Sunday, May 20, 2007

Land-locked Laos joins the IWC

In a follow up to a previous post The Political Economy of Japanese Whaling comes news that the land-locked south east Asian country of Laos is to join the International Whaling Commission.

You might rightly wonder what a country that has never caught whales nor have any historic culture of hunting whales want with membership of the IWC.

Could it by chance have something to do with a recent Tokyo meeting between Shinzo Abe (Prime minister of Japan) and Bouasone Bouphavanh (his communist counterpart).

Could it also be a mere coincidence that Japan has recently announced $1m in fresh aid to Laos for clearing unexploded ordinance.

A little like the recent political voting in the Eurovision song contest it is not too difficult to predict the way Laos will vote.

From the viewpoint of an economist this makes for interesting reading - is the $1m in extra aid a lot of money? Does this help us put a value of whales? Could Japan not be outbid?

Given they could be a marginal country in the up and coming vote could some of the Green NGO's not offer more for Laos' vote against the resumption of commercial whaling? It would arguably be cheaper than the costs of endlessly chasing Japanese boats around the oceans.

I expect Laos have sold themselves cheaply - they should demand a higher price for their vote. Given the enormous subsidies Japan already provides to its fishing fleet an extra few million would be a mere drop in the whale free ocean.

I expect Japanese aid levels are higher for other "for" voters. This is a good example of price discrimination by the Japanese government. Laos should wise-up and demand more money.

h/t: FT observer.

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