Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

STOP PRESS! Bajan Bloggers Collaborate!

One of my fellow Bajan bloggers, Amit Uttamchandani, who writes the Pull! Push! blog, sent out an online survey recently about perceptions of tourism for which he needed more responses. He now has to deal with the replies and try to make sense of it for his MBA course work. His blogging has been put on ice while he grapples with the data, and of course tries to get on with his money-earning job activities.

He sent out a plea for help with the econometric or other analysis. I believe strongly in collaboration and I also have a knack for putting people together. A young English economist, DF or maybe, df, as he's a different kind of economist) who also happens to be a Muslim, had been in touch with me months ago about a planned move to Barbados with his Bajan wife and family. He is now living in Barbados, and we've met and discussed what he may do in the financial area that would not put his Islamic principles in jeopardy. He's got good mathematical and economic skills and is looking for work. So, I put Amit and him together. In no time, our young bucks were putting heads together to make sense of Amit's interesting results. I am no expert on the 'dark arts' of econometrics, but can deal better with words to explain things and also have a reasonable local knowledge that could be useful.

I suggested that this new found triumvirate get together to look over the work and decide how we could assist Amit to complete his analysis. Economists are taught that income/output (Y) is a function of many things, but often we focus on consumption (C) and investment (I). Well, we were going to see if Y = C + I. Cue, Novel Teas NT, as we are all symbols now).There, we could generate output (Y) and consume (C) and invest (I) our time well.

We all met for lunch yesterday. df had just finished celebrating Eid. I was hungry; he was not. Amit just needed a Coke (and his regular diet includes about three a day). Raj, the owner of NT, was his usual accommodating self and let us hook up our computers to his wireless Internet connection; he was himself watching cricket online. But the work needed some lubrication to flow better. Cue tea. df is working his way down the extensive range of options. I am doing likewise. Yesterday, he introduced me to popcorn tea. (Wikipedia gives a nice explanation of Genmaicha (玄米茶, "brown rice tea"), the Japanese name for green team mixed with roasted brown rice. It is sometimes referred to colloquially as "popcorn tea" because a few grains of the rice pop during the roasting process and resemble popcorn.) I had that wash down a superbly cooked dhosa and potato bhaji, with coconut chutney and some seeringly hot pepper sauce that Raj's ladies had prepared. Then into work.

Amit needed to fire up his account at Durham University and next thing I knew we were cooking data at 450 degrees F. df gave some superb explanations of how to understand 'statistical significance'. Social analysts have to convince themselves and others that he results they get from combing reams of data are significant, not just important. It's been over 30 years since I have had to listen to explanations of various forms of econometrics, and I had already explained that contrary to the tenets of my profession I had sworn that after graduating I would never run a regression. I had managed to stay with that and was not going to change now. Inevitably, Amit had to ask about t-statistics. His had had to accept that the two economists with him were not Coke men, and had accepted our advice to have a nice Chai. He was cheery and sipped patiently with a furrowed brow as he talked about 95% confidence intervals.

In the end, Amit was quite pleased with his understanding. df was satisfied that he had functioned well and done a good tutorial. I was satisfied. My time was coming because Amit now needs to write and convince his tutors that he has done well. My commitment was to read his drafts and be 'a piece of work', i.e., scrutinize it for logic and sense relative to some possible policy angles and aspects of local economic development.

As we left to go on with our other living tasks, I explained to Amit how df and I had met, and that we were now about 2 months into acquaintance. Amit was shocked. He thought that we were long time friends or at least associates. His eyes widened as he absorbed the notion that df and I had met through my blog. He should not have been, after all, Amit and I had met through our blogging activities. We had a good talk about some of the recent traffic seen on the local blogs and had some similar ideas about the structure and tone of the various blogs and their main commentators. He chuckled as he recalled some of the interchanges that had involved me. I advised him that my skin is quite thick but that I was also not one to just sit around and be insulted, more so as I am writing under my own name or am clearly identified. We speculated about the feelings of those who wrote under so-called complete anonymity.

Amit promised many chapters to read. As I write I know that my first instalment is sitting in my e-mail in box. I am happy to do this kind of thing on a pro bono basis but Amit insisted on paying for lunch yestrerday. I see that I will remain well fed for a while.

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