经济学人官方译文 | 熄灯之时:卫星数据对朝鲜不透明的经济提供了新的解读

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North Korea’s economy
朝鲜经济
When the lights go out
熄灯之时
Satellite data shed new light on North Korea’s opaque economy
卫星数据对朝鲜不透明的经济提供了新的解读

VIEWED FROM space at night, North Korea looks like the recently released first image of a black hole: an abyss, ringed by the brilliant glow of South Korea, China and Russia, from which nothing can escape. But the Hermit Kingdom does emit a bit of light, which orbiting satellites detect. And nocturnal luminosity is one of the few reliable sources of information about the country. It implies that North Korea’s economy is poorer, more volatile and more vulnerable to weather than formerly thought.
在夜间从太空往下看,朝鲜看起来就像近期发布的首张黑洞照片:一个被韩国、中国和俄罗斯的耀眼光芒环绕的深渊,没有任何东西可从中逃脱。但是轨道卫星还是探测到了这个隐士王国散发出的一些光线。有关朝鲜的可靠信息来源很少,夜间照明亮度是其中之一。从目前的照明亮度看,朝鲜的经济比人们之前所想的更贫穷、更不稳定、更容易受天气影响。

Night lights are a strong proxy for economic activity. A new paper by the IMF finds that they explain 44% of the variation in countries’ GDP per person—as close a tie as that between a person’s height and hand size. In places where records are poor or manipulated, night lights offer an alternative measure of output. One study found that among countries with similar luminosity, autocracies reported GDP growth 15-30% higher than democracies did.
夜间灯光数据是经济活动的有力指标。国际货币基金组织的一篇新论文发现,它能解释各国人均GDP44%的差异——和一个人的身高与手掌大小之间的关联程度相近。在数据不完善或受操纵的地方,夜间灯光成了替代性的经济产出指标。一项研究发现,在具有相似亮度的国家中,专制国家公布的GDP增长数字比民主国家公布的高出15%至30%。

Nowhere are good economic data rarer than in North Korea. The most detailed numbers come from South Korea’s central bank, which derives them from figures on production volumes of various goods. When adjusted for the cost of living in a developing Asian economy, the bank’s most recent estimate of North Korea’s annual GDP per person is enough to buy goods and services that would cost $2,500 in America.
没有哪个国家的可靠经济数据比朝鲜更少。最详细的数据来自韩国央行,根据各种商品的产量得出。根据亚洲发展中经济体的生活成本进行调整后,韩国央行得出的最新估计是朝鲜年人均GDP可以在美国购买价值2500美元的商品和服务。

The picture painted by night lights, however, is even grimmer. In 2013 a group of scholars compared luminosity and GDP within rural China, obtaining an equation to estimate economic output from light. A forthcoming paper by World Data Lab, a startup, and a team of researchers applies this formula to North Korea. It yields a standard of living that would cost $1,400 a year in America, making North Korea one of the world’s ten poorest countries.
然而,夜间灯光描绘出的图景更加严峻。2013年,一组学者比较了中国农村的夜间亮度和GDP,得出了一个根据亮度估算经济产出的公式。在即将发表的一篇论文中,创业公司世界数据实验室(World Data Lab)和一个研究小组将这一公式应用于朝鲜,得出的结果显示其生活水平在美国相当于每年花费1400美元。照此计算,朝鲜是世界上最贫穷的十个国家之一。

The data also suggest that the economy has been unusually volatile. In 2013-15 luminosity fell by 40%. That implies a 12% reduction in GDP, including 19% in the capital region, Pyongyang. Since 2016, however, the country has brightened again.
亮度数据还表明朝鲜经济波动异常大。2013至2015年间,夜间亮度下降了40%。这意味着GDP下降了12%,其中首都平壤地区的GDP下降了19%。然而,2016年后,朝鲜的亮度再次提升。

International sanctions are unlikely to have produced this darkening. They were made stricter in 2016-17, just as luminosity rose. A drop in the prices of North Korean exports, like coal, may have played a part.
国际制裁不太可能是亮度下降的原因。2016至2017年度光度上升正值制裁力度加大之际。煤炭等朝鲜出口产品价格下跌可能起到了一定作用。

But the main cause was probably weather. North Korea relies on hydropower, and in 2015 it was parched by a drought. The Bank of Korea also reckons that electricity, gas and water output fell by 13% in 2015.
但主要原因可能是天气。朝鲜依赖水电,2015年水电资源却因干旱而枯竭。韩国央行还估计,2015年朝鲜电力、燃气和水的产出下降了13%。

The economy may not have shrunk as much as the dimming suggests. Recessions caused by power cuts could disproportionately reduce lighting. Many North Koreans own solar panels, which power daytime activity not shown in night lights. And state buildings, whose illumination is a political choice, make up much of the capital’s glow. As with physics inside a black hole, no one knows what economic laws apply within North Korea’s eerie silhouette.
经济缩水程度可能没有照明亮度的降幅那么大。电力供应不足造成的经济衰退可能会让照明以更大幅度减少。许多朝鲜人都有太阳能电池板,为日间活动供电,而这在夜间照明数据中没有体现。政府建筑照明是一种政治选择,是首都夜间光亮的主要来源。与黑洞内的物理谜题一样,没人知道在朝鲜幽暗的轮廓之内有什么适用的经济法则。

Nonetheless, a 40% drop in luminosity indicates a serious recession. And this year the government has admitted publicly that heatwaves, floods and drought have caused a dire food shortfall. The regime appears much better prepared to weather trade sanctions than the wrath of nature.
尽管如此,照明亮度下降40%仍然表明经济出现严重衰退。今年朝鲜政府公开承认,热浪、洪水和干旱造成了严重的粮食短缺。看起来朝鲜政权更善于应对贸易制裁,面对暴怒的大自然则力有不逮。

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