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Monthly Archives: June 2010

Failure to award

Can you imagine an aid-disbursing agency that refused to disburse?

How often do you hear of a donor that decides not to give grants at all for lack of good candidates to receive them?

While donors do occasionally cut funding to a particular government or program, such a radical move usually requires either repeated and unrepentant corruption, or overwhelming international reprobation.

So the announcement from the Mo Ibrahim Foundation last week that it…

Posted in In the news | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

What don’t make sense in trade don’t make sense in aid

Common sense principles in international trade are surprisingly useful for aid as well. Here’s a list of overall principles that help explain some of the most discussed aid dos and don’ts on this and other blogs.

1) Don’t trade low value items with huge transport costs. No exporter or importer in their right mind would ship bulky low-value items large distances, which is why things like construction materials are often locally-sourced. Aid examples: Nobody

Posted in Trade | Tagged , , , , | 35 Comments

How skill beats luck in the World Cup of Development

This blog periodically points out the role of randomness in development, much to the frustration of many readers. This post is how to set things up so that skill triumphs over luck.

Today’s official metaphor is, of course, for us sports-obsessed nuts, the World Cup. Early rounds have seen remarkable upsets: Switzerland beats Spain, Japan beats Cameroon, Serbia beats Germany. Yet no super long shot team has ever won the World Cup. In fact, 14…

Posted in Economics principles | Tagged , | 15 Comments

Department of Lame International Action: Blood Diamond Division

From the Wall Street Journal today on the comeback of Blood Diamonds:

The Kimberley Process says well over 99% of the world’s rough-diamond trade is now “conflict-free.”

But critics say there’s a big loophole in that definition: It doesn’t take into account human-rights abuses in diamond territory controlled by governments themselves.
In Angola … the Kimberley Process appears to have little appetite for human-rights issues. Last August, when a Kimberley Process peer-review team

Posted in In the news | 4 Comments

The Science of Development Trends

HT Freakonomics

Posted in Economics principles, Satire and parodies | Tagged | 3 Comments

Why the world needs independent aid critics: the video

Easterly talks with the John Templeton Foundation on the need for independent aid critics to challenge the mainstream development industry,  and how successful development actually happens.

Posted in Big ideas, Meta | 4 Comments

The lure of starting from scratch

It is an acknowledged national characteristic that Americans believe in self-reinvention. One of our founding myths—inspired by the once unexplored and sparsely populated expanse of the North American continent—is the idea that you can head out of town, leave the encumbrances of the past behind, and start over in a new, unspoiled place.

What would happen if we brought this sensibility to development plans for poorer, more crowded nations? What if we already do?


Posted in Grand plans and aid targets, Maps | Tagged , | 31 Comments

Big places have small beginnings: increasing returns in Greenwich Village

Bought this great book of New York City historical maps today.

This is a map of ”Mannados”  in 1664. The northern edge of New Amsterdam (just in the process of changing its name to New York) was protected by a wall, and hence the street along the wall was called “Wall Street.”

The next map is from 1766.  The city has spread a bit north now, but still has a long ways to go. Population had only recently…

Posted in History, Maps | 6 Comments

Grass roots soccer, African style

In honor of the opening week of the World Cup we bring you these images of grass roots soccer from photographer Jessica Hilltout. Over nine months, Jessica made two trips through Africa—one up the south coast—South Africa, Lesotho, Mozambique and Malawi—and one through a swath of West Africa—Ghana, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, Togo and the Ivory Coast.

During her trip she took pictures of worn shoes, tattered jerseys and hand-made balls, capturing the spirit of…

Posted in Books and book reviews | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Africa: land of wildebeest and child soldiers

UPDATE: response to criticisms at end of this post.

(Apologies to the great blog Wronging Rights for stealing one of their headline templates.)

Big attention grabber in the NYT with this picture splashed all over the front page.

The usual mixed emotions: (1) compassion and sorrow for these and other children caught up in horrific wars, (2) alarm at exploitation of the child soldier stereotype for Africa.

Very crude data that I checked…

Posted in In the news, Language | 17 Comments