlements' Quarterly Review, Sep. 2011, [1]  two of BIS staff publish "Global growth and sovereign debt concerns drive markets," where they confirm the already known BIS view of several trends and facts:
1  Without credible plans to restore long-term fiscal sustainability, sovereign debt in several euro area and other advanced countries may no longer be regarded as having zero credit risk.

2  [I]n many advanced economies, government debt levels are expected to continue to rise over coming years, due to high fiscal deficits and rising pension and health care costs.

3  Moreover, the level of economic output, which underpins debt servicing capacity, is unlikely to return to its pre-crisis trend any time soon.

4  Sovereign risk premia could thus be persistently higher and more volatile in the future.

There is much dispute regarding the first point, of course. The US Executive is trying to get Congress to approve a further stimulus package, and IMF's Christine Lagarde said last week that "In many corners" of the world austerity was pushed "in too harsh a way," without letting economic growth take root, according to the WSJ. [2]


[1]  Michael Davies and Tim Ng: Global growth and sovereign debt concerns drive markets. BIS Quarterly Review, Sep. 2011.

[2]  Sudeep Reddy: Three Buttons the IMF Could Push. Wall Street Journal, Monday, Sep 19, 2011, page 12.