Francis from Oregon writes:”I am a young postcard collector working on a geography project. For this project, I would really love a postcard from Sudan or South Sudan. Do you know of anyone who would be happy to send me one? I would be so happy and grateful for your help. Of course in return I would be more than happy to send the sender a beautiful postcard (or anything else they might need) from Oregon in the U.S
Author Archives: Roving Bandit
A new documentary, about the first ever manager of the first ever South Sudanese national football team. His name is Zoran, and he swears like a trooper. It’s an entertaining story, filmed in 2012 and set against the backdrop of some beautiful footage of Juba amidst the excitement and optimism of independence (in 2011). Particularly poignant due to the recent return to conflict.It’s available on the BBC iPlayer for the next month, watch it while you can (there are free VPN solutions for those not in the UK).
Andrea Goldstein of the OECD emails an old but very interesting paper (ungated here) in response to my post on the AfDB blog about African Airlines.He makes two points and offers two recommendationsFirst, in the experience of OECD countries, “liberalisation delivers in terms of quantity, quality, and cost of air transport.”Second, what allowed liberalisation to take place was a political dynamic, driven by interest groups (trade associations and organised consumers) pushing for reform.So what can or should the OECD do to support policy reform?One, establish an international authority capable of enforcing safety standards (the ICAO is an obvious candidate).Two, aid could be used to accelerate the restructuring and privatisation of African airlines.Neither of these address the issue of opening the skies, which is down to African governments, and African consumers and trade groups to lobby for.
Recent Chinese economic growth has led to half a billion people being lifted out of poverty, without doubt just an amazing wonderful story. The poverty rate halved in just over a decade. Human development – measuring not just income but also health and education, has also leapt.And happiness? Nothing. No change at all
In the US, to name just a few, you haveMankiwKrugmanDeLongAcemoglu/RobinsonBeckerThomaCowen/TabarrokEasterlyBlattmanRodrikLandsburgMcKenzie/Ozler et alCaplanIn the UK I countSimon Wren-LewisHenry OvermanDanny QuahMatt CollinHypotheses:1. The bandwagon effect – Mankiw and Krugman are really high profile and have been blogging for years – when the leading textbook author and a Nobel prize winner are blogging then its probably ok (although this bandwagon effect could also effect UK academics)2. Differences in administrative/teaching burdens?3. A selection effect – in the UK terminal masters programmes are more common, so natural writers quit before then complete a phd and get sucked into academia4. A simple quantity effect – some fixed % of academics are likely to be interested in blogging, and there are just many more top economists in the US than the UK (about 6 times more according to this list).What am I missing?
When Pippa Biddle wrote last week about “the problem with little white girls,” she was adding to a rich vein of development self-flagellation. I just ventured to google “why voluntourism is good,” and the top 3 hits were:”Beware the voluntourists intent on doing good”"Is voluntourism doing any good? No!”"Does ‘voluntourism’ do more harm than good?”Pippa writes of her own experience as a voluntourist, including the wonderful story of the Tanzanians staying up all night to rebuild the wall that the white American girls messed up, so they wouldn’t know what a terrible job they did.”It would have been more cost effective, stimulative of the local economy, and efficient for the orphanage to take our money and hire locals to do the work, but there we were trying to build straight walls without a level.”But here’s the thing – if Pippa had never gone to Tanzania, she would never have sent her money there. We know this. Despite the dizzying scale of global inequality, the vast majority of charitable spending by individuals in rich countries is spent in rich countries, not poor ones
“Affordable housing” is a phrase which needs to go on the banned list. What does it even mean? Something to do with affordability, and something to do with social (subsidised) housing. Mira Bar-Hillel of the Evening Standard notes the wikipedia definition – affordable for someone on median income – coming to a back-of-an-envelope value of around £100,000 (assuming a mortgage of 4 times a £25,000 salary).She then seems to go off the rails a bit discussing the application of this concept to an actual development – the new central London Mt Pleasant development.”of the 700-odd flats proposed, fewer than 50 may be for social renting. It also means that, based on current prices in the area, the private flats could easily fetch a total of over £4bn.
I was a bit disappointed by Julia Unwin’s new short book “Why Fight Poverty?”. The subtitle on the US amazon edition is perhaps a better title: “And Why it is So Hard”. The most interesting part of the book is about the emotional responses to poverty that make it it hard to get the public to care – shame, fear, disgust, difference, mistrust. She doesn’t address why it is so hard to get the public to care about global poverty.I knew the book would be about UK poverty (Julia Unwin is Chief Exec of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which has been working on UK poverty since 1904), but maybe I hoped for a more substantial treatment of the difference between UK and international poverty. Actually to be honest I was probably just annoyed that she dismisses those (like me) who claim that we should think differently about rich world poverty and extreme poverty in poorer countries.
The Mirror has an exposé looking at the shocking conditions of workers on Kenyan flower farms – some earning just £30 a month. What they fail to point out is that absolutely the best thing you can do for global welfare is to buy your flowers from Africa rather than Europe. Even if flower-pickers are on a low wage, it’s a better wage than their alternative, your spending stimulates the Kenyan economy, and it is even good for the environment (flights from sunny places on the Equator pollute less than all the electric lights you need to grow flowers in cloudy Europe).Yes be shocked at wage rates in Kenya. But then the best thing you can do to fix that is to do more business with Kenya and spend more money on Kenyan products. Happy Valentine’s Day
I got told off recently for shopping at H&M because of some sweatshop / child labour scandal (a burden I share with Beyonce who has also been criticised for her H&M links). But is a boycott really the right individual action?Two new(ish) papers look at the impact of government bans on child labour in India:One economics paper by Bharadwaj, Lakdawala, and Li (via Berk Ozler) looks at the impact of India’s Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act of 1986. They find that the ban led to a decrease in child wages and an increase in child labour. This is consistent with the theory that families use child labour to reach subsistence levels – so a ban which leads to a reduction in child wages, will make families make their children work more to earn the same amount and reach that subsistence level. Second is a note by my colleagues (Ian MacAuslan, Valentina Barca, Yashodhan Ghorpade and Gitanjali Pande) based on qualitative fieldwork in India (150 interviews and focus groups with both children and adults).
One of many bizarre things about public opinion on immigration in the UK is the divergence in opinion between impacts “on your local area” and impacts on the country at large. People are much more worried about the country than about their local area. Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future who commissioned a recent survey showing this fact, said to the Guardian:”People are obviously very anxious about immigration. But I was struck by how much higher it was as a national rather than a local tension. That to me suggests that managing local tensions is obviously very important, but it is probably not the answer entirely because people have this national-level concern
From Stefan Dercon’s presentation at the recent “Town Hall” event on funding opportunities for international education research. He explains further in this blog post. Other presentations from representatives from the World Bank, USAID, and ESRC, are available here.
DFID Annual Budget: £10 billionCurrent (domestic) UK Government “Major projects expenditure” with no plans to evaluate impact or value for money: £49 billion (NAO 2013: Evaluation in Government)
It’s a pretty close tie between the Nyama Choma crisps and the statistics-packed toilet paper.The panoramic view from the 17th floor across Nairobi isn’t bad either, but somehow I didn’t manage to prioritise taking any photos of that.