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Monthly Archives: February 2009

Asian Success Mythology

The blog yesterday provoked a lot of healthy debate about my claim that industrialization is mainly market-driven rather than state-driven, using Korea, China, and India as examples of industrialization out of poverty. I know I am going against the conventional wisdom of the great Asian “developmental state,” authoritarian and heavily involved in planning industrialization. So let me explain why.

When I said we can only test what works on average, I am talking about what…

Posted in Cognitive biases, Grand plans and aid targets | Tagged , | 19 Comments

The UN’s 66-Year-Old Virgin

The UN has just announced a big new idea in the war on global poverty, in its just-released Industrial Development Report 2009. In the words of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) Director General, Dr Kandeh Yumkella, “Our Report represents a major conceptual breakthrough on how to tackle global poverty through sustainable industrial development.”

What was the breakthrough idea? Take government action to reap increasing returns to scale to industrial production, to get out…

Posted in Big ideas, History | Tagged , | 17 Comments

Unsung Hero Resurrects US Tied Aid Reporting

Official US aid policy is to slow down emergency aid as much as possible when people are dying.

Well, they probably wouldn’t put it like that, but that is the consequence of a practice known as aid tying, whereby US aid must be spent on products from US companies. For emergency food aid, this causes huge delays in food shipments as the food has to come from the American Midwest rather than from easily available…

Posted in Accountability and transparency | Tagged | 13 Comments

A Tale of Two Refrigerators

In 2001 in southern Sudan, it was a time of peace between wars. It was a time ripe for treating diseases that kill thousands of children every year. It was an opportune time for measles vaccination to halt outbreaks of one of the world’s most preventable diseases. The Measles Initiative, founded by the WHO, UNICEF, the CDC and the American Red Cross, was created to address this significant challenge.

In the rural county where I…

Posted in Field notes, Global health | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

MADE-UP MALARIA DATA ROUND 2: Gates Foundation responds, WHO graciously offers not to respond

The modest aim of an initiative like Aid Watch is to be one more small voice holding aid agencies and foundations accountable for doing good things for poor people. The aim of more accountability is to induce improved behavior by those guys, so that aid will work better.

The Aid Watch blog already has had its first small test on trying to induce accountability. This post took Bill and Melinda Gates to task for…

Posted in Data and statistics, Global health | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Participation of the poor in mainstreaming gender empowerment for civil society stakeholders to promote country ownership of good governance for community-driven sustainable development

I have just stumbled across a great series of articles on buzzwords in development. Some aid workers and development scholars are so jaded by these vague but ubiquitous buzzwords that they play “Development Bingo.” Whenever a development pro is giving a lecture, they hold Bingo cards marked with all the buzzwords and check them off whenever the lecturer mentions them in the talk. When they have got a full set of buzzwords, they stand up…

Posted in Academic research, Language | Tagged | 14 Comments

Some cite good news on aid

A paper forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Literature states:

“There are well known and striking donor success stories, like the elimination of smallpox, the near-eradication of river blindness and Guinea worm, the spread of oral rehydration therapy for treating infant diarrheal diseases, DDT campaigns against malarial mosquitoes (although later halted for environmental reasons), and the success of WHO vaccination programs against measles and other childhood diseases. The aid campaign against diseases in…

Posted in Academic research, Big ideas, Economics principles, Global health | Tagged | 3 Comments

Spies Play Economists, Economists Play Spies

The New York Times on Friday the 13th headlined “Global Economy Top Threat to U.S., Spy Chief Says.” Many other papers followed suit with similar prominent headlines. Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair staged a raid on the Big Issue of the Day as a “security threat” and thus something falling within his bureaucratic turf.

Thanks, Spy Chief, but we have enough trouble sorting out the advice of the expert economists on the Global…

Posted in In the news | Tagged | 5 Comments

Did Bill and Melinda Gates Claim Malaria Victories Based on Phony Numbers?

Tuesday’s Financial Times printed a Martin Wolf interview with the Gateses from Davos, available as a video on the FT web site.

A sample quote from the interview:

We’re trying to make sure that people understand this: aid is effective…So, for instance, malaria incidence is down in countries such as Zambia, Ethiopia, and Rwanda. It’s down in some countries by over 50 percent and some by 60 percent…[if we and other donors] come

Posted in Data and statistics, Global health | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

NYU’s Aid Watch Initiative Held Conference on “What Would the Poor Say? Debates in Aid Evaluation”

By William Easterly

During last Friday’s conference, participants and speakers leveled a variety of criticisms at aid agencies for lacking accountability and transparency, but also suggested new ideas and expressed hope for a new way forward. Here are some highlights; check back soon for more details and some video footage. Click here for the full conference agenda.


Yaw Nyarko (NYU):
“No nation has ever developed because of aid and outside advice.”…

Posted in Aid debates, Aid policies and approaches, Meta | Tagged | 10 Comments