The real size of Offshore Financial Centres

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Political InsightIn an article for the “In Focus” section of Political Insight (December 2013, Volume 4, Issue 3) Jan Fichtner of the University of Frankfurt a.M. and I analysed the size of the foreign assets in the world’s largest offshore financial centres. All ‘offshore financial centres’ (OFCs) have one characteristic feature in common; they offer very low tax rates and lax regulations to non-residents with the aim to attract foreign financial assets. OFCs essentially undercut ‘onshore’ jurisdictions at their expense. The main beneficiaries are high-net-worth individuals and large multinational corporations that have the capital and expertise required to utilise OFCs. Beyond its geographical connotation the phenomenon of ‘offshore’ represents a withdrawal of public regulation and control, primarily over finance. Some important OFCs are in fact located ‘onshore’, e.g. Delaware in the USA and the City of London in the UK. However, historically many OFCs have literally developed ‘off-shore’, mostly on small islands.
OFCs as defined by Zoromé (2007) are jurisdictions that provide financial services to non-residents on a scale that is excessive compared to the size and the financing of their domestic economies. The graphic shows combined data on securities (Coordinated Portfolio Investment Survey by the IMF) and on deposits/loans (Locational Banking Statistics by the BIS) at the end of 2011. Capturing the two by far most important components of financial centres allows a reasonable approximation of the real size of OFCs while avoiding double counting. The larger the size of the circles on the map, the more foreign financial assets have been attracted to the particular jurisdiction. The vast majority of the almost US$70 trillion foreign financial assets are concentrated in North America, Europe and Japan. Areas with assets below $US50bn are not shown for their relative insignificance in the global context.

Offshore Financial Centres

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Where the Wild Spaces Are: Un planeta salvaje

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Make the world a wilder place | Por un planeta más salvaje
Where the Wild Spaces Are - WILD10 Conference 2013, Salamanca, Spain

Wilderness and remote areas are a diverse element in the patchwork of spaces that form the land surface of our planet. Only very small amounts of people are living in sparsely populated areas, which is an expression of the strong organisation of human societies to maximise those living in close relative proximity. More than half of the world’s population now lives in areas categorised as cities, and although more than 95% of the world’s population live in approximately only 10% of the land area, the remaining 90% of space on land are far from being uniform remote or even wild areas.
There are very different ways of how the un-built area that still makes the largest share of land can be understood in terms of being under influence and in reach of human civilization. Only 15% of people in rich countries live more than an hour of travel time from a city (of at least 50,000 people), while the same applies to 65% of people living in the poor countries of the world. This paper demonstrates a different approach to visualising and understanding these loneliest places on the planet by using a technique called a gridded cartogram transformation. The following map shows a gridded cartogram visualising the relative distance of areas to the majority of people. The maps derived from the distorted grid show the physical space transformed according to the absolute travel time that is needed to reach the nearest major city by land transport averaged over the area of a grid cell, resulting in a map that gives the remotest places most space and provides a unique new perspective on the spatial dimension of remoteness:


(click for larger version – high resolution PDF)

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The Visualisation of Spatial Social Structure: Reflections on Critical Methods

‘(How) do we understand Capitalism? Reflections on critical methods’ was the title of a workshop on critical methods at the University of Manchester (September 13-14th). As the announcement of the workshop states, ‘there is no consensus on what critical social science is, exactly. Largely it is defined as not orthodox economics or positivist social science‘. Continue reading

A Lonely Planet

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How to Land a Jumbo Jet‘How to Land a Jumbo Jet’ is the catchy title of a little book published by Lonely Planet a couple of month ago. The book is a “visual exploration of travel facts, figures and ephemera” and a “visual guide to the way we live, travel and inhabit the globe”. Edited by the British graphic designer Nigel Holmes, the book follows the increased interest in information graphics that started to flourish yet again with the increasing availability of ever growing amounts of data. Continue reading

Megacities and Earthquake Risk

Read more about this map:
Paper in the Journal of Maps: Gridded cartograms as a method for visualising earthquake risk at the global scale

The following map is a modified version of the earthquake vulnerability map published on this website last month (see that page for more details on the underlying earthquake map). The map itself does not show much new information, but includes an aditional layer containing the largest cities of the world, the so-called megacities (depending on the definition, these are cities with a population of more than 5, 8 or 10 million). The circles reflect the category in which each city belongs (based on 2015 estimations by the UN), and they are placed on the location of the city related to the total population distribution. As the map is resized according to the population (equal-population projection), the map also help to understand the setting of each city within the global population density, explaining why the artificial boundaries of a city do not always tell the full story of the urban population structure within a region. In some areas, such as Hong Kong and Guangzhou in the Pearl River Delta, cities are just one of several centres in a highly urbanised region – an urban sprawl – while other megacities like Mexico City or Moscow are in a more solitary location (although even here the extent of the populated area goes beyond the urban boundaries, and certainly the population is far from solitude). Without the city labels the map already showed the relation between human settlements and earthquake risk. The following map now allows to better understand the underlying geography if one is not so familiar with that kind of map transformation.
On a more technical note, the following map feature also includes another jQuery feature (I experimented with the image slider applied to maps on the earth at night map): This map uses the Zoomy Plugin to reveal a more detailed version of the map using an interactive magnifier. Click on the map map to enable the magnifier and see more detail (or if you don’t like that, click here for the usual large version of the map).

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