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Why Privatizing Education in South Korea Is a Bad Idea

Robert J. Barro is wont to suggest that countries should open their financial market "to foreign investments" ("South Korea: How to keep the miracle going," Economic Viewpoint, June 9). Good economics! But we have seen that each time a country adopts unguided, open-door policies, it is short-term speculative capital rather than real investment that turns up, which simply vamooses at the slightest sign of trouble. The consequences have been disaster for the countries concerned -- Argentina, Brazil, and Russia are cases in point. Malaysia barely escaped the evil of speculative capital, thanks to Prime Minister Mahathir's ingenious monetary policy.

Recommending privatization of education in a country like South Korea that is barely emerging from poverty and backwardness is simply awful. There is nothing that says products of private schools do any better than those from public schools. Investment in good and quality education by the state, just like providing a reliable infrastructure, repays the state more than tenfold -- because it generates the knowledge and skills that society needs to create wealth, prosperity, and welfare at a higher economic level. Leaving such a fundamental issue to private capital is like vacating the summerhouse without securing the front door.

Deebii Nwiado

Gentofte, Denmark In "BMW: Will Panke's high-speed approach hurt the brand?" (European Edition Cover Story, June 9), you describe how quality problems have left some BMW owners fuming. Having made the jump in 2000 from a Nissan 4x4 pickup truck into a BMW 5 Series, I can readily identify with that problem. I've spent far more money repairing my 5'er in the past three years than in 14 years of incredible service from my Nissan truck. And while the Nissan was driven hard over the rough roads and in the bad weather of upstate New York and Connecticut, my Beemer has been pampered by the warm weather and smooth roads of Singapore. Maybe the Japanese brands don't carry the cachet of a Beemer, but I would prefer sitting in a vehicle that wants to run -- not sitting in an expensive service shop with concerto music playing and a staff serving me cappuccino while an overpriced "technician" analyzes the latest problem.

Steve Szymanski


I don't drive one, but I'll bet a lot of BMW owners think you're phonetically challenged after reading "BMW." C'mon, guys. The car's nickname is Beemer, not Bimmer (rhymes with dimmer). Gotta run -- my porch is double-parked.

Bruce Ganem

Ithaca, N.Y.

Editor's note: Both nicknames are widely used, though Bimmer is the correct term for BMW cars, Beemer for BMW motorcycles. A Google search yields approximately 10 times as many references to Bimmer as to Beemer. James C. Cooper and Kathleen Madigan need only look at their Business Outlook item on Germany, "Deflation's deepening shadow" (June 2), to see how mistaken they are when they state, " the short run, the dollar's drop will be very supportive of growth. A weaker greenback gives U.S. exporters a price edge in global markets" ("Big help from a weak dollar," Business Outlook, June 2). With Germany sinking into recession and deflation, with Japan already experiencing these twin constraints on growth, and with the U.S. and the rest of Europe sliding in the same direction, what makes Cooper and Madigan believe that a weak dollar will help anyone's economy?

Why should foreigners suddenly begin buying exported U.S. goods when their own economies are contracting? Here in the U.S., companies barely have pricing power as it is. It is doubtful that a cheaper greenback will have much impact on the bottom-line growth of U.S. companies.

Steven Morris

East Hampton, N.Y Starbucks is an overpriced gimmick ("For Starbucks, there's no place like home," American News, June 9). As an American living in Tokyo for 12 to 13 years, I have the strongest craving for Coca-Cola brand Georgia Coffee (in numerous flavors, both hot and cold) that can be purchased for a meager 120 yen from a vending machine when rushing through a train station, walking in Ueno Park, or sitting on the top-floor patio of the Ginza Mitsukoshi department store. It's the perfect "fix" -- no mess, no fuss, no waiting. Coca-Cola is not the only company to have found this market. Japan has several companies that sell dozens of varieties of coffee, hot or cold, right out of the vending machine.

Bev Wehr


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