My favorite @TedTalks on fishing the human weight of China every year by @4fishgreenberg

I spend much of my travel and commute time listening to podcasts and audiobooks, and when possible, watching video podcasts, and every now and then I find one so good I want to record and share it.

This one is a TED talk by author Paul Greenberg about changes in global fishing over the past 50-100 years and how this has impacted not only the industry and the environment, but our diets as well.  I remember first having sushi about 20 years ago just before my first trip to Japan, and being overwhelmed with the variety of different sea creatures chefs would select, slice, and serve on beautifully arranged palate-pleasing portfolios.  In most other cuisines I can think of though, I sadly agree that the protein industry has become dominated by the relatively boring combinations of four from the sea (shrimp, tuna, salmon, and cod), along with four tetrapods and four birds, compared with the myriad of different species diners might have enjoyed decades earlier.

So this topic interests me as a foodie and environmentalist as well as as a trans-pacific statistician and investor.   Here is the the original TED talk video:

Also, I just so happen to have been looking at a list of companies earlier this year engaged in the business of pulling animals out of the sea (whether wild or in farms), and am cautiously hoping the next decade’s leaders in this space will be able to combine variety and cleanliness with efficiency, sustainability, and profitability.  Below is a scatterplot of the list of companies showing that many of the larger and faster growing companies in this space tend to be Indonesian.  I’ll continue to be watching this space, especially on the relationship between Chinese demand for more aquaculture and the impact to island nations like Indonesia and the Philippines.

Scatterplot of fishing companies' growth rates vs returns on capital

(Please note the GFMii site is experimental, and the links might change).

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By 2030, Beijing + Tianjin GDP to be 40% more than New York + Newark + Jersey City





I saw this table today on LinkedIn, and what most impressed me was not just the projection that 7 of the top 10 cities/metropolitan areas economically by 2030 are projected to be in China, but that the author felt the need to combine New York and New Jersey while keeping Beijing and Tianjin separate just to keep New York at the top of the list while it could still be done.  I would probably have stuck with either cities proper or tried to have some more consistent / widely accepted list of metropolitan areas (e.g. the Tri-state area including Connecticut).

I am less familiar with the Los Angeles – Anaheim area, but according to Google the two are 32 minutes apart by car, just as Guangzhou and Shenzhen are about 32 minutes apart by G-train, and in my experience these two cities in Guangdong province are very closely connected economically and only getting more so.  Guangzhou + Shenzhen combined would also be over 10% larger than New York + New Jersey by 2030 according to this table, but I would include the broader metro area of Hong Kong, Zhuhai, and Macau into the broader metro area of the Pearl River Delta to compare with New York City’s tri-state area.

Suzhou is also 25 min away from Shanghai by G-train, so that would be a third metro area larger than NYC by 2030 without even leaving the top 10.

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“Dragon babies” most visible in Taiwan Data, least visible in Mainland China data

Yesterday I again heard the claim that Chinese births tend to spike in years of the dragon, the most recent being 2012, 2000 and 1988.  Naturally, I was as skeptical of this saying as I am of the quote that September sees the highest number of births every year in far northern countries.

If Francois Mauriac loved Germany so much preferred having two of them, in this case I must be even luckier to love Chinese statistical departments so much I have at least three to chose from: the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the National Statistics Bureau of Taiwan, and the Government of Hong Kong.

There are of course also the World Bank statistics on Crude Birth Rate and Fertility Rate, but these seem to be so heavily rounded that they are more useful for looking at long-term trends than short-term spikes.

Of the ones above, the one that most clearly seemed to show any form of spike in birth rates in 1988, 2000 and 2012 was that of Taiwan, where fertility rates spiked over 10% in 2012 compared with only about 5% in 2000 and 1988, although the far more significant statistic in my view is the >50% decline in the birth rate over the past 30 years and the shift in births from mothers under the age 25 to those by mothers over the age of 35.

The PRC / Mainland statistics seemed to tell a far different story: while there did seem to be a slight uptick in 2012, both 2000 and 1998 showed substantial declines on the previous year as part of the larger trend of falling birth rates after they last seemed to rise and peak in the early 1980s as China adjusted to the post-Mao era.


Finally, here in Hong Kong, the statistics do seem to show slight upticks in all three of the latest dragon years, though this chart from the health department shows these blips are also dwarfed by broader trends.

I was at first surprised by the dramatic decline in birth rates in after 2012, but this actually seems to be a reversion to a long-term birth rate this SAR had been settling to between the 1997 handover / Asian financial crisis and the 2003 SARS epidemic before what seemed to be a multi-year doubling in birth rates post SARS leading up to 2012.

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 4.23.23 pm


There’s of course far more to these statistics than can be said in a 400-word blog post, but hopefully this will provide some useful reference data for my (and your) next dim sum conversation on dragon babies and birth rate spikes.

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Washington Post Map of Mega-churches outside the US, led by Seoul, Lagos and Singapore

Fascinating Washington Post map of megachurches outside the US shared by Conrad Hackett.

I wasn’t at all surprised that the dots on this map were dominated by Asia and Africa!


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Transparency’s 2014 Corruptions Perceptions Index Shows US more corrupt than Japan…

… Singapore more corrupt than Scandinavia, and China at a nice round #100 out of 175.

Thanks to Curtis Chin for sharing!

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The Basic Law of Hong Kong at 25 vs the Singapore Constitution at 50

This year there have been several ads around Hong Kong commemorating 25 years since the Basic Law was drafted in 1990.  In case the term sounds strange, the “Basic Law” is basically Hong Kong’s equivalent of a constitution, and is the foundation of the legal system here.  Unlike Singapore, which is a sovereign nation whose 1965 constitution turns 50 this year, Hong Kong is an undisputed territory of the People’s Republic of China and so has some differences in how government officials are elected/selected and how the military is financed, but in practice Hong Kong law seems far more similar to Singapore’s than to Shanghai’s.  The CIA WFB has a great list of constitutions by country here.

I might certainly show myself as a legal geek when I get excited talking about the Basic Law, or the current exhibit on its 25th anniversary at the Hong Kong History Museum, but I have written before on how to quantify the relative trust in legal systems by simply comparing Hong Kong property prices with those only a few meters across the border in Shenzhen.

The below video is one of the ones being shown at the exhibit, and the only one with over 1,000 views I found on YouTube when I searched for “Basic Law of Hong Kong”.  Happy Friday!

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Flashback Friday: Jim Rogers on how to make money in 1990

A little over 25 years ago, about 15 years before Jim Rogers moved to Asia, he hosted this TV show called “The Profit Motive” – a nice nostalgic video while I’m finishing my reading of his latest book “Street Smarts”.

Happy Friday!

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Remittances 29% of Nepal’s economy vs 10% of Philippines’ @WSJ

The most thought-provoking chart I saw over the weekend was this one from the WSJ.  Usually when I think “remittances” I think “Philippines”, seeing how they make up 10% of a $270 billion economy, but I was impressed to see that remittances are more than twice the share of Haiti’s GDP and almost 3x the share of Nepal’s GDP.

Nepal is not exactly a tiny country with 28 million people, but it is much poorer with a GDP of only about $19 billion or just under $700 per person.


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Philippines borrows US$2bio at under 4% fixed for 25 years. This means (multiple choice):

A.) The market is rationally pricing in a “new normal” with low growth, high demand for long-term pension income, and relatively lower risk in low-cost / high-growth countries like Philippines vs. “entitlement expense”-burdened countries like Spain

B.) The bond bubble has reached an unsustainable peak, both in terms of long-term USD rates and credit spreads of EM sovereigns like the Philippines

C.) That financial institutions holding and managing USD for Filipino workers and HNW families (and so generally those that can easily take Phil sovereign risk) have more money than they know what to do with

D.) A and C

Story on bond issue:,the-philippines-cuts-costs-with-2b-bond.aspx

Recent filing of a “run” of ROP US-registered bonds:

For comparison, Mexico’s borrowing costs seem slightly higher than Philippines’:



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