Author Archives: Owen Barder

Why taxing global companies is hard

Half of scotch whisky is sold in China and North America.  Should the profits of whisky companies be taxed in Scotland, where the whisky is made, or in China and North America, where half of it is sold?  Where exactly is the profit on these sales made? Now ask yourself the same question about the profits made by Google, which sells advertisements in Europe on websites built in in the US using technology designed in the US. Companies are generally taxed on their profits, which are defined as revenues minus costs.* That’s reasonably clear in the old world, in which revenues and costs happened mainly in the same place

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Share the Road

A tiny minority of London motorists get grumpy with cyclists if we don’t move over to the far left of the lane. There are several reasons why it is safer for cyclists to be in the middle of the lane: When cyclists are in the middle of the lane, drivers can see them more quickly and are more aware of them. Cars sometimes pull out from side roads and driveways into the road without noticing that there is a cyclist on the inside. If the cyclist is in the middle of the lane they have more time to swerve. Pedestrians sometimes step off the pavement into the path of bikes.

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Will we be the first generation to eradicate malaria?

Bill Gates and the UK government announce $3bn plan to eradicate malaria (2016 edition) Bill Gates and the UK government announce $3bn to eradicate malaria (2008 edition) – (note plan to eradicate by 2015) The post Will we be the first generation to eradicate malaria? appeared first on Owen abroad.

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Price discrimination and welfare costs

There is nothing inherently wrong with price discrimination. But some of the mechanisms firms use to enforce it have huge welfare costs. My flight to Washington was cancelled on Saturday, because of Snowzilla. That was good news for me: it meant I could switch to the same flight on Sunday, which I preferred. So why hadn’t I booked my flight on Sunday in the first place, given that it meant an extra day at home? The reason was that Virgin insisted on charging an extra £1,100 for the return flight unless I was staying away on a Saturday night. As a small charity we can’t justify that kind of premium

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When the US Secretary of State reads your blog posts

One of my blog posts (with Kim Elliott) ended up on the desk of (then) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as revealed in the latest batch of published emails. I am not sure if you can call this influence, since we didn’t manage to get the policy agreed (yet). The post When the US Secretary of State reads your blog posts appeared first on Owen abroad.

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Strings attached

This week’s Economist looks at the risks in the new UK aid strategy. It quotes me: The promotion of British interests in the 1980s led to projects that made little sense in economic or development terms, says Owen Barder of the Centre for Global Development, a think tank. There is a danger that, to make clear that aid benefits British interests, it could end up duplicating global programmes. Although short-term political interests can coincide with the needs of poor countries—funding for research into climate change and public health, for instance, can be funnelled to British universities and firms—greater transparency and oversight are needed to stop spending on projects simply because they are politically expedient.

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Fat cats

Here are two facts that help to put things in perspective. First, by the end of today, the average Chief Executive of a FTSE 100 company will have been paid more than the average employee earns all year. Second, by the end of today, the same average employee will have been paid more than the average Ethiopian earns all year. The post Fat cats appeared first on Owen abroad.

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Supporting our overseas workers (student loans edition)

Our friends Jill and Gary Campbell have lived in Ethiopia for more than 20 years. Gary ran a business which managed construction projects, while Jill taught in the international school.  Jill also set up and ran the Addis Ababa Food Run, providing food, support and shelter to homeless people, for which she was awarded the MBE in 2014 (see photo above). Their children, Joshua and Hanna, who are also British citizens, left Ethiopia this summer after finishing their International Baccalaureate exams and securing places at Swansea and Loughborough Universities respectively. But Joshua and Hanna have been told that they do not qualify for a student loan from the UK government, because they have not lived in the UK for three years

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Is the UK putting its own interests ahead of the poor in its new aid strategy?

Britain’s new aid strategy has important implications, not only for DFID but for international organisations who will either need to adapt or face losing some of their core funding. Here’s why. The British government recently announced new medium-term spending plans (the first for two decades produced by a Conservative government), which included a Strategic Defence and Security Review  and a new aid strategy.  Perhaps most surprising to many, the UK government remains committed to spending 0.7% of national income on aid, despite the unpopularity of this commitment with voters. With parts of the UK hit by severe flooding, the BBC is reporting that the government now spends more on flood defences abroad than in the UK. But criticism of the aid target has been muted by the announcement that the UK will also meet NATO’s 2% target for spending on defence: the right has now discovered that they support spending targets after all.

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Vague about the Constitution

Various people have got over-excited about whether yesterday’s vote in the House of Lords was unconstitutional. The Parliament Acts of 1911 and 1949 establish the privilege of the House of Commons to exercise control over financial matters in two ways.  If the Commons passes a supply or money Bill which has been certified as such by the Speaker of the House of Commons, then the House of Lords cannot amend it, and can hold it up for only a month.  Alternatively, if the House of Lords amends another Bill, the Commons can reject the amendment if the Speaker certifies that the Commons has financial privilege.

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XKCD on World Polio Day

I am a huge fan of XKCD, and enjoyed this comic he drew for World Polio Day for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. I love the way it teases the innovation fetish which you see in some parts of the international development world. The post XKCD on World Polio Day appeared first on Owen abroad.

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We are the first generation in human history … again

Jim Yong Kim, President of the World Bank, says that the world is moving loser to the historic goal of ending poverty by 2030: This is the best story in the world today — these projections show us that we are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty … This new forecast of poverty falling into the single digits should give us new momentum and help us focus even more clearly on the most effective strategies to end extreme poverty. It will be extraordinarily hard, especially in a period of slower global growth, volatile financial markets, conflicts, high youth unemployment, and the growing impact of climate change. But it remains within our grasp, as long as our high aspirations are matched by country-led plans that help the still millions of people living in extreme poverty. Jim Kim, President of the World Bank, 4 October 2015 This isn’t the first time we have said that. It isn’t even the first time that Jim Kim has said this

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Humanitarian Cash Transfers

The Free Exchange column in this week’s Economist discusses the work of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers. Here is the conclusion: Cash does have its problems: in times of emergency, when shops are shut, it may be useless. But if those 20m refugees are to have any hope of a decent life, it should play a far bigger role. You can read the full article online. Here’s a PDF of the article.

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Global goals can deliver on 2C and new development finance – here’s how

This article by Alex Evans, Alice Lépissier and Owen Barder first appeared in The Guardian on 25 September 2015. It summarises this new CGD Policy Paper by the same authors. What if there were an affordable programme to prevent catastrophic climate change and provide the finance that developing countries need to end poverty by 2030? With summits this week on the sustainable development goals and in December on climate change, this year marks the most significant push on the world’s biggest challenges since 2005, the year of the G8 meeting at Gleneagles and the UN world summit. It’s sobering to compare then with now

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