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A Coconut Index for Asia

Declaration of my Coconut Index

“When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands…” which have so long divided them and compare their standard cost of living with the standard cost of another’s.

The first-world network of Europe has chosen the Euro as their standard of measurement. This makes it simple to compare relative costs between associated countries. Southeast Asia in contrast has no such standard currency, though they all use the U$D here as a secondary currency.  The Big Mac Index is applied in international business, where prices of Big Macs are compared between different countries.  The cost of a Big Mac should reflect the cost of living in that respective country.  However, Ronald’s Big Mac never extended its commercial clutches to Indochina.  Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos have never seen a Big Mac.  What product then could I use as a standard to measure costs? 

I hereby unveil to the world, my Coconut Index. 

I based my initial findings of this index on the famous words of our forefathers, that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of…” fresh coconuts.  I assumed that like all men, all coconuts too are created equal.

I took the given variables, the per capita income of each country in U$D and throughout my travels have noted the average cost of their coconuts.  I divided per capita income by 365 to find their daily wages – assuming a 7-day work week – , then compared the cost of a coconut as a ratio to their wages (X:Y), where X = cost of 1 coconut as a fraction of their daily wages, Y .  The higher Y is, the higher that country’s purchasing power parity.  I inverted the cost and daily wages factors in this computation to further convey how many day(s) – or fraction thereof – of labor it would take to purchase a coconut in each country, where X = cost of 1 coconut, and Z = day(s) of work.  “To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.”

Travelmag, unfortunately, has no mechanism to recreate tables, but the figures below correspond to the Country Average Per Capita Income in U$D Average Daily Wages in U$D Cost of 1 Coconut Coconut:Daily Wages (X:Y) Day(s) of Work:Coconut (Z:X)

Thailand $3100 $8.49 $0.36 1:23.58 0.042:1
Cambodia $60 $0.16 $0.26 1:0.62 1.625:1
Vietnam (south) $320 $0.88 $0.20 1:4.40 0.227:1
Laos (south) $350 $0.96 $0.15 1:6.40 0.156:1
Philippines $1088 $2.98 $0.30 1:9.93 0.100:1
Malaysia $4458 $12.21 $0.53 1:23.04 0.043:1
Singapore $26,300 $72.05 $0.88 1:81.88 0.012:1
Indonesia $980 $2.68 $0.23 1:11.65 0.086:1

Coconuts cost about 15 Baht ($0.36) each in many Thai markets.  Compare this to a Thai’s average daily wages of $8.49.  The cost of one coconut in Thailand would only equate 1/23.58 of a local’s daily wages.  In contrast, most coconuts I found in Cambodia went for about $0.26 while their average daily wage is only $0.16.  The coconut: daily wage here would be 1:0.62.  Another way of looking at this is the day(s) of work: coconut.  It takes 1.625 days of work to buy one coconut for the average Khmer.  The average Khmer couldn’t even afford a single coconut a day.  This should give you a good idea of how the standards of living compare and contrast between these countries.  Please bear in mind that these daily wages reflect a 365-day work year.  In most third world countries, people work just as hard on weekends as they do on weekdays.

During the initial stages of computing my Coconut Index, I failed to take into account one very important factor.  While all men may have been created equal, all coconuts have not.

The quality of coconuts may vary as much as the standards of living in which they are found.  I scoured Southeast Asia for the best coconut juice available and have concluded in my studies that there are three primary factors that comprise a coconut’s quality.

A. When it was picked
The juice from a coconut too immature to drink will usually be rather bland.  The flesh will be a very thin gel-like substance.  In contrast, the juice from a mature coconut too old to drink will have a slightly sour aftertaste because it has fermented for a while as the coconut matured.  It is best to eat the flesh from these mature coconuts as it has thickened to a one-centimeter crunch.  The best time to pick coconuts to drink is during the happy
medium, right between their immature and mature states – when they are still young but not too young that they are bland.  The flesh should be about 1/2 centimeter thick and not as gel-like as the immature ones but not as crunchy as the mature ones.  The nectar in these coconuts is in their prime.

B. How long it has been picked
As with all fruits, coconuts are best immediately after they are picked.  The longer you wait to drink it afterwards, the less flavor it will retain.
C. How fertile is the land in which it was picked?

Most important of all is how fertile the land is in which this coconut was grown.  The most fertile I have seen is the reddish-brownish clay-like soil found in areas like Cambodia, Southern Laos, Southern Vietnam, Koh Tao of Thailand, etc.  In contrast, the worst soil for coconuts – and most other vegetation – is white sand.  Much to my dismay, this was the case in many areas in the Visayas of the Philippines.  I abandoned my quest for a good coconut in the Philippines.  Coconuts from their white sand beaches often turn yellow before they even grow to maturity.  Even the juice from the green coconuts in the Visayas fell far below my rigid coconut standards.  I refused to finish the one I had in Boracay.  It was more sour than sweet.  I spat out the juice as I hoisted my food-snob snout high into the air.  Those things should never even make it to the market.  Even if factors A and B were optimal, without fertile soil, the best you can hope for is a mediocre coconut.

Now let us recap with a few practical examples:

A) Coconut is picked right in the middle of immaturity and maturity
B) Coconut is freshly picked
C) Coconut palm is grown in white sand
=> Bad coconut

A) Coconut is picked right in the middle of immaturity and maturity
B) Coconut is freshly picked
C) Coconut palm is grown in fairly arable soil
=> Good coconut

A) Coconut is picked right in the middle of immaturity and maturity
B) Coconut is freshly picked
C) Coconut palm is grown in reddish, brownish, clay-like soil
=> Best coconut

Unlike the Big Mac Index where you compare a single standard product in every country, my Coconut Index has proven to be much more complex.  In addition to the cost of coconuts, I must also consider the weight that the three aforementioned variables carry in terms of coconut quality.
(A)(X) + (B)(Y) + (C)(Z) = Coconut Quality
Let X = 35%
Let Y = 15%
Let Z = 50%
Where X = Significance of when coconut was picked
Where Y = Significance of how long coconut has been picked
Where Z = Fertility of soil in which coconut palm grew

In conclusion, coconut quality inherently attributes to coconut cost, thereby influencing purchasing power parity (eg. the standard of living).  This Coconut Index was much more work than I had anticipated – too much work for someone who is aimlessly traveling.

I give up.

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