Economist 7/31/15

  1. The rise of Emaar (builder Burj Khalifa )of has been just as vertiginous—and similarly influenced by Dubai’s ruler. Since it was founded by Mr Alabbar in 1997, the firm has grown to become the emirate’s biggest property developer by market value. Its profits rose by 30% in 2014, to $912m, and its spectacular buildings and planned communities have helped put Dubai on the map.Emaar has undoubtedly benefited from the right connections. About 30% of it is owned by a sovereign-wealth fund.When Dubai’s property market collapsed, sales fell to “nothing”, says Mr Alabbar.Emaar, meanwhile, increased its investment in fancy hotels and shopping centres, which now account for most of its revenue.Emaar has distinguished itself not just with the size of its projects—it also has the world’s largest mall—but also with their quality.Emaar is hoping that more of its growth will come from abroad. Its international projects now account for around 11% of revenues, a number the firm would like to double in the next few years.t has other big projects in Egypt (where it recently floated its local subsidiary), Jordan, India and Turkey.But Emaar’s track record abroad is spotty.
  2. THE OLIVE oil industry is in a bad way. World output is expected to fall by a third to 2.3m tonnes this year, its lowest level since 2000. The shortfall is largely due to arid weather in Spain, the world’s biggest producer, and Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterial disease which is ravaging olive trees in Italy. Production in those countries has fallen by around 50%. To add to these troubles, last week the bug reached Corsica, a French island off the west coast of Italy. The French government has burnt plants near the infected bush to isolate the outbreak, which was previously contained in Southern Italy.Around 300 plant species are vulnerable and it has previously devastated citrus-fruit trees in Brazil and vineyards in California.
  3. This vaccine, developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, and called rVSV-ZEBOV, smuggles one of the Ebola virus’s coat proteins into a person’s body in a Trojan horse called a vesicular stomatitis virus. This is a horse and cattle virus, and does not cause human illness, but its presence is enough to activate the immune system. This then learns to recognise and react to the Ebola coat protein—and thus, the vaccine’s inventors hope, to clobber Ebola, should it arrive in the vaccinated person’s body.The trial that the Lancet reports was conducted on more than 7,600 people in Guinea by a group of researchers led by Marie Paule Kieny of the World Health Organisation and John-Arne Rottingen of the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.Ebola’s incubation period is ten days, and no one who had been vaccinated in either arm of the trial contracted the disease once that ten-day period was up.
  4. IN 2022 the Winter Olympics will be held in a place with no snow. On July 31st the International Olympic Committee awarded the games to Beijing, to be held in the city ofZhangjiakou, 250km (150 miles) north of the capital. The resort beat Almaty in Kazakhstan, the only other remaining city left in the bid.Beijing has already hosted a successful summer Olympics—making it the first city ever to host both. More worrying is China’s ambition to stage the winter Olympics—and launch a winter sports industry—in an arid desert (Zhangjiakou is near the Gobi). Almost every winter Olympics venue uses artificial snow to supplement their own supply, and to ensure a plentiful supply of the best kind. But most have far more of their own to start with.Of greater concern to environmentalists than a two-week party in 2022 is the broader attempt to launch China’s own domestic ski industry. The sport is still very much in its infancy.
  5. “Ugelstad spheres”, named for the Norwegian scientist who invented them in 1976, are used in cancer research, HIV treatments and the manufacture of flat-panel televisions. Only in the past decade has the cosmetics industry discovered how useful they are for scrubbing teeth and faces. New Yorkers now rinse 19 tonnes of microbeads down drains each year. Too tiny to be caught by municipal water filters, they easily flow into the world’s oceans, lakes and rivers. In water they can break down, releasing toxins, or become coated with other poisons, such as PCBs.Scientists had assumed that they floated in fresh water and were flushed downriver to the sea. Yet Mr Ricciardi has shown that some sink to the bottom of lakes and rivers, where they are eaten by bottom-feeding fish, which then develop diseases.On July 30th Canada’s labour minister declared by the shores of Lake Ontario that microbeads will be considered a toxic substance. The government now plans to prohibit the manufacture, import and sale of “personal-care” products that contain them. Eight American states have already enacted bans, starting with Illinois in 2014.Public pressure has forced some manufacturers to take action on their own. Unilever has stopped using microbeads; Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and Johnson & Johnson say they will follow in 2017.

Economist 7/30/15

  1. IT IS little more than a week since Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist and perpetual irritant to his country’s authorities, was given back his passport, marking the end of a four-year travel ban. Mr Ai has already made arrangements to visit Europe, stopping first in Germany. But on July 30th it emerged that the visa for his proposed onward trip to Britain would be unexpectedly limited, after Mr Ai received a letter from a bureaucrat saying that his travel would be restricted because of a failure to own up to his “criminal” past. Mr Ai is used to such interference. The surprise was that the letter came not from the Chinese authorities, but from the British.Rather than be given the six-month visa for which he applied, Mr Ai has been given permission to be in Britain only between September 9th and 29th. That means he will be safely out of the way by October, when London is expecting another Chinese visitor: Xi Jinping, the president.
  2. The bicameral system under which Britain is governed today dates back to the 14th century, when knights representing shires and boroughs (the Commons) began to meet separately from religious leaders and nobles (the Lords). The Lords was initially the mightier of the two houses, but by the 17th century, and in the aftermath of Britain’s 11-year period without a monarchy, the Commons’ pre-eminence was formalised. Over the centuries the Lords evolved into a body made up of senior members of the clergy, political appointees and aristocrats who had inherited their places there, as a check on the legislative decisions taken by the more powerful lower house. It lost most of its veto powers in the first half of the 20th century, and in 1999 saw the expulsion of all but 92 of the hereditary peers. Today the House of Lords, now dominated by political appointees,Rather than receive a salary, each of the over 800 members is paid a £300 ($468) allowance for each day he or she attends. 
  3. Recent estimates put the number of low-cost private schools in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital, as high as 18,000. Hundreds more open each year. Fees average around 7,000 naira ($35) per term, and can be as low as 3,000 naira. By comparison, in 2010-11 the city had just 1,600 government schools. In the developed world private schools charge high fees and teach the elite. But Ken Ade is more typical of the sector, not just in Nigeria but worldwide. In 2010 there were an estimated 1m private schools in the developing world.But the fastest-growing group are small low-cost schools, run by entrepreneurs in poor areas, that cater to those living on less than $2 a day.One reason for the developing world’s boom in private education is that aspirational parents are increasingly seeking alternatives to dismal state schools.Many poor countries have failed to build enough schools or train enough teachers to keep up with the growth in their populations. Half have more than 50 school-age children per qualified teacher.State schools are often plagued by teacher strikes and absenteeism.
  4. Choosing a private school can be a perfectly rational personal choice, but have only a limited effect on overall results.One such failure is that parents often lack objective information about standards. Countries where state schools are weak rarely have trustworthy national exam systems.Chile’s voucher scheme, which started in 1981 under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet, aimed to enable poor students to move from bad public schools to good private ones and to raise standards by generating competition between the two. Today 38% of pupils are in state schools, 53% in private ones that accept vouchers and 7% in elite institutions that charge full fees.
  5. The new standard-bearer for market-based education reform is the Pakistani province of Punjab. .Shahbaz Sharif, the brother of the prime minister, Nawaz, has decreed that the government will not build any of the new schools needed to achieve its 100% enrolment target for school-age children by 2018. Instead money is being funnelled to the private sector via the Punjab Education Foundation (PEF), an independent body with a focus on extremely poor families.One scheme helps entrepreneurs set up new schools, particularly in rural areas. Another gives vouchers to parents living in slums to send children who are not in school to PEF-approved institutions. All the places in some schools have also been bought up. Those schools cannot charge fees and must submit to monitoring and teacher training.Crucially, the province is also improving oversight and working out how to inform parents about standards. It has dispatched 1,000 inspectors armed with tablet computers to conduct basic checks on whether schools are operating and staff and children are turning up.PEF now educates 2m of Punjab’s 25m children, a share likely to grow by another million by 2018.A promising development is the spread of low-cost for-profit school chains in big cities in Africa and south Asia.Bridge International Academies, which runs around 400 primary schools in Kenya and Uganda, and plans to open more in Nigeria and India, is the biggest, with backers including Facebook’s chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates. Omega Schools has 38 institutions in Ghana.Bridge’s cost-cutting strategies include using standardised buildings made of stacked shipping containers, and scripted lessons that teachers recite from hand-held computers linked to a central system.

Economist 7/30/15

  1. IT IS little more than a week since Ai Weiwei, a Chinese artist and perpetual irritant to his country’s authorities, was given back his passport, marking the end of a four-year travel ban. Mr Ai has already made arrangements to visit Europe, stopping first in Germany. But on July 30th it emerged that the visa for his proposed onward trip to Britain would be unexpectedly limited, after Mr Ai received a letter from a bureaucrat saying that his travel would be restricted because of a failure to own up to his “criminal” past. Mr Ai is used to such interference. The surprise was that the letter came not from the Chinese authorities, but from the British.Rather than be given the six-month visa for which he applied, Mr Ai has been given permission to be in Britain only between September 9th and 29th. That means he will be safely out of the way by October, when London is expecting another Chinese visitor: Xi Jinping, the president.

Economist 7/29/15

  1. Yemen is only the latest of many theatres in which Saudi Arabia and Iran have sparred over the three and a half decades since an Islamic revolution ended Iran’s own monarchy. The Saudis and their Gulf allies funded Saddam Hussein when he invaded Iran in 1980, while Iran’s proxy in Lebanon, Hizbullah, battled Saudi-backed militias during the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war. In 2011 Saudi Arabia and its allies poured troops into the neighbouring kingdom of Bahrain to help quell a popular revolt. The demands for democracy in a country that is 60% Shia were seen as an Iranian plot to gain power.. The Saudi coalition’s foothold in Aden may presage a redivision of Yemen, a country only united in 1990, into southern and northern halves, an arrangement Saudi Arabia prefers.Rather than seeing the reduction of an Iranian nuclear threat as an advantage, the Saudi government frets instead that its oldest ally, America, is poised to abandon the kingdom and appoint Iran as its new regional policeman.
  2. IN THE three decades since the restoration of democracy in Brazil, the centrist Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) has rarely been out of power. The two presidents with no PMDB ministers in their cabinets had cause to regret it.The PMDB is an indispensable part of the coalition led by Dilma Rousseff, who belongs to the left-wing Workers’ Party (PT). Her vice-president, Michel Temer, is the PMDB’s chairman; the presidents of both houses of Congress are members.If numbers were all that mattered, the PMDB would be the most powerful party by far. Besides having more seats in Congress than any other, it outguns its main rivals, the PT and the centre-right opposition Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB), in state and local governments.. To maintain its broad appeal, it kept its ideology flexible. Asked what the PMDB stands for, grandees start with freedom of speech—then clam up. Its programme brims with platitudes: its only firm position is against the death penalty. It is more pro-business than pro-market, often lobbying for local and industry-specific benefits.
  3. London is a popular destination for money launderers, especially those from Africa, the Middle East and Eastern Europe. (Latin Americans still prefer Miami.)Mr Cameron will call for the Land Registry to publish data on which foreign companies own which land and property titles in England and Wales. The government will also consult on whether any foreign company bidding on a government contract should be made to reveal its “beneficial” (ie real as opposed to legally registered) owners.Transparency International, found last year that one in ten properties in Westminster, a central London borough, is owned by an offshore firm, the most popular domicile being the British Virgin Islands.Britain is working to create the world’s first nationwide public register of company owners and is urging others to follow suit. The prime minister stresses the need for co-ordinated global action, and links progress to reform of Britain’s offshore dependencies in the Caribbean and Channel Islands.
  4. WHEN a monopoly on casinos in Macau ended in 2002, American gambling firms rushed into the former Portuguese colony, eager to set up in the only part of China where casino gambling was legal. The bet paid off, and the world’s gambling centre of gravity shifted to Asia. By 2006 Macau’s gambling revenue had exceeded that of Las Vegas. Today eight of the world’s ten highest-grossing casinos are in Macau, with the other two in Singapore. No casinos in America even crack the top 15. A crackdown on corruption by China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has stemmed the flow of mainland Chinese gamblers into the tiny enclave. Worldwide, gamblers have also held back.
  5. When Britain set a new minimum wage in 1998 doom-mongers forecast that jobs would vanish. Employment proved resilient. Minimum wages help offset firms’ bargaining power over employees reluctant to risk moving elsewhere.Encouraged by this evidence, many are clamouring to make minimum wages far more generous. In America campaigners want the federal minimum wage more than doubled from today’s stingy $7.25 an hour to $15 an hour.By moving towards sharply higher minimum wages, policymakers are accelerating into a fog. Little is known about the long-run effects of modest minimum wages (see page 66). And nobody knows what big rises will do, at any time horizon.One danger is that a high minimum wage will push some workers out of the labour force for good.This is the worst time to be raising the cost of workers. Technological advances are enabling firms to replace more and more people with computers and robots, imperilling jobs.The Congressional Budget Office reckons that only one-fifth of the income benefits go to those beneath the poverty line.Tax credits (income top-ups for low earners) are a much more efficient way for governments to help the poor—about three-quarters of the benefit ends up with employees. To the extent that firms benefit, they are encouraged to employ low-skilled workers rather than automate jobs.

Economist 7/28/15

  1. The proportion of single people in Seoul more than doubled between 1990 and 2010, and they now account for 16% of households. Four in ten South Korean adults are unmarried, the highest share among the 34 OECD countries. In Seoul over a third of women with degrees are single.One reason is that wedding expenses, mostly met by the groom and often including the couple’s first home, have become prohibitive for many. Another is that Korean families used to be so desperate to have sons that in the 1980s they aborted lots of daughters. Now one in seven men of marriageable age lacks a potential partner.Also, some women want to “marry up”, which is harder now that so many women have degrees and good jobs.The mean age at which women marry has risen from 25 in 1995 to 30 today. Only 0.2% of Korean households consist of unwed couples, compared with 10% in Britain and 19% in Sweden. But rather than getting hitched, many women remain single. And many married couples are having only one child: the number of children beyond a first fell by 37% between 2010 and 2013.
  2. WHEN patients are prescribed a drug, they might assume it had been subject to the closest scrutiny. They would be wrong. The results of about half of all clinical trials are never published. Companies are allowed to run many tests and publish only the ones with results they like.Legislators in America and Europe want the problem of missing trials fixed (see article). New legislation comes into force in Europe in 2016 that will require the registration of clinical trials and the prompt publication of results. The question is how tightly these rules will be enforced. America laid down similar requirements in 2007, but they have been more observed in the breach.Even if all new trials are registered and published, the problem remains of what to do about the evidence base for drugs already in use. There is no legal obligation on researchers to publish data from old trials, but there is a moral one.
  3. OVER the past six years, long-term unemployment in Europe has swelled. Around half of Europe’s 25m unemployed have been jobless for over a year. Over 12% have not worked for more than four years.Skills are forgotten, confidence drains, fertility slows and the risk of poor health increases. The challenge for policymakers is to stop this cyclical unemployment from becoming structural.Unsurprisingly, the problem is most acute in southern Europe. More than 60% of jobless Italians have not worked in over a year; in Greece the rate is over 70%.The problem is also acute in the new EU member states of eastern Europe. But unlike southern Europe, many of these countries have recent experience of high long-term unemployment after recessions in the late 1990s and early 2000s.In the richer parts of Europe, both long- and short-term unemployment is less of a concern. Germany, alone in the EU, has reduced both its overall rate—as well as that for the long-term jobless—since 2009, due in part to its more flexible labour market.The EU’s three Nordic states have its lowest long-term unemployment shares, ranging from 19% to 25% of total unemployment. Such low levels are due partly to shallower recessions, and partly to labour-market measures.
  4. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, once considered his father’s heir apparent, learned of his fate somewhere far from the Libyan capital.Mr Gaddafi was last known to be held by militiamen in the north-western town of Zintan, where he was taken after his capture by rebels in the latter stages of the 2011 uprising in which his father was killed. From there he joined three of the 24 trial sessions by video link.The court in Tripoli ordered that Mr Gaddafi face a firing squad for charges relating to attempts to quash the rebellion that eventually ended his father’s 42 years in power.The man some once hailed as a possible reformer is not likely to be executed anytime soon: the Zintanis believed to be currently holding him do not recognise the court in Tripoli nor the Islamist-backed government currently controlling the city and claiming, in defiance of international powers, to rule the country. There are other reasons why Zintan would not readily give up such a high-value prisoner; by holding Mr Gaddafi, the small mountain town has become a powerful player in Libya.
  5. All the activity notwithstanding, the initial rush to reconnoitre Cuba and Iran will slowly but surely give way to a more measured approach for most. It will be months, if not years, before the sanctions on both countries will be lifted.But Cuba and Iran do have one thing in common: they are developed enough that they could thrive once the restrictions are lifted. Iran in particular ought to be able to attract much more foreign direct investment, given its size.Some early moves in Cuba have been promising.Airbnb executives say some 2,000 people have listed space in their homes via the online agency, charging up to ten times the average $25 monthly salary per rental.In the next five years Iran needs an estimated $230 billion-$260 billion of investment in oil and gas, according to analysts. Infrastructure badly needs an overhaul. Iran Air, starved of investment since the Islamic Revolution in 1979, wants to buy several hundred planes.Big food companies are hungry to enter Cuba, but the embargo prohibits them from using American banks to get letters of credit in order to make the deliveries. Even industries with permission to trade with Cuba, such as agriculture, medicine and telecoms, find obstacles in their way. The biggest is finance. Though the Obama administration removed Cuba from its “state-sponsor-of-terrorism” list in April, easing restrictions on banking, the response has been slow.The biggest obstacle to post-sanctions growth may be the two countries’ own governments. Cuba’s embrace of private enterprise has been halting, to put it kindly.

Economist 7/27/15

  1. The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), based in London and previously known as the ‘Nudge Unit’, published a summary of its findings over the past two years. Five years after it started, the buzz surrounding the unit has not faded. So far the BIT has trialled over 100 policy tweaks around the world, and boasts an impressive array of results.In the field of tax collection, the BIT has helped boost revenues for cash-strapped governments. For instance, in Singapore, the BIT found that printing tax bills on the pink paper typically used for debt collection led to an improvement in the prompt payment rate of between three to five percentage points.ts trials also show what does not work. In Singapore cartoons are often used to communicate public policies. But the BIT’s experiments revealed that these cartoons reduced the effectiveness of public messages.So far, the sums the BIT talks about consist of hundreds of millions.
  2. The world may be getting warmer, but it is not getting much wetter. It quaffed 249 billion litres of alcoholic drinks in 2014, a modest increase of 1 billion over the preceding year. When measured by intake per head of the drinking-age population, consumption is down a little from a peak of 56.6 litres in 2012 to 55.4 litres in 2014. People in rich countries are the ones imbibing less—a moderation that has not (yet) been matched by a corresponding binge in emerging markets. India, for instance, is the ninth-largest alcohol market, yet consumption per head is low.
  3. On July 24th, the price of a barrel of oil in America reached a low of $48. In spite of this, governments are still splurging on subsidies to prop up production. Fossil fuels are reaping support of $550 billion annually, according the International Energy Agency (IEA).The International Monetary Fund’s estimates are substantially higher. It said in May that countries will spend $5.3 trillion subsiding oil, gas and coal in 2015, versus $2 trillion in 2011. That is equivalent to 6.5% of global GDP.Rich countries subsidise too—the IMF says America is the world’s second biggest culprit, spending $669 billion this year—but mostly by “post-tax” systems which fail to factor the costs of environmental damage into prices.The IEA believes that only 8% of subsidies accrue to the poorest fifth of the population. That money would better spent on roads, hospitals and schools instead.
  4. UST a day after Turkey at last went on the attack against Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria, it turned its guns on its longstanding foes the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). The PKK has fought intermittently for decades to establish Kurdish autonomy in Turkey, but had observed a tentative cease-fire for the past two years while its imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan, negotiated a peace deal with the government. The PKK was the first to break the ceasefire when it killed four Turkish policemen last week. On July 25th Turkish jets retaliated, bombing PKK camps in Iraq.Meawhile, the Turkish attacks clearly have domestic political motivations. The ruling Justice and Development (AK) party lost its governing majority in elections on June 7thwhen, for the first time, the pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) cleared the 10% threshhold for representation in parliament.Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK)
  5. The inspectors have come to villages like Gaucin to tackle the Spanish government’s difficulties in collecting revenue, in the face of economic problems that have driven much of the country’s business activity into the shadows. Spain’s economy has been growing lately, creating 411,000 net jobs in the second quarter according to figures released on July 23rd by the national statistics agency. But while unemployment fell 1.4 percentage points, it is still an agonising 22.4%, having remained above 20% for five years.While northern European countries now promote electronic transactions, shopkeepers and housecleaners in Spain are happy to accept cash in order to dodge value-added tax of 21%. The grey economy is estimated to make up between a fifth and a quarter of Spain’s GDP.The government’s tax crackdown has netted almost €35 billion ($38.5 billion) extra for the state’s coffers in the past three years. But the tax agency (or Agencia Tributaria) sees scope to improve that take.Meanwhile, among 16- to 24-year-olds, the unemployment rate is nearly 50%. Members of this generation are referred to as ni-ni (“neither-nor”), because they neither work nor study.

Economist 7/24/15

  1. AFTER a year of hesitation, Turkey has come off the fence and joined the American-led coalition’s military operations against the Islamic State (IS). On July 24th Turkish F-16s carried out airstrikes for the first time against IS jihadists inside Syria.Also on July 23rd, Turkey announced it will let coalition aircraft use the NATO airbase at Incirlik to hit IS targets.On Friday Turkish police raided more than 100 properties in Istanbul and detained 252 people thought to be linked to IS.But the Turks had resisted, demanding in exchange that America declare a no-fly zone over Syria, help establish a safe haven on the Syrian side of the border and give as much military priority to removing Bashar Assad from power as to combating IS. A safe haven would help prevent further refugees from coming to Turkey, already home to nearly two million Syrians displaced by the conflict.
  2. But the immediate cause for the reversal appears to be Turkish fears that its reluctance was deepening America’s friendship with the Syrian Kurds. The People’s Defence Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia, has become America’s top partner against IS inside Syria. This worries Turkey because the YPG is closely linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), the rebel group that has been fighting on and off for decades to establish Kurdish self-rule in Turkey.
  3. LAST week, physicists at the Large Hadron Collider, in Switzerland, announced the discovery of a new particle called the pentaquark. Back in 2012 the same machine provided evidence for the Higgs boson—the final missing piece in what is called the Standard Model. This is essentially a cupboard of ingredients for the stuff that makes up the universe, a neat set of all the known fundamental particles and all the forces that mediate interactions among them.The phrase “atom-smasher” conveys the crux of the answer: with lots of energy.Depending on just how a collision occurs and how much energy ends up as mass, a host of processes can occur. Some well-known particles can be produced, decaying quickly into other “daughter” particles or flashes of light, all whizzing off at great speed with some of the energy of the collision.Proving one such particle has been created is tricky. Elusive beasts such as the pentaquark are never caught directly, like an animal in a trap; rather, they leave only tracks. A collider has layers of different kinds of detectors around the point of collisions, each designed to detect different kinds of tracks.
  4. As a country Singapore, it was acutely short of space. One solution has been to add some: since independence Singapore has expanded by over one-fifth, from 58,000 hectares (224.5 square miles) to nearly 72,000, by filling in the sea with imported sand. Marina Bay Sands itself, a number of massive office blocks and a golf course are all on land that used to be sea. The government expects the land area to grow by a further 8%, or 5,600 hectares, by 2030. But there is a natural limit to this growth. Wong Poh Kam, an economist at the National University of Singapore’s business school, points out that Johor, the Malaysian state just over the strait, could be to Singapore what southern mainland China has been to Hong Kong, offering land and labour at far lower prices. Every day an estimated 50,000 Malaysians commute to work in Singapore from Johor Bahru, the state capital. Nearby Indonesian islands also provide room for Singaporean investment.
  5. The shortage of land is compounded by government policy on how it is used. One-fifth of the total, mainly secondary jungle, is reserved for the armed forces. Once space is allocated for industry, reservoirs, housing, roads and parks (including golf courses, which cover about 2% of the country), the squeeze is obvious. Yet the population, of about 5.5m now, has doubled in the past 30 years and is still expanding.By 2030 the population of long-staying “permanent residents” would climb from about 500,000 now to around 600,000, and the number of “non-resident” foreign workers would increase from the present 1.6m to 2.3m-2.5m.Already, probably more than half the people living in Singapore were not born there. That proportion seems likely to rise.The government argued the proposed levels of immigration would be necessary to maintain even moderate growth because Singaporeans are not reproducing themselves. Last year the “total fertility rate” (TFR), a notional estimate of the number of babies a woman will have over her lifetime, was 1.25, way below the replacement rate of about 2.1.From 2020 the number of working-age Singaporeans will decline, and by 2030 there will be only 2.1 workers for every citizen over the age of 64.