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First do no harm

In today’s FT supplement “The Future of Capitalism,” Gary Becker and Kevin Murphy urge caution on government interventions designed to resuscitate the global economy. In the rush to do something rather than nothing, we run the risk of maiming the only system that can deliver growth to those parts of the world that have so far missed out on the gains of global capitalism. (The previously published online version is here.)

Moyo vs. Maathai: the next big debate in development?

On, Frank Fukuyama argues that despite obvious differences, Dambisa Moyo and Wangari Maathai actually “have more in common than their authors may admit”:

Both women see sub-Saharan Africa’s fundamental problem not as one of resources, human or natural, or as a matter of geography, but, rather, as one of bad government. Far too many regimes in Africa have become patronage machines in which political power is sought by “big men” for the sole purpose of acquiring resources—resources that are funneled either back to the networks of supporters who helped a particular leader come to power or else into the proverbial Swiss bank account. There is no concept of public good; politics has devolved instead into a zero-sum struggle to appropriate the state and whatever assets it can control.

Keeping a watchful eye on the Gateses

Here and on this vigilant blog.

Can Twitter be a force for good in development?

Or is it just for self-serving or fraudulent celebrity positioning? Does anyone have some good counter examples to share?

Breaking News from the Onion: Ugandan Ambassador Seizes Control of the UN and Declares himself Secretary-General for life

Reporter: It’s extremely tense, Brandon, there’s no telling what a madman like Mtambe will do! As Secretary-General he has the ability to do anything, from outline the UN’s year long goals, to propose agenda items for consideration by the Security Council!

Anchor: I can’t imagine what it must be like for those ambassadors inside, having no idea what this maniac will decide to place on the preliminary list of matters to be included in the provisional dockets.

Reporter: It’s terrifying!

(Via Michael Kleinman)

How much is too much?

People had a lot to say to Chris Blattman’s question of whether development agencies should fly business class. One argument in favor of business class is that if development professionals aren’t well-compensated with perks and high salaries, aid agencies will lose out on the best talent and be stuck hiring third-stringers. Maybe these high salaries and deluxe perks are simply the price the market will bear for the most talented workers in the aid profession. But how much is too much? At what point does this outcome offend our sense of fairness and proportion? Canadian ICT blogger Steve Song poses a similar question about profits from Africa cell phone companies. When Kenyans are spending 50% of their disposable income on mobile communication from a part-government-owned provider with monopoly power, is it really a win-win situation?

Finally, a thoughtful post from Alex De Waal on the inverse relationship between violence and media attention.

Perhaps the most effective international measure to keep down lethal violence is the simplest: paying attention. And maybe everything else is secondary, including exactly what that attention is, and what is threatened in consequence….But if the intent is to solve the political problem generating the violence, then a different strategy is surely needed–one that is based on political analysis and diplomacy.

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  1. Diego wrote:

    “Can Twitter be a force for good in development?

    Or is it just for self-serving or fraudulent celebrity positioning? Does anyone have some good counter examples to share?”

    Well, Tyler Cowen says “The twittering of RachelStrohm is actually the best “Africa blog” I’ve seen, ever.”

    Posted May 12, 2009 at 12:53 pm | Permalink
  2. Selective linking wrote:

    FYI – Alanna over at later wrote that she had changed her mind about the Lancet article:

    Largely due the analysis of Sharon Schneider over at this blog:

    Also, the Gateskeeper blog doesn’t add any thoughtful analysis. It just selectively reposts critical articles. Kind of useless if you’re looking for balanced and thoughtful opinions.

    Posted May 12, 2009 at 5:59 pm | Permalink
  3. nickgogerty wrote:

    that Onion Video is hilarious.

    Posted May 13, 2009 at 7:31 am | Permalink
  4. Antoon de Klerk wrote:

    Pres Paul Kagame backs Moyo

    Check out this article in the FT by Pres Kagame – truly encouraging to see his grasp of economics.

    Posted May 18, 2009 at 2:49 am | Permalink
  5. Jake Samuelson wrote:

    “Can Twitter be a force for good in development? Or is it just for self-serving or fraudulent celebrity positioning? Does anyone have some good counter examples to share?”

    Absolutely! See charity : water’s Twestival (

    Twestival was a series of 200+ fundraisers, primarily organized using Twitter around in less than two weeks, to raise money for charity:water. On 12 February 2009, 200+ international cities hosted a Twestival (Twitter + festival) to bring people together to raise awareness and money for charity: water. Twitter helped connect and mobilize communities around the globe to create “tweet-ups” (twitter + meetup) and raise more than a quarter of a million dollars.

    This is truly innovative and inspiring use of networked technology and social media to create real impact.

    What’s more, within the month of raising the money the first well was drilled in Ethopia and the video of the drilling was broadcasted via satellite to 202 cities so that donors could see where their money went. Videos are here (

    Posted May 20, 2009 at 8:09 pm | Permalink
  • About Aid Watch

    The Aid Watch blog is a project of New York University's Development Research Institute (DRI). This blog is principally written by William Easterly, author of "The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists' Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics" and "The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," and Professor of Economics at NYU. It is co-written by Laura Freschi and by occasional guest bloggers. Our work is based on the idea that more aid will reach the poor the more people are watching aid.

    "Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking." - H.L. Mencken

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