Government to the rescue

The economies of small states are vulnerable. Their size and open nature leaves them exposed to economic shocks. William Gatt (supervised by Dr Gordon Cordina) from the University of Malta and Central Bank of Malta modeled an economy to study the effects of government policies in limiting economic turmoil. The researcher used a Dynamic Stochastic General Equilibrium (DSGE) model of a small, open economy to simulate an economy similar to Malta. The model could study an economy over time, determine its reaction to random shocks, and the effect of changes in policy. Mr Gatt compared a government policy which directly shored up ‘at risk’ households to another policy with which government boosted economic activity by directly buying goods from the market. Direct transfers to households accelerated a faster economic recovery after drops in foreign demand.

Further studies showed that government intervention is more beneficial when more ‘at risk’ households exist. The downside to this policy is a requirement of a large economic surplus. Government would need to save when the economy is strong to buffer in times of distress. In this light, the role of government is as a saver, meaning that it should ensure precautionary savings adjusting policy targets for a budget surplus. Chart

This research was undertaken as part of a Master of Arts in Economics from the Faculty of Economics, Management and Accountancy. Opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Central Bank of Malta.

Online chatting and spelling ability: myth, speculation and reality

The Gutenberg printing press revolutionised the world in 1455. It brought the written word to the masses, though in its day critics thought it would corrupt language. Today, text and instant messages are the new technologies that critics are accusing of degrading writing. 

Research from Coventry University shows that online chatting can improve spelling, questioning the popular mythology spread by the media. Building on this foundation, Lara Vella (supervised by Professor Sandro Caruana) studied online chatting extracts by Maltese secondary school students. She found some evidence which shows that students who chatted online for several hours had a lower spelling ability.

To measure chatting behaviour, she distributed a questionnaire to 205 Maltese secondary school students (95 males and 110 females, who were about 14 years and 5 months old). These students were assessed on their spelling by two different tests and an analysis on extracts of online conversations. In Malta, it seems that chatting might be linked to a lower spelling score in both Maltese and English. Chatting and instant messaging is normally assumed to be dotted with spelling errors and abbreviated words, like: u, lol, abt, c, msg, tks, rofl and others. Her study showed that only 16.21% of the words used included such alternative spelling. Stereotypical beliefs did not hold true and were clearly outweighed by normal spelling.

Taken together, the study clearly shows that the relationship between spelling and online chatting is not clear-cut. Vella cautions that other factors affecting spelling need consideration. Speculation about the effect of online chatting needs to be replaced by research aimed at separating fact from fiction. Research will allow strategies to be developed that help improve literacy for Maltese students in the online world.

This research was performed as part of a Masters in Education at the Faculty of Education.