Undergraduate Economist

Perspectives of an economics student

Archive for February, 2007

Is Consumer really the King?

Posted by Alex M Thomas on 21st February 2007

In free market economics, consumers dictate what goods are produced and are generally considered the center of economic activity. [Wikipedia]

Is the price of commodities and services determined by the consumers? Does the consumer have significant control over the prices of good they purchase through their ‘purchasing power’? Or is it just a farce?

Who is a consumer?

Consumer is an individual who has the necessary purchasing power to consume good and services.

On Consumerism

The prices in an economy are said to be dictated by the consumers. The law of demand states that ‘other things remaining the same, as more and more good are demanded, the prices rise and vice versa.’ In accordance to this law, when the consumers demand a great amount of a particular good or service, their prices tend to rise. The reasoning behind it being, when there is more demand, the producers raise the prices in order to acquire a larger profit arising out of the increased demand.

Consumer and ‘Choice’

The consumer is always at an advantage when there is competition because competition means choice. Their votes determine the fate of the manufacturer or service vendor. [Pai 2001]

The theory of consumer choice in Economics states that consumers take into account the following factors before making a purchase. They are

1) How much satisfaction they get from buying and then consuming an extra unit of a good or service

2) The price that they have to pay to make this purchase

3) The satisfaction derived from consuming alternative products

      4) The prices of alternatives goods and services

[Source: Tutor2u]

Rarely do consumers make this kind of analysis. Moreover these days, all sorts of attractive offers are given along with commodities and even services, which attract the consumer towards a particular commodity or service. In the R and D labs of the companies, huge chunks of monies are invested to create a brand image and to promote the product. The scary thing being, the advertisements go to which ever extent possible to attract the consumer.

Rather than the consumer going through the price of alternatives, the company in question provides a comparison table along with the advertisement; making it easier for the consumer. (Hopefully!)

If the consumer had the resources to make the above mentioned comparisons and then make a transaction based on that, probably the consumers would have been the King. Moreover, most of the information is kept as secret by the company. With regard to the existing informational asymmetries in the markets, the Right to Information Act passed by the Government of India is a welcome step.

Asymmetric Information and Consumers

Asymmetric information in markets is aggravated by the advertisements, as they portray the best in their respective products, by employing the best possible personnel. This not only distorts the true image of the product, but also places the consumer in a difficult position. [Thomas 2006]

Conclusions

Thus, in an economy characterized with sharp informational asymmetries, the presence of trans and multi national companies, a booming advertisement market coupled with more than 50 per cent of the Indian populace earning less then $2 a day, the consumers will really find it extremely hard in making informed choices.

References

1) Alex M Thomas, The Economics of Information, Undergraduate Economist, 2006.

2) M.R. Pai, Consumer Activism in India, 2001.

 

UPDATE

This article which was pointed out to me is an article too important to miss.

Montague’s hunch was that the brain was recalling images and ideas from commercials, and the brand was overriding the actual quality of the product.

While neuroscientist Montague’s ‘Pepsi Challenge’ suggests that branding appears to make a difference in consumer preference, BrightHouse’s research promises to show exactly how much emotional impact that branding can have.

Thanks to Riot, who pointed out this interesting yet shocking read.

Posted in Consumer Theory, Consumerism, Economics, India, Information asymmetry | 22 Comments »

On Economic Growth

Posted by Alex M Thomas on 14th February 2007

‘Economic Growth’ is a term which one often sees in the media. It is also looked at closely by the economists, the government and the people. Economic growth tends to show the rate of growth of an Economy

The chart graphs the growth rate of the Indian Economy.

What is this ‘Economic Growth’?

Economic growth is the increase in value of the goods and services produced by an economy. It is conventionally measured as the percent rate of increase in real gross domestic product, or GDP. [Wikipedia]

Economic growth has become the Holy Grail of the 20th century. [Lewis 1974] The ‘saga’ continues. Governments like projecting a target rate of growth (The higher the better) for the economy and the economists like to fiddle around with the projected targets.

Why ‘growth’ happens?

One factor which caused growth is said to be the increments in capital. This ‘link’ was given to us by Roy Harrod in the 1940’s. This causality led to the policy of increased expenditure on capital mainly by the government, so as to ‘grow in GDP’.

In the 1950s, Robert Solow (1956) of MIT generalised the relationship between capital, labour, technology and output in the neat little “neoclassical production function”, which still lies at the heart of contemporary growth accounting exercises. Other theorists (as well as planners and policy-makers) also emphasised the importance of education (human capital) and technological development in spurring sustained growth. [Acharya 2006]

Economic growth was caused by capital accumulation, or a rise in the ratio of investment to income and/or increasing efficiency and productivity. [Roy 2006]

Thus, basically with growth in labour, capital (Physical and Human) and technology, there will be growth in the economy too.

According to Paul Romer, three broad factors contribute to growth in output per capita:

1) Increases in physical capital – the buildings, machinery, and infrastructure that we use in daily life.

2) Increases in human capital – the skills and experience of the workforce.

3) Increases in productivity – a catchall category that includes the many large and small discoveries that lead to the introduction of new goods and services or to more efficient production of existing goods and services.

The significance of economic growth

History shows us that a small permanent increase in the trend rate of growth can profoundly alter our quality of life. [Romer 2001]

Keeping this in mind, economic growth acts as an important indicator. So Governments try to achieve high rates of growth so as to provide their respective nations with a high quality of life. But, quality of life is better measured using the HDI rather than GDP.

There is, indeed, a positive relationship between rapid economic growth and a victory over poverty. But this does not happened automatically. A good economics that concentrates on the even distribution of economic opportunities and benefits is essential. And further, good economics has to be also combined with sensible and responsible politics. [Alexander 2005]

Early works on Economic Growth

Robert M. Solow, the Nobel Prize winner in 1987 says in his Prize lecture “Growth theory did not begin with my articles of 1956 and 1957, and it certainly did not end there. Maybe it began with The Wealth of Nations; and probably even Adam Smith had predecessors.”

Some of the economists who worked on growth models prior to Solow were Roy Harrod, Evsey Domar and W. Arthur Lewis.

Conclusion

It is the GDP rate which appears to be more of a concern than the HDI, which does not enjoy the limelight as GDP does. Both these criteria are important and thus the need for understanding both of them.

References

1) Shankar Acharya, Economic Growth: Some Reflections, November 4 2006, EPW.

2) Tirthankar Roy, The Economic History of India 1857-1947, Second Edition, Oxford Textbooks.

3) Paul M. Romer, Growth Policy, 2001 SIEPR Policy Brief.

4) John M. Alexander, Economic growth and the Millennium Goals, 2005, The Hindu.

5) [Indian Growth trend picture]

Further Readings

1) Selected Articles on Economic Growth by Paul Romer.

Resources

1) Journal of Economic Growth

2) Institute of Economic Growth, India.

3) Economic Growth Resources

Posted in Economic Growth, Economics, GDP, HDI, India, Paul Romer | No Comments »

Kerala’s Economy: Crouching Tiger, Sacred Cows

Posted by Alex M Thomas on 3rd February 2007

 

Kerala’s Economy: Crouching Tiger, Sacred Cows

Edited by Sunil Mani, Anjini Kochar and Arun M. Kumar

DC Books

Price: Rs. 195

 

This book contains articles which relate to the Economic development of Kerala. I have posted those facts and thoughts which I found interesting.

 

Statistics

 

The state has created 12% of all new non-farm jobs in India over the 1998-2005 period, no mean achievement for a state that is home to only 3.5% of the county’s population.

 

The state’s poverty ratio is now 12.72 per cent, down from 60 per cent in the early seventies. Its per capita income, at Rs 22,000, exceeds the national average. If remittance income is included, per capita income is 60 per cent above the national average.

 

The contribution of agriculture to the state’s GDP fell to about 20%. The major portion of the state’s GDP is driven by services. While the service sector grew by 13.8% in 2005-06, industry and power grew by a mere 1.3% and agriculture by 2.5%.

 

Contributions

 

An author, Arun M. Kumar calls for attention in the following five areas- nurturing a culture of entrepreneurship, making Kerala more attractive for non-Keralites, making it easy to do business in Kerala, creating a stimulating educational environment for the college going population and by involving expatriate Keralites so as to promote development.

 

Another author M N V Nair, talks about ‘patronage dispensation’ which he says is the philosophy of governance pursued by the elites, who consists of political functionaries, administrative bureaucracy, organized business, community and caste organizations and trade unions. He goes on to say that this ‘elite’ lives off the ‘influence peddling’.

 

K. Pushpangadan and M. Parameswaran talk about the ‘virtuous cycle of human development’ which facilitates rapid growth; as Kerala’s progress is in contrast to the accepted notion that ‘economic growth precedes human development’. ‘The authors suggest that the linkage is that human capital development resulted in migration that brought in remittances to the state which in turn facilitated economic growth.’ They posit that ‘dependence on remittances carries the risk of external shocks.’

 

Sunil Mani talks about the infocommunications sector in Kerala. He says that ‘Kerala has the highest teledensity (telephones per thousand people) among all Indian states.’ ‘Residential customers in Kerala get electricity at the cheapest rates in India’ writes V. Santhakumar.

 

My conclusions

The book portrays a growing picture of Kerala Economy. The authors suggest several measures to sustain this growth. It is a good read for those who want to get an in depth analysis of the economy of Kerala.

Posted in Book reviews, Economic Growth, Economics, Kerala Economy | 13 Comments »