Author Archives: Owen Barder

Fixing Windows drivers for my iPod

I use both Microsoft and Apple products. My MP3 player of choice is an Apple iPod nano.  Sometimes the Windows drivers seem to get messed up, and iTunes gives me a message that my iPod has not been recognised. I’ve tried Apple’s solution, which includes a fresh installation of iTunes. That doesn’t work for me

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Pull Yourself Together

Walking back from dinner in London’s South Bank on Friday night, we stumbled across this installation by Alex Chinneck in the Hungerford Car Park. It is a Vauxhall Corsa, apparently suspended on a piece of tarmac that has been upended. Pick Yourself Up and Pull Yourself Together by Alex Chinneck. Hungerford Car Park, South Bank, London. Photos by Owen Barder, February 2015 The post Pull Yourself Together appeared first on Owen abroad.

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Blog revamp

Observant readers of this blog will notice that I’ve done a little spring cleaning around here. I tried to make the design feel more contemporary by making it simpler, and more readable, especially on a mobile phone or tablet.  I’ve also tried to make the site load much faster.  I’ve tried to make it easier to leave comments. And I want to do a better job of managing photos: to ensure that pictures have credits and text alternatives for people whose sight is impaired

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Zero inbox – an update

I was told recently by a senior DFID official that my greatest contribution to DFID so far has been my system for managing email overload, which apparently has been widely adopted. (I’d like to think he was joking, but I fear not.) If you missed my 2012 previous post about managing email, here is a summary. Without wanting to sound smug, I normally have zero inbox. I achieve this by triaging my inbox several times a day into three categories: (a) I deal immediately with anything that can be answered in a few minutes; (b) things that will take longer, I defer to the day on which I plan to do it; and (c) I file the things that need no further action.  Then I leave my (empty) inbox and look at my Today folder, which contains the things that I have previously tagged to deal with today

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A twenty-first century development policy

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This blog post first appeared on Views from the Center.  It drives me crazy that so many people equate development policy with foreign aid. That’s why I welcome this week’s landmark report from the British parliament’s Select Committee on International Development. As the UK nears the end of a five-year parliament, this well-respected cross-party committee has delivered its legacy report, which argues that development is about much more than aid. As Alex Evans and I argued in evidence to the committee, the three key tasks of development policy are now to help fragile states become stable, make growth in middle-income countries more inclusive, and address cross-border problems that affect us all. Yes, aid is needed for all three of these tasks, but aid isn’t the answer to any of them.  Nor is the new development agenda merely a matter of finding new sources of finance to replace or supplement aid.

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The Pledge

At CGD Europe we try not to organise any men-only panels (I regret to say we ended up with one such panel when our star speaker could not join us at short notice). I’ve taken the further step of making a pledge not to appear on any panels of two or more people without at least one woman. Scott Gilmore puts it well: As the audience patiently waited for us to answer the question, “Why are there no women on stage?” I thought of my friend Owen Barder, a well-known economist and a world-class mind. He once told me that he refused to join all-male panels.

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No smoking gun – DFID and the surge in spending

This blog post first appeared on Views from the Center. The UK development agency, DFID, was mauled by the famously easy-going British press this weekend after an apparently critical National Audit Office report. “[I]n Dfid’s imposing new headquarters off Trafalgar Square, the big worry was how to shovel money out of the door,” said David Blair in the Telegraph. “[C]ivil servants are spending vast sums of public money with no assurance of serving either the world’s poorest people or the interests of taxpayers,” said The Times. The Daily Mail characteristically played the man rather than the ball with a savage attack on Mark Lowcock, the exceptionally talented, hard-working, and widely respected senior official in DFID.

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Migration and Development: Small Tweaks for Big Benefits

This blog post by me and Theodore Talbot first appeared on Views from the Center. Britain’s highly charged debate about immigration means that migration systems and policies are potentially in flux—a chance, perhaps, for innovation. We believe there are opportunities to tweak these policies so that they deliver big benefits for poor people, avoid the most harmful unintended consequences, and make British people better-off. Granted, development is unlikely to be at the front of politicians’ minds as they weigh up the options for migration policy, but now is exactly the right time for a discussion about how to shape immigration policy for development impact within the bounds of the current political agenda. We put our heads together to come up with thirteen innovations for immigration policy to deliver meaningful benefits for international development.

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Thirty years a vegetarian

I became vegetarian thirty years ago today. I was living in Ethiopia, and we had bought a sheep for the Embassy Christmas barbecue. It was tied up outside my bedroom window. We hoped it would fatten up on the lush, watered grass of the Embassy lawns. It didn’t: instead it wasted away

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The governance deficit

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I gave evidence this morning to the LSE Diplomacy Commission, which “seeks to understand Britain’s place in the world and make recommendations for the future strategy of British foreign policy.”   I was part of a group of panelists (all much more eminent than me) which was asked to speak for 5 minutes on the question “‘What do you believe are the key challenges that will shape the UK’s national interests over the next 30 years?” Here is what I said: The key challenge for Britain in the coming decades is the deficit in international governance. I want you to imagine a country somewhere in the world in which there was no rule of law, with no institutions to set or enforce rules, and no way to agree and enforce contracts.  Imagine that this country had no mechanism to raise money for, or to deliver effectively, public goods such as clean air, law and order, financial stability, public infrastructure, research and development or disease surveillance.  Imagine a winner-takes-all economy, in which the most successful firms are allowed to set rules of the game which stifle competition and reinforce their own economic and political power.  Imagine that every time you travelled from the countryside to the city you were stopped at a roadblock and required to pay a tariff to protect traders in the city from competition from rural areas.  Imagine a country in which arms manufacturers could sell weapons to whoever they want. Imagine a country with no collective insurance for its citizens against natural disasters, and in which inequality is allowed to grow to the extent that that the rich have to wall themselves off from the poor. If we encountered a country like that, we would declare it a failed state.

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The development agency of the future

Does a stand-alone Department for International Development have a long-term future? What is the role of DFID in facilitating other British government departments and other UK organizations to assist developing countries? What is its role in influencing the policies of other Whitehall departments? These questions are being asked not by me but by the UK Parliament’s International Development Committee (terms of reference here).  The mere fact that they are raising these questions is interesting (and alarming to some people). But in all the evidence submitted to the inquiry, I haven’t yet found any that supports the idea of merging DFID back in to the Foreign Office.

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Why “beyond aid” matters

This blog post by Owen Barder and Theo Talbot first appeared on Views from the Center. The UK House of Commons International Development Committee is undertaking a very interesting inquiry which happens to be right up our street. It is examining what might come next in the UK’s approach to development, including the coherence of policies which affect development, and the impact of the UKs non-aid policies on developing countries and … the underlying government mechanisms needed to support any changes. We have submitted written evidence for the Committee to consider for this inquiry.

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Episode 44: The Data Revolution

Everyone seems to be talking about the data revolution these days. In this episode of Development Drums, I speak with two people who have thought more about what it is, how to make it happen, and what it means for development than just about anyone else. Claire Melamed is the Director of the Growth, Poverty and Inequality Programme at ODI. She was previously the Head of Policy at ActionAid UK. Her work focuses on measurement of poverty and inequality and on how to use the insights from measurement to improve policy and outcomes

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A Global Carbon Tax or Cap-and-Trade? The Economic Arguments

This blog post, by Alice Lépissier and me, first appeared on Views from the Center. If you could choose how to curb greenhouse gas emissions, would you choose a carbon tax or cap-and-trade? Environmental economists have long debated this question, and it will be on many people’s minds in the run up to the climate meetings at which world leaders will attempt to reach agreement on how to limit global warming to 2°C in Lima (December 2014) and Paris (November–December 2015). In this post, we’ll recap what the economics tells us about this choice, and we’ll offer a challenge to the general consensus in favour of a carbon tax. Next week, we’ll depart from idealized economic theory and consider the practical questions which we think tip the balance towards cap-and-trade.

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