onsdag, september 08, 2010

Taipei teppanyaki: Purchasing power and quality of life

The price/quality ratio of food in Taiwan must rank among the world's top. A recent excellent 'light' lunch at a teppanyaki restaurant in Taipei was food for thought.

The meal started off with a salad, then a garlic bread with soup. Followed by fish, king prawn, mushrooms and broccoli - then the mains of two juicy slices of sirloin. Add a plate of bean sprouts and finish off with the dessert of fruits and "lapper" (no clue what is the English word for this pancake/waffle hybrid also popular in Norway). And yes, the after meal milk tea. Impeccable service and presentation all for £10, other places will sport versions with less items for as low as £5.

Enjoying this quality offering brought out thoughts on what money can get you in Taipei compared to London. Naturally a Londoner can count on a higher income after tax. However, what will those extra pounds actually buy? The average citizen of Taipei can enjoy a much cheaper AND better diet, not least in terms of quality and healthiness. In addition to restaurants, also housing is vastly cheaper and frequently more modern. In short, the local purchasing power for a person in Taipei is greater than that of the Londoner.

Verifying this on the useful Numbeo site provides interesting results. The local purchasing power of a Londoner is indeed 22% lower. A huge part of this is of course due to the certifiable insane rental prices in London, but also aspects like local transportation costs being six (!) times higher must make a dent. It gets worse when you consider the decrepit state of the stuffy London Underground with frequent delays and cancellations compared with the super clean, air-conditioned MRT (Mass Rapid Transportation) in Taipei.

So is life in the west then, still the best? Maybe not, but there are of course other more intangible features of London to which Taipei cannot aspire. London will always remain the more cosmopolitan metropolis with a world class cultural scene, for one.

mandag, mars 15, 2010

Bread and circus

Christina Kirchner's government has been beset by scandals, as is par for the course in Argentina. To drum up support, in 2009 the government made the populist move of announcing free football for everybody. Widely advertised as fútbol para todos, the formerly pay-per-view matches of the Argentinian league could now be seen by everyone. Argentinians being extremely passionate about their football, this would seem to be a brilliant strategy.

However, that thing about free lunches quickly reared its head. When signing off a big fat check to the AFA (Argentinian Football Association) for the broadcast rights on public TV, the wildly optimistic government announced it would not cost the treasury a single peso. In fact, it would reap profits, to be given to amateur sports, through ads and sales to international markets.

This business model turned out less than satisfying. Almost no ad time was bought by the private sector (representing a meagre 0,24% of income needed to balance the books), so the slot had to be filled by government ads like the striking, nation-building "Do we have what it takes to be a Great Country? The answer is, YES!". Even with government money paying for screen time, more than half the bill for "free football" was unaccounted for.

End result was that last week the government had to reroute 144 million pesos earmarked for the provinces, sustainable development and coordination of environmental policies. Fútbol pagan todos (football paid by everybody).