Archive for the ‘development’ tag
A really interesting and worthy book review of the awkward tension that exists — and is highlighted in William Easterly’s new book — about how the huge western economic development industry seems to have a big soft spot for freedom-hating autocrats.
In 2013, Melinda Gates, on the eve of a trip to Ethiopia, described it as one of her favorite countries. “I always enjoy visiting Ethiopia,” she declared, “because I see inspirational stories and concrete leadership from the government and community health workers reaching the hardest to reach and making change.” Easterly quotes a 2013 report by Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative praising the Ethiopian government’s “strong, accountable leadership in implementing the plan.”
Strong, certainly; accountable, certainly not. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2014 country report, “Ethiopia’s ambitious development schemes, funded from domestic revenue sources and foreign assistance, sometimes displace indigenous communities without appropriate consultation or any compensation.” And after describing in detail the government’s imprisonment of nonviolent opposition leaders and journalists, and denial of the right to assembly, among many other violations of human rights, the report notes that while Ethiopia receives donor assistance of almost $4 billion a year.
I really appreciated David Brooks recent column about how — especially as the recent “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign for those abducted schoolgirls of Nigeria filters through the American media — the outside world still has Africa as a whole quite wrong.
In 2011, roughly 60 million African households earned at least $3,000 a year. By next year, more than 100 million households will make that much. Trade between Africa and the rest of the world has increased by 200 percent since 2000. Since 1996, the poverty rate has fallen by 1 percent per year. Life expectancies are shooting up.
Only about a third of this new wealth is because of commodities. Nations like Ethiopia and Rwanda, which have no oil wealth, are growing phenomenally. The bulk is because of economic reforms, increased productivity, increased urbanization and the fact that in many countries political systems are becoming marginally less dysfunctional.
L. Alan Sroufe’s argument against medicating children is good. But it also contains the most succinct takedown of the entire psycho-pharmechological complex I can imagine:
Thus, only one question is asked: are there aspects of brain functioning associated with childhood attention problems? The answer is always yes. Overlooked is the very real possibility that both the brain anomalies and the A.D.D. result from experience.
(via The Browser)
I link to this disproportionately popular article mostly because I linked to “I, Pencil” recently and it’s essentially the same thing, only food based. (And in this case, rather than having an irrelevant plea for privatized mail service tacked on at the end, we get one about home-grown turkey.) But it remakes a point I think absolutely vital:
Anyone who tells you that life was better in the past is a dummy. Anyone who dreams of self-sufficiency a fool. We live in a magical time filled with uncountable objects no person would ever dream of making on their own. Everything about our lives is a minor miracle; we’re far more deeply connected than we even realize.
That felt good. Thanks for listening, internet.
I feel like I either linked or read something about this idea before, but could find no record. In any case, Paul Romer’s idea is both appealing and problematic:
By building urban oases of technocratic sanity, struggling nations could attract investment and jobs; private capital would flood in and foreign aid would not be needed. … To launch new charter cities, he says, poor countries should lease chunks of territory to enlightened foreign powers, which would take charge as though presiding over some imperial protectorate. Romer’s prescription is not merely neo-medieval, in other words. It is also neo-colonial.
While they obviously have their nontrivial problems, unplanned urban development has some characteristic that unlikely people are praising:
Prince Charles of [Wales], who founded an organization called the Foundation for the Built Environment, praised Dharavi (which he visited in 2003) for its “underlying, intuitive ‘grammar of design’ ” and “the timeless quality and resilience of vernacular settlements.” He predicted that “in a few years’ time such communities will be perceived as best equipped to face the challenges that confront us because they have built-in resilience and genuinely durable ways of living.”
I was convinced some time ago, but for those who weren’t there’s new evidence that even the stingiest microlenders have a positive effect:
ZaFinCo was no dewy-eyed social business, but a hard-nosed, profit-minded company, charging 11.75 per cent per month on a four-month loan, or 200 per cent APR, much more than Compartamos was generally judged to have been charging.
Despite the high rates, the results were astonishing. “We expected to see some good effects and some bad,” explained Karlan, who checked in with the experiment’s participants six to 12 months after they had filed their initial loan applications. “But we basically only saw good effects.”
Most strikingly, those “treated” by the experiment - that is, those for whom the computer requested a second chance at a loan - were much more likely to have kept their jobs than the control group. They were also much less likely to have dropped below the poverty line or to have gone hungry. All these outcomes were recorded well after the loan had been taken out and (usually) repaid, so this was not measuring a temporary debt-funded binge.
Calling to mind this post, new evidence suggests that vengeance decreases parallel to poverty:
The findings suggest that vengeful feelings of people are subdued as a country develops economically and becomes more stable politically and socially and that both country characteristics and personal attributes are important determinants of vengeance.
Perhaps more interesting:
Females, older people, working people, people who live in high-crime areas of their country and people who are at the bottom 50% of their country’s income distribution are more vengeful.
PS: My technological inability to link to a real copy of this study seems like a good chance to reiterate that all academic papers and publications — especially the publically funded ones — should be freely available.
The Boston Globe’s Ideas section recently featured this interesting idea: natural disaster may actually be an economic good for the affected country.
Rebuilding efforts serve as a short-term boost by attracting resources to a country, and the disasters themselves, by destroying old factories and old roads, airports, and bridges, allow new and more efficient public and private infrastructure to be built, forcing the transition to a sleeker, more productive economy in the long term.
“When something is destroyed you don’t necessarily rebuild the same thing that you had. You might use updated technology, you might do things more efficiently. It bumps you up,” says Mark Skidmore, an economics professor at Michigan State University. “Disasters help people think about things differently.”
But there is this cogent counter-argument:
“Over any reasonably relevant period of time, society is not made wealthier by destroying resources,” he adds. If it were, “Beirut should be one of the wealthiest places in the world.”
The Financial Times recently ran an interesting story profiling seven “average” people from the country of 1.1 billion.
A generation ago, the “Indian dream” would almost certainly have involved a ticket to Vancouver, London or New York. That is less true today. Daru, like so many of her peers, thinks she can best build her future here. “India now has enough opportunities for my generation,” she says. “I have friends who have gone to the US and to the UK to earn some money, but then they come back. I see a lot of youngsters thinking of coming back to their friends and family.”