Saturday, October 29, 2005

The end of lessons proper is a double-edged sword...

Yesterday's ICT class was the last class for me for this semester. Although lessons have ended, the assignments are still in progress and due next week.

There was a bittersweet taste in my mouth yesterday knowing that I do not have to attend any more lessons (except for one lecture in November). Sweet because, well, there are no lessons! Nothing to prepare nothing to read in advance, don't have to drive the ridiculous distance down to NIE for lessons that seem to be irrelevant (but I'm sure they are useful somehow, just that I have not realised it yet).

Bitter because well, won't be seeing my old and new friends as much as before. But on hindsight, not seeing my friends is also a bittersweet situation in itself! Bitter because I've come to know some of them at a deeper level and love to hang around with them. Sweet because some of them are just morons who are narrow-minded and some are utterly boring to be with!

Oh one thing, I'm a great believer in the adage "do unto others what you want others to do unto you", so all you proponents of "all's fair in love and war", don't bug me with your ideas and 'advice'.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Of rice and (wo)men....

Played a game focusing on agriculture today in class. Basically, the class was split into the urbanites [President, Govt Official (yours truly), Bankers, Traders and Industrialists] and the "lowly peasantry" (farmers planting padi).

The aim of the game is of course, to earn as much money and assets as fast as possible with scenarios such as famines and high birth-rate keeping things in check.

From the game, I learned that information is money. As the peasants' mobility is restricted, they have to rely on traders, the govt or the bankers for information as well as sourcing for infrastructure which will aid in the growth of padi. What the urbanites needed was rice so that we can survive.

Year 1: When the game started, all hell broke loose as the traders and the president+government official fought to get as many deals as possible with the peasants so that we can not only make a profit, but to purchase rice for sustenance. It was bad. After the first year ended, the urbanites realised that the peasants were making a mockery of us. With the urbanites venturing out into the rural hinterland, the peasants realised that they need not purchase or rent the bicycle (which is essential for travel to the city) from me. I lost a huge source of income due to that and actually had to slash the cost of renting my bicycle to them. Yet nobody wanted my bicycle! From then, I realised that the president and the govt official must work hand in hand so as to maximise our synergy for the next year. The traders (KF and CY) also felt that the peasants were taking advantage of all of us since they knew that we needed to purchase rice from them for survival. From then on, the urbanites realised that we needed to work with each other to ensure that the peasants sell their rice from us as well as purchase the necessary equipment to increase their yields. We also restricted the flow of information to the peasants and as the govt, designated a sole-monopolist trader. KF now had sole authority to conduct transactions with the peasants in exchange for some kickbacks to the govt.

Year 2: The best idea ever was for the govt to impose taxation on the people. Each person had to pay us $20 plus $10 per child which they had for "compulsory education". From here on, the president and myself started to have lots of cash at our disposal which we used to purchase rice at the cheapest level as well as getting the industrialists to supply us with warehouses at cost price (more like coercing them to do so with the threat to increase their taxes should they not sell to us at cost price). With warehouses, we were able to stock up on rice should a famine happen as well as selling them back to the urbanites. The traders were still trying to cut some deals with the farmers and I thought that KF did a great thing by lumping deals with incentives, getting the farmers to purchase more equipment in exchange for tax relief etc.

Year 3: The president and myself realised that we should tax the farmers not only in cash but also in rice so that we are able to store more rice for ourselves and our expanding warehouse inventory since we purchased more warehouses from the industrialists. After a while, we had so much rice, we need not buy any rice from farmers who were desperate to sell them. Just two years back, no farmer wanted to sell rice to us and now they wanted to be rid of their rice. It was nice also to see how the farmers realised that the restriction in the flow of information from the city to the rural hinterland had affected them badly as they felt hoodwinked by the traders (even though KF turned out in the end to have very little money). Farmers now wanted to rent my bicycle which of course I refused since I am making money through the restriction of information.

Year 4: With our coffers full and warehouse full of rice, we were able to play around more with the farmers as well as selling rice at a higher price to the bankers and industrialists since the famine has resulted in a drop in rice production. Again more $$ for the govt.

Year 5: The president and myself realised that the trader has been making deals with the farmers but in the process, did not really make much (if any) money for himself. In the end, the government benefitted again since we were able to capitalise on the fact that the trader was helping us! It was interesting to note how even though KF was relatively honest to the farmers, the farmers were still sceptical about him. It was more interesting to note how some farmers trust me more than him even though as the govt, we were taxing them a lot!

Aftermath: I find it puzzling how the farmers were so easily 'suckered' into selling their rice at $1 per kg when they could have been adamant and sell to us at a higher price. The pricing of commodities is a tricky aspect since it will affect the entire economy. The govt made the mistake of not keeping the bankers in check as we realised later that they did some undertable deals with the bananagrower and actually bought rice for their survival, thus they need not buy from us at an exorbitant rate. It wasn't fair that the industrialists probably made the most money in the end since their supply of warehouses, waterpumps, HYVs and fertilisers were never ending. They made a lot of money just selling warehouses to the govt and inclusive of the huge capital they had in the beginning, meant that they prob were the richest.

I likened the govt (president and official) to be in a role similar to Singapore. We basically did not have any natural resources and much cash in the beginning. What we had was human resource, information and the authority to tax people which we made full use of. Trade was our main mode of survival. Through careful (despicable) strategising, we managed to have $870 (not an easy feat considering in Year 1 I had $0 and the president did not have much either) and 5 warehouses chock full of rice (250 kg) and 160 kg of rice at hand by the time the game ended. The traders, well, they basically have only pittance left....which is weird as one usually considers them to have the most money heh.

I think the main lesson I got from this is somewhat observable in real life too. The rich gets richer while the poor gets poorer. Additionally, the govt is easily corruptible if they are really desperate to ensure their own survival. Information is POWER and MONEY.