The student is currently studying Land Economy at the University of Cambridge and will be graduating in 2022. This personal statement was part of her successful application to the University of Cambridge, UCL, LSE, Durham and Warwick.
My attempt to comprehend the complexity of the 2008 financial crisis kindled my fascination with Economics. It led me to read Geithner’s ‘Stress Test’, which offered a firsthand look at tackling the crisis. While his focus on avoiding panic and maintaining credit flows is justified, I think creating more effective programmes to reduce rising foreclosures is equally vital. Weaknesses in the Home Affordable Modification Program, for example, severely restricted the potential number of rescued homeowners. Its inherent fault was that the incentive of mortgage servicers to help homeowners modify their loans was eclipsed by the more profitable prospect of foreclosure. The government could perhaps have restructured incentives by implementing a reward-by-output system where the government pays a servicer for every loan modified, whilst ensuring the payment is higher than what the servicer receives when foreclosure occurs. Furthermore, while I agree with Geithner’s argument that moral hazard was inevitable, I think the extent of its impact was influenced by controllable factors like how stringent lending terms were; the lenient terms in this case encouraged recklessness. I hope to explore issues like crisis prevention and financial contagion further with more rigorous theoretical frameworks in university.
The centrality of neoliberalism today pushed me to read Ha-joon Chang’s ‘Bad Samaritans’ for a contrarian view. He observes that while protectionism formed the basis of rich countries’ advancement, these same countries advocate neoliberal policies for developing countries, which often hinder their growth. This made me question the true intention of richer nations. During my internship at an agribusiness, I felt that Chang’s point was echoed in the EU’s palm oil biofuel ban; the EU’s justification of ‘environmental reasons’ appeared to be a euphemism for a return to protectionism. If environmental protection truly was their goal, they could have opted to share expertise with producing countries to help mitigate their carbon footprint rather than imposing a ban, since a ban would reduce the incentives for sustainable production. The EU’s ignoring of the harmful impact of rival oils farmed locally in the EU further supports this view. This illustrated to me the importance of acquiring diverse ideological views in the study of the political economy.
The mathematical aspect of economics appeals strongly to me. I was intrigued to discover the relevance of differential calculus in economics, such as deriving the Marshall-Lerner condition, or explaining changing values of price elasticity along a linear demand curve. Exploring its use in utility maximisation, I learnt several ways to derive the equimarginal principle, but was most awed by its derivation from the first-order conditions (FOCs) of a Lagrangian. To me, the magic of this tool is its power to find optimal values under multiple constraints. However, I am aware that my understanding of optimisation is limited. For instance, further reading led me to discover that with quasi-linear utility, utility-maximising values would not satisfy all FOCs; this was something I had not considered up till then, since my syllabus emphasised that the equimarginal principle had to be satisfied at the optimal. Therefore, a deeper grounding in optimisation is something I keenly anticipate.
My role as prefect and my school’s Interact Club Finance Director has enhanced my ability to communicate, organise events, lead, and be a team player. I enjoy independent research which goes beyond class work; during my internship at RHB investment bank, I used data from Bloomberg to gauge firms’ financial positions. I am open to discussions and thrive on incorporating new ideas and opinions.
Aside from the thrill of exploring new concepts, I believe that this degree will arm me with the tools to contribute to the sustainable development of South-East Asian economies as a policy analyst or economic consultant.
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To me, Land Economy’s allure is its blend of law and economics; it considers the moral effects of economic policy, and the economic impact of the law. For example, research into Malaysia’s strata title laws during a law internship made me realise that a total pursuit of economic efficiency may not be possible if individuals’ property rights are to be protected, as enshrined in the Constitution. In Malaysia, unanimous consent from strata title holders is needed for an en-bloc sale of a strata property. While this position upholds owners’ property rights, it jeopardises urban renewal as unanimous consent is difficult to acquire. A case in point was an aging condominium in the city centre which depreciated after failing to gain approval for sale to a redevelopment project. In contrast, Singaporean law only requires 80% approval for en-bloc sales of older buildings while providing safeguards for minorities; this facilitates urban renewal. Malaysia should consider emulating this regulatory model.
Economic policy and legal frameworks must exist in symbiotic balance. A degree in land economy would equip me to realise my aspiration of addressing the problem of urban decay in Malaysia.
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I greatly value socio-economic and environmental balance in the process of development. I am lucky to have travelled extensively and experienced places in which this rings true. On a National Geographic Journeys trip to the Peruvian Amazon, I was shown travel lodges built among trees, which do not come at the expense of biodiversity. They contribute to the local economy by providing employment opportunities, yet still respect and preserve natural authenticity. I hope to one day advance and actualise sustainable accommodation because respect for nature and its inhabitants is important to me.
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