Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Currency conversion Vs. purchasing power parity in articles

I am an subscriber in Switzerland (English version), and has read National Geographic Magazine (NGM) for a few years on and off. Its great magazine with stunning photographic content and research.

However, one thing has always troubled me. The way the writers/editors look at the other countries economic situation with an outsider's view. I would imagine that a publisher of their stature would go another level and get the local view.

For example, in an article on Hazara people of Afghanistan in Feb 2008 issue, there is a reference to two people working as labours and earning $1.2 for toiling hard. Fair that $1.2 looks like a very lowly sum when looked in USD, but, converting it to local currency brings out the fact that its equivalent to about 59 Afghanis.

And, by averaging that if a person earns 3 USD per day, he would end up with about 150 Afghanis. Now, what I expect from NGM is that they get to the reality and figure out what's actually possible with that amount. Whether its enough to buy food for the family, pay for the shelter stuff like that.

Well, its sort of given that there is poverty, but leaving the numbers in USD does not give a local image of the place. It rather leaves the reader perplexed, "Only $1.2, I spend more than that of money on cigerettes",or something like that.
In my view, its more important to show the purchasing power of the money that is being earned by the poorer people. Only then, the real extent of the poverty and the crisis they are facing will show up.

In another instance in the same article, one man is photographed with a caption that says that he works 12 hr days and earns about $65 a month. Again, I would expect the localization of the info here. Is it a norm that people in that region work 12 hr days. What good is 65$ in local currency, what can that money buy...

These numbers in USD or Euros or Pounds dont make much practical sense unless mapped with ground reality of what they are worth.

1 comment:

  1. Neema said,
    Right...... point to ponder.... !!