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Monthly Archives: October 2009

The New Evangelists: Bill and Melinda Gates Spread the Good News on Global Health Aid

People usually come to the capital to criticize to government, Bill Gates joked at the start of his speech on Tuesday in Washington, but “we’re here to say two words you don’t often hear about government programs: Thank you.”

The Gateses’ mission wasn’t just about gratitude, but to sell the simple—and, some might argue, simplistic—message that US government investment in global health works. They weren’t asking for money for themselves (the Gates foundation already has…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Global health | Tagged | 15 Comments

The Political Economy of Aid Optimism or Pessimism

Bill and Melinda Gates are making a big media presentation today at 7pm of their Living Proof Project, in which they document aid successes in health. They call themselves “Impatient Optimists.” We can comment more after we hear their presentation. However, they invited comment already by posting progress reports on the Living Proof website.

Actually, we have also previously argued that aid has been more successful in health than in other…

Posted in Data and statistics, Global health, Political economy | 14 Comments

Econometric methodology for human mating

econometric-methodology2 I recently helped one of my single male graduate students in his search for a spouse.

First, I suggested he conduct a randomized controlled trial of potential mates to identify the one with the best benefit/cost ratio. Unfortunately, all the women randomly selected for the study refused assignment to either the treatment or control groups, using language that does not usually enter academic discourse.

With the “gold standard” methods unavailable, I next recommended an…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Data and statistics | 18 Comments

Will Aid Escalation Finally Crash in the Mountains of Afghanistan?

There has been a remarkable escalation in the scale and intrusiveness of aid interventions over the years (this was one of the major conclusions of my survey paper on aid to Africa).

It seems to be reaching the reductio al absurdum in the current debate on whether to escalate US intervention in Afghanistan.

Let’s review the record:

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Grand plans and aid targets, Military aid | Tagged | 9 Comments

Why does aid hate critics, while medicine appreciates them?

Two stories ran today in the New York Times that showed the important role of critics in medicine.

In the first, medical researchers found that the usual methods screening for prostate and breast cancer was not as effective as previously advertised. Screening successfully identifies small tumors and the rate of operating to remove such tumors has skyrocketed. But the screening regimen has failed to make much of a dent in the prevalence of large…

Posted in Data and statistics, Global health | 29 Comments

Big Plans vs. Real Plans

This guest post, by Jeffrey Barnes, Portfolio Manager at Abt Associates, is in response to yesterday’s What must we do to end world poverty? At last, an answer.

Aid Watch and other Easterly work, notably “The White Man’s Burden,” rail against the big plans of development. As this body of work rightly points out, there is a lot of paternalism involved in the Big Plans to “save” the poor. Easterly’s preferred alternative is “searching,” which…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

What must we do to end world poverty? At last, an answer

OK, that’s too good to be true. There has been a search for sixty years for the right answer. Now most economists confess ignorance how to raise the rate of economic growth — how to progress more rapidly towards development and the end of poverty.

To get out of this dead end, I would respond to this question with more questions.

First, who is “we”? It seems like whoever “we” are, “we” must have unconstrained…

Posted in Big ideas | 19 Comments

Millennium Villages Comments, We Respond

We received the following comment this morning from the Director of Communications at the Earth Institute, regarding the Aid Watch blog published yesterday, Do Millennium Villages Work? We May Never Know. My response is below.
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It’s unfortunate that the author of this post chose to publish such an uninformed blog on the Millennium Village Project’s monitoring and evaluation activities. She and William Easterly at Aid Watch were invited to meet with our…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Metrics and evaluation | Tagged , | Comments Off

Can We Push for Higher Expectations in Evaluation? The Millennium Villages Project, continued

There’s been some good discussion—here in the comments of yesterday’s post and on other blogs—on the Millennium Villages and what sort of evaluation standard they can (realistically) and should (ideally) be held to.

Yesterday on Aid Thoughts, Matt was distressed that over 70 percent of the student body at Carleton University voted in a tuition hike—$6 per student, per year, every year—to fund the Millennium Villages. The students apparently concluded that the MV…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Metrics and evaluation | Tagged | 12 Comments

Do Millennium Villages work? We may never know

Jeffrey Sachs’ Millennium Villages Project has to date unleashed an array of life-saving interventions in health, education, agriculture, and infrastructure in 80 villages throughout ten African countries.

The goal of this project is nothing less than to “show what success looks like.” With a five-year budget of $120 million, the MVP is billed as a development experiment on a grand scale, a giant pilot project that could revolutionize the way development aid is done.…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Metrics and evaluation | Tagged , , , , , | 21 Comments