Author Archives: Roving Bandit

This is why I don’t care about climate change

Well, not “don’t care at all”, but, you know, not as much as about poverty and development. Stefan Dercon puts it better than I ever have:Poverty reduction tends to be strongly linked to economic growth, but growth impacts the environment and increases CO2 emissions. So can greener growth that is more climate-resilient and less environmentally damaging deliver large scale poverty reduction? … We argue that there are bound to be trade-offs between emissions reductions and a greener growth on the one hand, and growth that is most effective in poverty reduction

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Value for money in technical assistance to governments

The DFID project completion report is out (here) for the South Sudan ODI fellows from 2009-2012. It’s pretty good. (this doesn’t include my cohort).the fellows delivered – and exceeded – the desired outputs and the programme has achieved – and exceeded – the desired outcome, at slightly under budget. Given the minimal oversight given to this programme by DFID South Sudan, a large part of the credit must go to the project partner, ODI, at least in respect of its selection and briefing of the fellows, who were very well suited to the tasks in hand. The majority of credit must, however, go to the fellows themselves, for undertaking their work professionally and working to sustainably build colleagues’ skills and capacity.

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How not to improve education in India

Some great analysis from MINT who highlight a new Government of India report, which ranks state education “outcomes”.What is odd is that the government rank has a negative correlation with the rankings of the Pratham report which directly measures learning outcomes.So what goes into the government “outcomes” index?- Number of teaching days- Teacher working hours- Enrolment rates- Drop-out rates- Primary-to-secondary transition ratesThese are all basically inputs, with the exception of drop-outs and transition rates, which maybe say something about quality. But none of them are actually directly measuring learning at all. Yet more evidence for the Lant Pritchett case that focusing on inputs or “EMIS-visible” metrics won’t get us quality learning outcomes, and measuring learning directly is critical to focusing policy attention on how to improve learning. HT: Abhijeet Singh

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Don’t shit on your own doorstep

I was talking to a water and sanitation programme manager a few weeks ago, who seemed frustrated that these stupid people kept crapping everywhere. Why would you shit on your own doorstep? The programme had several “behaviour change” interventions (horrible phrase, slightly Orwellian no?), but really, how hard should it be to not shit in the open?One of the great things about economics is that it does not assume that people are just being dumb. It treats people with respect, and assumes first that there is probably a good reason why they are doing something which might seem irrational. I don’t really know enough about water and sanitation, but I was suspicious of the idea that these recalcitrant natives just couldn’t figure out what was good for them.Does this paper prove me right?”latrine use constitutes an externality rather than a pure private gain: It is the open defecation of one’s neighbors, rather than the household’s own practice, that matters most for child survival.

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Important Research Funding Opportunities: Quantifying the economic impact of Shakira (for…

“Shakira Mebarak, world-famous singer and songwriter, is a devoted advocate for children. The singer, known professionally as Shakira, was appointed a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador on 24 October 2003.”Which is all very well and everything, but surely what we all really care about is exactly how valuable is she to the UNICEF marketing team? And what is it about her that makes her valuable? Are singers more or less valuable than actresses?

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Why governments don’t like private schools?

Here are a few excerpts from the new textbook delivered to millions of primary school children in Venezuela:1. The first page of each [book] starts with the words “Hugo Chavez: Supreme Commander of the Bolivarian Revolution.” 2. They describe Chavez as the man who liberated Venezuela from tyranny, at times making him appear more important than 19th century founding father Simon Bolivar. 3.

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Does growth always depend on natural resources?

George Monbiot writes:”Economic growth is an artefact of the use of fossil fuels.”Is this right? Actually most economists think that growth is driven by ideas and innovation not raw inputs. This 3 minute video by Deidre McCloskey provides a short economic history of growth since the beginning of time.Can this really be true? Below are two charts showing energy consumption and GDP per capita from 1970 to 2012.

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DevBalls – Exposing the absurdities of the aid industry

Someone at DFID seems to have had enough.”DevBalls is an online space for comment on the international development aid industry. DevBalls is here because the aid industry has – functionally and morally – lost its way. And those who should hold it to account – the media, researchers, politicians – don’t. DevBalls is here because aid can only become better when its absurdities and hypocrisies are open to view.

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The origins of "the dismal science"

“This viewpoint infuriates some critics of economics, to the extent that it earned the famous nickname of “the dismal science”. Too few people know the context in which Thomas Carlyle hurled that epithet: it was in a proslavery article, first published in 1849, a few years after slavery had been abolished in the British empire. Carlyle attacked the idea that “black men” might simply be induced to work for pay, according to what he sneeringly termed the “science of supply and demand”. Scorning the liberal views of economists, he believed Africans should be put to work by force.”That’s Tim Harford.Wikipedia has more:”However, the full phrase “the dismal science” first occurs in Carlyle’s 1849 tract entitled Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question, in which he was arguing for the reintroduction of slavery as a means to regulate the labor market in the West Indies: Not a “gay science,” I should say, like some we have heard of; no, a dreary, desolate and, indeed, quite abject and distressing one; what we might call, by way of eminence, the dismal science. It was “dismal” in “find[ing] the secret of this Universe in ‘supply and demand,’ and reducing the duty of human governors to that of letting men alone.” Instead, the “idle Black man in the West Indies” should be “compelled to work as he was fit, and to do the Maker’s will who had constructed him.”[4]“In which case I’m proud to be dismal.

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Do teachers skip class because of low pay?

Teacher absenteeism is a huge problem in developing countries, wasting up to a quarter of all spending on primary education in developing countries.The 2014 Education for All Global Monitoring Report, which was launched in London last week, puts the problem mainly down to the low pay and poor working conditions of teachers.”While teacher absenteeism and engagement in private tuition are real problems, policy-makers often ignore underlying reasons such as low pay and a lack of career opportunities. … Policy-makers need to understand why teachers miss school. In some countries, teachers are absent because their pay is extremely low, in others because working conditions are poor.

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You won’t believe these 8,000 children who are actually going to starve to death today

I’m trying to write a pithy summary or pick a smart quote from Abhijeet Singh’s new blog about malnutrition up on Ideas for India but it’s hard not to just be deeply depressed when thinking about malnutrition. We apparently live in the 21st Century where flying robots and self-driving cars are real things, yet we aren’t collectively bothered enough to do anything about the 8,000 children who starve to death every single day (three million a year). And that’s partly because as humans we’re more interested in what is interesting than what is true or what is important. 8,000 children starving to death everyday is just something that happens.

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What do (cutting-edge, leading, academic) development economists do?

Apparently not what developing country policy-makers want to know about. Jeffrey Hammer has a fairly damning report from the recent IGC conference in Lahore on the World Bank blog. The IGC funds research by many of the world’s top development economists, and apparently none of them are answering the kind of policy questions that were posed at the conference by the Chief Minister of Punjab, Pakistan (a state of more than 100 million people). He wanted to know about how to allocate resources across sectors (which requires value for money and cost-benefit analysis, not just impact evaluation), and how to raise more revenues. What he got was precisely identified studies on the impact of policy tweaks, without any costing.

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What do development economists do?

A series of youtube interviews profiling the careers of 6 development economists; Angela Ambroz (IGC, former ODI fellow & JPAL), Luca Pellerano (OPM and IFS), Peter D’Souza (DFID), Sarah Lilley (Save the Children), Henry Mphwanthe (ODI fellow), and Aarushi Bhatnagar (Phd student and World Bank consultant).

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The new childcare subsidy in the UK

The IFS:”Today’s announcements indicate that the Government’s main motive is to help parents move into work. As we pointed out in the IFS 2014 Green Budget, we know remarkably little about the impact of the policies to support childcare that have been introduced in England in recent years. And there is no consistent evidence from other countries that childcare support has large effects on parental labour supply. While today’s announcements bring welcome simplifications to the new Tax-Free Childcare scheme, and an increase in generosity that will certainly be welcomed by families on Universal Credit using childcare, and better-off families who spend more than £6,000 a year on childcare, the extent to which it will deliver its intended goals is essentially unknown.”and Chris Dillow:”It’s fitting that Nick Clegg should have announced an increase in the state subsidy for childcare, because the policy is a sanctimonious front for something that is inegalitarian and economically illiterate.”

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