Author Archives: Roving Bandit

How to live well

Some interesting ideas from Alex Evans about the importance of building a movement “Rich and I set out the need for a different theory of influence. Many of us who work in the fight for development, justice, and sustainability have I think been feeling the limits of theories of change that rely primarily on ‘insider lobbying’. We take that here as our starting point for asking what an alternative approach might look like: one that places much more emphasis on how we build new grassroots coalitions, transform values, and tell each other much deeper stories about where we are, how we got here, where we might choose to go next, and who we really are.”and then what those movements should doWe argue that it starts with the changes that all of us need to make in our own lives. This is partly because of the direct impact that such changes can have, of course, but we think the main issue here is something to do with the quality of intention that movements exemplify. Wherever movements not only demand but live out the change they want to see in the world, there’s a raw power there that can exert the kind of non-linear effect on politics that progressives so urgently want to see.and from the full reportIn practice, we think there are five areas that each of us needs to think about, which we describe in more detail below:1.

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South Sudan: A Cartoon History

This is amazing: an actual real cartoon history of the latest round of civil war in South Sudan, words by Alex de Waal. (via Tom)

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Labour Beyond Aid

The UK Labour Party has a new pamphlet out with ideas for future development policy, labelled “Beyond Aid.”How does it measure up?CGD looks at 7 components of “Commitment to Development” in the annual index; aid, trade, migration, security, environment, technology, and finance.Labour’s pamphlet talks extensively about 2 of the 6 non-aid components of the index: the environment and security.There is next to nothing on trade, migration, technology, and finance.Out of 26 countries, the UK ranks 4th overall which is pretty good. Though that varies a lot between the components; Aid (4), Trade (7), Finance (2), Migration (13), Environment (11), Security (7), Technology (20).There’s more to International Development than Aid, but also more than climate change and security.

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The Emerging Middle Class in Africa

Apparently I missed this, but a book I contributed to back in 2012 along with colleagues at OPM was published by Routledge in October last year, edited by Mthuli Ncube and Charles Leyeka Lufumpa at the African Development Bank. It’s a snip on Amazon at only £27.99, or you can read it on Google Books here.I’m not sure which is my favourite review;”This book is uplifting, methodologically and intellectually sound, and rich in policy prescriptions. A must read for researchers, educators, policy makers, and global partners. As AERC (www.aercafrica.org) Executive Director, I am heartened by this policy and intellectually rich book”–Lemma W. Senbet, Professor and Executive Director, African Economic Research Consortium and The William E

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Never Mind Development, here’s Nirvana

The biggest cash transfer programme in the world continues apace, as subsidies for fuel in India which used to be paid to fuel companies are being redirected into consumer’s bank accounts.Continuing the push to extending coverage under the Aadhaar program, targeting enrollment for 1 billion Indians; as of early February, 757 million Indians had been bio-identified and 139 [million] Aadhaar linked bank accounts created;…The heady prospect for the Indian economy is that, with strong investments in state capacity, that Nirvana today seems within reach. It will be a Nirvana for two reasons: the poor will be protected and provided for; and many prices in India will be liberated to perform their role of efficiently allocating resources in the economy and boosting long run growth.From India’s recently published 2014-2015 Economic Survey led by Arvind Subramanian, the government’s Chief Economic Advisor (and on leave from CGD) HT: Vinayak Uppal

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What I’ve Been Reading

Giles Wilkes (whose FT leaders really are good) nails something profound;”I’ve been trying to work out what has been stressing me these last, ooh, 25 years and how to adjust my life accordingly. I don’t want stress, if possible. There have been obvious triggers: [insert impressive CV here]. But a constant thread that laces through all these eras is a pressing need to have read what I thought needed reading. I cannot actually recall a time when a nagging sense of not having read enough didn’t weigh on me.

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"That UN — I will shut it down"

A gloriously unhinged rant from South Sudan’s information Minister. It would be funny if it wasn’t so sad (via: Dustin Johnson). In remarks yesterday, Minister of Information and Broadcasting Michael Makuei slammed not only the United Nations but also local media houses, East African ceasefire monitors, and Human Rights Watch, which he described as an organization of blood-sucking liars. … Makuei said he told [Al Jazeera correspondent] Adow that he was “lucky” not to have been imprisoned “like the man in Egypt” — a reference to Al Jazeera correspondent Peter Greste.

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Lampedusa Update

In 2013 the deaths of 366 migrants at sea off the coast of the Italian island Lampedusa caught the headlines. Last week another 300 died. Last year, it was an estimated total of 3,500. European governments, including the British one, are opposed to rescue missions on the grounds that this creates a “pull-factor” encouraging more people to make the trip.

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Zoe Williams shows numeracy is not her strong point

Stuart Broad, the England cricketer, tweeted:I’ve heard if you earn minimum wage in England you’re in the top 10% earners in the World. #stay #humble — Stuart Broad (@StuartBroad8) January 27, 2015which apparently provoked a backlash. Renowned economist Zoe Williams added her insightful analysis thus:”The cricketer’s minimum wage tweet shows numeracy is not his strong point. … Money doesn’t mean anything out of context: its value is determined by what you can buy with it.

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The Future of the UN Development System

A new book from the co-Director of the Future of the UN Development System (FUNDS) project (can’t believe they didn’t call it the “FUN” project). Mark Malloch-Brown (former UN deputy-secretary-general and UNDP administrator) says;”There is no better compilation of insights about the UN’s lack of cohesion, growing turf battles, declining capacity, clumsy implementation, and cooptation by bilateral and private interests of the family of organizations that calls itself—somewhat awkwardly—the UN development system.”Ouch.One of the inputs to the book is a global perceptions survey of the UN system, summarised thus:Four views emerge across the survey: • The UN’s development functions are less crucial than such other functions as security, humanitarian action, and setting global norms with teeth. • The UN’s development organizations are still mostly relevant, but some are not particularly effective. • The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF consistently receive the highest rankings among operational agencies; regional commissions receive the lowest rankings. • The UN faces two major institutional challenges: poor internal organization and the predominance of earmarked funding.What the survey misses, and what is really crucial, is that what we should care about is not just the effectiveness of organisations but the cost-effectiveness, or value for money

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The IMF and Ebola

The debate rumbles on at the Monkey Cage, as Blattman responds to the response by the authors of the Lancet article to his response to their article. I find the debate mostly quite infuriating. To massively oversimplify, what tends to happen when IMF intervention is required is that;1. Poor country governments spend more than their income for too long2. They can’t find enough people to keep lending them money3.

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Standing desks

Because all the other cool development bloggers are blogging about standing desks and back-pain, I thought I would share mine here. This was a present from Abhijeet and I use it a lot – it’s lightweight aluminium, just about fits in a rucksack, and if you work on a laptop like I do, allows you to easily switch between standing and sitting whenever you feel like it. I’m pretty sure everyone at OPM was very jealous, though I’m yet to show it off at Sussex or CGD.

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Green Party are "Dotty Parochial Fruitcakes"

Bagehot, the column on Britain in the Economist magazine, says the Green Party of England & Wales have no grasp of economics and are fruitcakes, “dottier than UKIP,” for backing a basic income policy. The same basic income policy which has received support from those other dotty fruitcakes with no grasp of economics; Martin Wolf, Tim Harford, Sir Tony Atkinson, and the late Milton Friedman.This is the same fine Bagehot who happily elevates political objectives ahead of economic ones when celebrating the 2014 budget for its ideological approach to shrinking the state and cutting welfare regardless of the implications for the economy or for individuals affected in the short-run. The serious economists at the IFS said describing the same budget “policy choices have increased longrun risks to the public finances.”Bagehot also tells us that the Green Party are “parochial” and “contemptibly naive” for not thinking about the rest of the world enough. One might be forgiven for thinking that on the contrary it could be described as quite naive to expect political parties to spend all that much time focusing on people who don’t vote in the UK. All this whilst we have a tory and liberal government which talks as if the main point of the aid budget should be promoting British business interests overseas, and likes to make a habit of offending our trade partners by insulting their citizens if they have the audacity to think of coming to the UK to work or study, including but not limited to putting actual vans on the streets with huge threatening “Go Home” signs written on them.

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What economics PhD graduates wish they knew when they started

Sussex assigned me to a mentoring circle, and our homework from the first meeting was to ask people we know who have recently completed PhDs for what they wish they knew when they started, to share with the group. Here is the really excellent advice I got from a couple of friends, both with recently(ish) finished economics PhDs and now with great jobs in applied policy research. Further tips gratefully received!From GS:My views are far from standard, but here’s two ideas;First, be McKinsey about it, never forget about what the deliverable is. Project manage yourself. Get 2-3 finished PhDs from the library and work out exactly what you need to do over the next 3-4 years (choose book style or three papers), get a really good feel for the what the end product looks like.

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