Seminars & Lectures
ISET would like to thank the Japanese embassy for organizing and sponsoring our latest public lecture, graciously arranged by ambassador Akira Imamura.
On November 19, ISET was visited by Mr. Alan Fuchs of the World Bank Group, whose presentation, 'Taxing Tobacco in Georgia: The welfare and distributional gains of quitting smoking’, delved into the welfare and distributional impact of increasing taxes on tobacco in Georgia. A large portion of Georgia’s population smoke, despite its long-proven negative health effects; approximately eight million deaths per year are attributed to tobacco consumption. As Mr. Fuchs stated, Georgia faces significant health, economic and social costs due to the prevalence of cigarette smoking. Mr. Fuchs’ presentation examined how raising taxes on tobacco products can be an effective way of reducing smoking. The World Bank used an Extended Cost-Benefit Analysis (ECBA) method to simulate the welfare and distributional impact of raising the price of cigarettes, which showed that poorer households have a tendency to reduce their tobacco consumption when faced with higher prices of cigarettes. However, although the same ECBA method was used by the World Bank in similar studies in Russia, Chile, South Africa, Myanmar and Indonesia, the studies differed according to the datasets available. In some countries (such as Russia and South Africa) the datasets were widespread and informative, but others (including Georgia) were far less complete, making the results somewhat less reliable.
On the 13th of November, ISET was visited by Joey Cherdarchuk of Darkhorse Analytics, a Canadian company specializing in data science and information design. The firm is dedicated to helping organizations and individuals present their data in a clear and understandable way; in an often humorous and highly informative workshop, Mr. Cherdarchuk demonstrated how failures in data presentation can be misleading (wilfully or otherwise) and inaccurate. Mr. Cherdarchuk’s seminar formed a part of the larger Effective Data Visualization workshop hosted within ISET’s Modern Data Analysis (MDA) concentration. The workshop, colourfully entitled ‘Data Looks Better Naked’, Mr. Cherdarchuk explained that raw data can be compared to an uncut diamond – the information needs to be crafted in order for it to be presented in its best form. This idea is highly applicable to economists attempting to present their research, facts and figures to a general audience who may not be familiar with the more intricate complexities of economics.
On October 25th, ISET was visited by Dr. Robert A. Lawson of the Fraser Institute. In a highly entertaining and often humorous lecture, Dr. Lawson discussed a wide variety of topics, including the notion of economic freedom, research into economic liberty, as well as Georgian reforms since 2004 and recommendations for future development. One of the most important aspects of Dr. Lawson’s presentation was the fact that Georgia, as a small country, is highly dependent on international trade for future growth. This is in contrast to the United States: as Dr. Lawson explained in a hypothetical scenario, if the US was to hypothetically abruptly cease all trade with other countries, it would still retain something of an economy, albeit one far reduced in size. This is simply due to the fact that the US has such a large population; small countries such as Georgia, meanwhile, would collapse without foreign trade partners. With this in mind, Dr. Lawson then discussed Georgia’s case specifically and attributed the country’s economic success over the last two decades to successfully deepening ties with other countries.
Independent entrepreneurship is one of the main drivers of economic development and often manifests itself in the form of small and medium enterprises (SMEs). These start-ups trigger innovation, boost productivity and bring about structural change. As Prof. Dr. Hansjörg Herr explained, Germany has been able to reap the benefits of this due to a multitude of internal factors. Its local banking system, for instance, is not profit-oriented and consists of savings banks, which is more accessible for entrepreneurs. The country’s vocational education system, too, plays a part, with its split system of teaching both practical skills and theoretical knowledge (in contrast to the more academic education practices of other Western countries). In addition, the government is very supportive of SMEs, as is the government’s development bank, the KfW.