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Monthly Archives: March 2010

Three Afghan success stories

Today, finally a break from the doom and gloom on Afghanistan! Clare Lockhart, the CEO of the Institute for State Effectiveness, spoke at DRI’s annual conference last month and gave three examples of what has gone right in the international effort to rebuild Afghanistan.

These reforms and projects have lasted despite worsening security conditions and will—Lockhart says—form part of the foundation for the next generation of reforms in Kabul.

1) Hawala dealers implement Afghan

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Big ideas, Financing development | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

Who ya gonna call? Entrepreneurs!

Just a decade ago it seemed we were stuck with landlines. State-owned telephone companies were largely entrenched, sclerotic organizations that provided poor, delayed, or simply unavailable service —even in some rich European countries, and nearly universally in poor countries.

These maps (with data from 2001, 2004, and 2008) show how cell phones have quickly bypassed the dysfunctional landline companies and emerged as a triumph of bottom-up entrepreneurial success.

The measure is cell phone subscribers per 100 population,…

Posted in Big ideas, Data and statistics, Entrepreneurship, Maps | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Was that foreign aid … or a campaign contribution?

The scholarly literature on aid effectiveness focuses on answering one of two questions: 1) Is aid effective at causing growth? And 2) Is aid effective at reducing poverty?

But what about when growth and poverty reduction aren’t the goals? What if the purpose of some aid is to influence a foreign election?

Some clever forensic statistic work is suggestive that bilateral donors use aid (ODA) to influence elections. They give more aid to friendly governments…

Posted in Academic research, Data and statistics | Tagged , | 7 Comments

My pro-government rant

When I give talks celebrating individual creativity as a driver for development, there is always one or more questioners afterwards who asks nervously, “don’t you see ANY role for government?”

The answer is: OF COURSE. Government provides public goods. You could argue that one good that has such large external benefits that it’s at least partly a public good is Education. Public education is a major contributor to American economic development.

These thoughts are prompted…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Big ideas | Tagged , , , | 17 Comments

Is it OK to make ethnic slurs about some groups of white people?

For tonight’s NCAA basketball showdown between U of Kentucky and West Virginia U, I bet the Kentuckians Dennis Whittle and April Harding some West Virginia maple syrup against Dennis’ bet of a country ham and April’s bet of a Derby pie.

Of course, some of  you are thinking why didn’t you bet {insert insulting Appalachian stereotype here}?

Both Kentucky and West Virginia suffer from frequent ethnic jokes involving some combination of:

  • incest
  • feuds
  • moonshine
  • reference

Posted in Cognitive biases, Maps | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Gujarati hotels and Chaldean liquor stores

UPDATE 2 (3/27, 8:24am EDT) Great academic paper on Jewish domination of the diamond trade (see end of post)

UPDATE (3/26, 12:34EDT) Great NYT mag article explaining the details of the Gujarati hotel story (see end of post)

I’ve long been fascinated by the Vietnamese nail salon phenomenon. My female friends report a remarkably high concentration of Vietnamese women in nail salons in US cities. I even heard there was a nail trade magazine for…

Posted in Academic research, Economics principles, Entrepreneurship, Migration | Tagged | 16 Comments

New portal seeks to liberate aid data

UPDATE 3/26/10 11:50 EDT: Some readers have asked for more specific information on how AidData differs from the OECD project-level database. See the comments section for detailed answers from the AidData team.

AidData, a new development finance data portal, was launched on Tuesday along with a companion blog called The First Tranche. From their inaugural post:

AidData 1.0…assembles more aid projects from more donors totaling more dollars than have ever been available from a

Posted in Data and statistics | 14 Comments

The “smart power” military-industrial complex takes off

What do Lockheed Martin Corp, Northrop Grumman Corp, and L-3 Communications Inc. have in common?

Yes, all are top 10 Pentagon contractors. But they are also increasingly winning lucrative government contracts to implement “smart power” or “nation-building” programs—like educating peacekeeping troops in human-rights law, sending anthropologists to Afghanistan to understand local culture, mentoring Liberian prosecutors to combat corruption and crime, and rebuilding airports and government ministries.

Hillary Clinton and others in the administration have helped…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, In the news, Military aid | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Do any of these toffs work in development?

NYT on British Tories:

Sir Nicholas Winterton … a Conservative member of Parliament for the last 39 years… decided to share his thoughts on why legislators should be allowed to travel first class to avoid exposure to the common man.

“They are a totally different type of people,” Sir Nicholas declared in a radio interview, speaking about the relative ghastliness of people in standard-class train cars.

…[I]t was a reminder yet again of how difficult it has been for the Tories to shake off a past that a fair number of them still seem to embrace.

[Popular image of Tories is as] a stuffy bastion of the elite, the mean-spirited, the entitled and the clueless.

Posted in In the news | Tagged | 23 Comments

Stop panicking: Capitalism repeatedly recovers from financial crises

UPDATE 2 (3/24, 12:59PM EDT) Tyler Cowen is almost convinced (see end of this post)

UPDATE (3/23, 2:30 EDT): see GREAT responses by Ross Levine and Mark Thoma at the end of this post

I am just beginning to dive into the awesome book by Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff, This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly. Along with great analysis, they have some wonderful pictures, evidence, and data. What I say here…

Posted in Data and statistics, Economics principles | Tagged , | 22 Comments