Author Archives: Roving Bandit

LSE on the UK gov’s new housing plans

“The fundamental problems with housing remain the same as in the last fifteen years and of those the most fundamental is the lack of land for development. Only fundamental reforms of our housing supply process will help and this proposes none. Indeed it in some ways goes backwards. It goes from a set of (not very good) mechanisms delivered in 2007 with the Regional Spatial Strategies to a set of aspirational gestures.

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Cash-on-Delivery Aid for Trade Facilitation

One of the new ideas in our CGD trade-for-development-policy-after-Brexit paper was using the “Cash on Delivery” approach for trade facilitation. “Cash on Delivery” is an idea well developed by Nancy Birdsall and William Savedoff but still under-actually-piloted, and as yet not proposed for use in trade facilitation, for which it may actually be a really good fit. From the paper:”The UK can improve upon its existing Aid for Trade offer by making increased use of results-based programmes. “Cash-on-delivery” aid (paying for outcomes, not inputs) is most appropriate where local contextual knowledge matters, where the best combination of inputs is uncertain and local experimentation is needed, and where precise design features and implementation fidelity are most critical (see, for example, the discussion by Savedoff [2016] on energy policy). All of these criteria also apply to Aid for Trade.A typical Aid for Trade programme might carry out an extended diagnostic project to identify the constraints to change, and then design and contract a project to address these constraints.

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How to spend aid in fragile countries

The classic dilemma in figuring out how to spend aid money is the trade-off between: a) achieving scale and sustainability by supporting national government systems (but losing control), and b) keeping more direct control by working through NGOs, but sacrificing scale and sustainability.This trade-off is less acute when the recipient government is an effective service provider and respects human rights. Often however the countries that most need external assistance do so in large part precisely because they aren’t blessed with well qualified governments.One possible solution to this dilemma is providing mass cash transfers – a route to supporting poor individuals whilst side-stepping their government. Another (neglected?) route is supporting local service providers directly. An example of this is the Girl’s Education South Sudan provision of ‘capitation’ grants to schools (full disclosure, I was hired to do some analysis). This pipe provides both government and donor (currently DFID) finance direct to the school bank account (held by the school’s governing/managing committee).

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You don’t need to be a cosmopolitan to support more migration

New from Dani Rodrik:”how strong a preference must we have for our fellow citizens relative to foreigners to justify the existing level of barriers on international labor mobility? More concretely, let φ stand for the weight in our social welfare function on the utility of domestic citizens relative to the utility of foreigners.When φ=1, we are perfect cosmopolitans and we see no difference between a citizen and a foreigner. When φ→∞, foreigners might starve to death and we wouldn’t care. For the policy in question [allowing the movement of 60 million workers from poor to rich nations] to reduce social welfare in the rich countries, it turns out that φ must be larger than 4.5. Is a welfare premium of 450 percent for fellow citizens excessive

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How the UK can lead the world on trade for development

Prime Minister Theresa May has said that the UK will be a “global leader on free trade”. How can the UK use that opportunity to give the biggest possible boost to global development? If the UK wanted to be the world leader on trade-for-development, what would the policies look like? There are options to consider not only on tariffs, quotas, and preferences, but also on improvements in UK systems and aid for trade as well as taxation.I suggest some answers in a blog and paper with Ian Mitchell and Michael Anderson at CGD.

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Experimental Conversations

When I was studying for my undergraduate degree, probably the most enjoyable book I read I think I happened to stumble across in the library (back in the day when you had to actually go to the library to find book chapters and physical copies of journals to read), called ‘Conversations with Leading Economists’. The conversational style, discussing in conversational language how ideas came about and how theorists interacted with each others’ ideas and with data, was an amazing breath of fresh air, and a world away from the weirdness of the textbooks which often appear to pass down strange and seemingly grossly unrealistic theories and models of the world as if they were some kind of natural law. The list of interviewees includes Milton Friedman, Robert Lucas, Gregory Mankiw, Franco Modigliani, Paul Romer, Robert Solow. That conversational style can probably be slightly more commonly found these days in the post-blogging social media world, but there are still plenty of important thinkers who don’t very frequently blog or write op-eds (they’re busy being important thinkers), so Timothy Ogden has provided the wonderful service of writing up a series of interviews with some of the leading voices in both academia and policy on the use of randomized evaluations and field experiments in development economics.You can buy the book ‘Experimental Conversations’ here. Read the chapter with Angus Deaton for free hereAnd subscribe to Tim’s weekly newsletter here.

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I miss being wrong

My favourite morning cycle commute podcast at the moment is probably the Ezra Klein show, and the Ta-Nehisi Coates interview is excellent. The podcasts are usually about an hour long, but perhaps in tribute to the 4.5 hour interview that Coates just did with Barack Obama, this particular episode is a glorious 1 hour 40 mins long. This is exactly what the unlimited space in the long tail of the internet is for.There’s a good discussion near the end on the recurring Ezra Klein theme on changes in media and the death of blogging.”Because nobody wants to hear it. I used to blog, as you used to blog.

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The Case for Restrictions on New Charities

“Drawing upon the all-pay auction literature, we propose a model of charity competition in which informed giving alone can account for the significant quality heterogeneity across similar charities. Our analysis identifies a negative effect of competition and a positive effect of informed giving on the equilibrium quality of charity. In particular, we show that as the number of charities grows, so does the percentage of charity scams, approaching one in the limit. In light of this and other results, we discuss the need for regulating nonprofit entry and conduct as well as promoting informed giving.”Information, Competition, and the Quality of Charities, by Silvana Krasteva and Huseyin Yildirimb

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How much of a jerk do you have to be oppose aid?

Angus Deaton wrote a few months ago about “Rethinking Robin Hood” (he was also on EconTalk a couple of days ago).His argument is that a) the poorest in the US are maybe worse off than we think, and b) we should rethink the “cosmopolitan” ethical rule that places an equal weight on foreigners as co-nationals. Of course, he says, we shouldn’t totally disregard foreigners, we just have lower obligations to them, and greater obligations to people in the same nation as us. Which is all fine and everything, but its also a bit of a straw man. The interesting question, if we can agree that we have lower but not zero obligations to foreigners, is *how much* lower are our obligations to them?In one of my favourite ever blog posts (now offline, but summarised on Dani Rodrik’s blog), the anonymous blogger “YouNotSneaky” calculates how much you have to value the welfare of a foreigner in order to oppose immigration (or “How much of a jerk do you have to be to oppose immigration”). The answer is you need to think that our obligation to foreigners is less than 1/20th of our obligation to co-nationals in order to oppose any immigration

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The Education Commission & RISE

This post first appeared on the RISE blogThe recently launched report by the Education Commission has confirmed that a “business as usual” expansion of inputs is not going to fix the global learning crisis. The recently launched report by the Education Commission, led by Commission Chair Gordon Brown, a star-studded cast of global leaders (including Center for Global Development affiliates Larry Summers and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala), and guided by Commission Directors Justin Van Fleet and Liesbet Steer, has brought fresh data and support to the research agenda at RISE. There is a global learning crisis on a massive scale and a “business as usual” expansion of inputs isn’t going to fix it.First, we’re very happy to see the high frequency of the word “learning”. Although educationists highlighted learning deficits of those in school (eg the 1990 Jomtien Declaration’s opening paragraphs stressed: “…millions more satisfy the attendance requirements but do not acquire essential knowledge and skills”), the UN Millennium Development Goals distorted the agenda onto an exclusive focus on enrolment and primary completion.

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The best teachers usually don’t know who they are

“Nobody tells me that I’m a strong teacher”.That’s what the best teacher in Los Angeles, Zinaida Tan, said in 2010 after the LA Times published the first ranking of teachers based on student progress. As the Guardian reports: “Tan taught at Morningside Elementary, a decent if unremarkable school with an intake of mainly poor students, many of whom struggled with English. Year after year, students were entering Tan’s class with below-average ability in maths and English, and leaving it with above-average scores. You might imagine that before the Los Angeles Times published its rankings, Tan would have already been celebrated for her ability by her peers – that her brilliance would be well-known to fellow teachers eager to learn her secrets. You would be wrong on all counts.When the Los Angeles Times sent a correspondent to interview Tan, they found her quietly carrying out her work, unheralded except by those who had taken her class and knew what a difference it had made to their lives

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Is the EU Financing Genocide in Sudan?

Update on the Worst Aid Project in the World: Yasir Arman, the main opposition leader in Sudan, alleges that EU money to support “migration management” in Sudan is actually being used to arm the Janjaweed Forces that carried out the genocide in Darfur.”We received specific and detailed information about a plan drawn by Omar El Bashir and his security apparatus to finance the Janjaweed Forces, reconstituted as the Rapid Response Force, from funds provided to Sudan by the EU, especially funds from the German Government and technical support from the Italian Government. This plan is under the direct supervision, control, and command of the Presidency of The Republic. It is executed by the National Intelligence and Security Service, of which the Rapid response force is part. This devilish plan, which was hatched and implemented over the past three months, has put the Rapid Response Force in charge of guarding Sudan borders with the false intention of curbing immigration to Europe, stopping human trafficking, and fighting terrorism. The goal is to link these forces to European interests through what is called “The Khartoum Process” to stop human trafficking

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What should NGOs say & do about private schools?

Susannah Hares from Ark and I attended a meeting with the senior staff of an INGO last week, along with a couple of other external invitees, to help them think through their position towards private schools and fees in education. We wrote up our recommendations & takeaways on the Huffington Post. First and foremost, it should reaffirm its principles: that education should be free; that government should be the guarantor but not necessarily the sole provider of education.Second, it should focus its education reform efforts on setting high expectations for all children and improving accountability for all schools, whether public or private. School inspections, good data, robust assessments: these are all critical components of a good system accountability and should apply to public and private schools alike.Third, in contexts in which substantial numbers of children already do attend private schools, the INGO could see if there are any clear market failures in the private sector that could be improved by government or NGO intervention. For example, training of teachers, or addressing information asymmetries through better community engagement.Fourth, where public-private partnerships are planned or in place, the INGO should challenge government and private sector partners to place equity and quality at the heart of any programme.

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Why School Systems Matter, and How We Can Fix Them

This post first appeared on the CGD blog Views from the CenterAccountability in school systems is essential to deliver better learning and accelerate progress in developing countries. What is still really lacking—and what RISE is working towards (such as with Lant Pritchett’s coherence paper)—is a coherent and complete analytical framework capturing the key elements of a system of school accountability that can explain the divergent experiences we have seen in school reform.The latest issue of the Journal of Economic Perspectives has a great symposium on schools and accountability, covering much of the research that motivated the development of RISE. Here are a few of the research highlights:Isaac Mbiti (part of the RISE Tanzania team) discusses “The Need for Accountability in Education in Developing Countries.” Brian Jacob & Jesse Rothstein dig into how we measure student ability in modern assessment systems (including some helpful discussion of what IRT can and can’t do). David Deming & David Figlio draw lessons from US experience with test-based school accountability systems, including caution about unintended consequences and ‘gaming,’ and noting that accountability seems to work best for low-performers. Julia Chabrier, Sarah Cohodes, and Philip Oreopoulos sum up what we can learn from charter school lotteries, re-emphasizing the point that charter schools seem to work best in neighbourhoods with poor performing schools.Here though I’m going to focus on Ludger Woessmann’s article, “The Importance of School Systems” to help break down the possible reasons for the differences in performance across systems.1.

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