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Monthly Archives: July 2010

What aid critics could learn from movie critics

The Wall Street Journal yesterday had an article on “2010: worst movie year ever?”. Movie critics have a way with words that leaves us aid critics in the dust.

Hollywood is fighting a war on numerous fronts, and losing all of them.

And movie critics are even worse at something aid critics are often accused of: much more focus on the negative than on constructive positive suggestions — “just stop.”

Stop making movies like “Grown

Posted in Big ideas, In the news | Tagged , | 16 Comments

Could aid revive business instead of stamping it out?

This post is by Claudia Williamson, a post-doctoral fellow at DRI.


This is a central question of The Aid Trap, by Columbia professors R. Glen Hubbard and William Duggan. Instead of supporting development, the authors argue, aid creates additional hurdles. While aid ‘crowds out or corrupts the business sector,’ we remain caught in an aid trap because business doesn’t pull at the heartstrings the way charity does.

The first half of the book…

Posted in Books and book reviews, Economics principles | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

When financial crises are devastating to a country’s long-run prospects

I’ve commented previously on Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff’s great book, This Time is Different: Eight Centuries of Financial Folly, arguing that if financial crises are so common and the world keeps growing anyway, then they must not be so damaging  in the long run. I had been meaning to check what the authors themselves thought of this argument, but am only getting around to it now. Here is my email exchange with Carmen…

Posted in Books and book reviews | Tagged , | 6 Comments

African Tourism projects: great potential or white elephants?

Not too many people are aware that Ghana has a very good game park, called Mole National Park, about two hours drive from Tamale in the north, which is in turn a short flight from Accra.

Like many other African governments, Ghana’s government has high hopes for earnings from tourism. Will it happen?

You can sign me up as a zealous booster of Ghana tourism. Mole National Park alone is amazing, as I hope some…

Posted in Field notes | Tagged , | 21 Comments

African Export Success: Shooting Fowl while riding an Antelope

Contrary to the image of African countries as static mono-exporters, it is unpredictable from one period to the next which will be the top exports in each country.

Consider this picture of Tanzania’s top exports in 1998 and 2007.

This is pattern of rapidly changing success is the norm across African countries. If you take the top 100 exports in each country in 1998 (or the first year in which data is available), its…

Posted in Academic research, Trade | Tagged , | 10 Comments

The Lives of Others

UPDATE: contrasting negative images offered by commentators on Twitter (see end of post)

My Ghanaian friends often tell me that if you want to understand Ghanaians at all, you have to understand how religious are most Ghanaians. I believed them of course, but it didn’t really become vivid until I attended the most amazing church service this morning. I am not saying this out of any religious motives, just to point out another side of…

Posted in Aid policies and approaches, Field notes | Tagged , , | 32 Comments

Is &%# allowed in aid?

My wife and I visited the village of Goyire yesterday, about 30km from Bolgatanga in northern Ghana, home to the Builse subgroup of the Talensi ethnic group. We were looking at a malaria bed nets project that I will discuss more in a future post.  The community had organized a skit to dramatize why bed net utilization is so important to prevent malaria. The amateur community Thespians doing the skit really hammed it up and the…

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

Greetings from remote places

Greetings Aid Watchers, just back on line, been busy touring remote places in northern Ghana. I’ll be writing up experiences in a future post, but I only have a few minutes right now. One very quick thought I have been having:

Q: what’s the difference between remote northern Ghana and downtown Manhattan?

A: my iPhone gets a signal in remote northern Ghana

Posted in Field notes | Tagged | 13 Comments

How to become a feudal lord with hundreds of servants for $99

Our image of a medieval king is of somebody with hundreds of servants waiting upon His Majesty. Today, for $99, you commoners can get a much larger and better group waiting upon you. You will even have dead servants working for you – (1) Sumerians from 3000 BC (2) Babylonians from 2000 BC, (3) Egyptians from 1850 BC (4) Indians from 500 BC, (5) 7th century BC Romans, (6) 18th century Austrian musicians, (7) a…

Posted in Technology | Tagged | 9 Comments

From deadly data to lively pictures

For those of you who have not yet discovered the wonderful Hans Rosling, go to his Gapminder to discover whole new ways of visualizing development in motion. See the classic hilarious video of his TED talk, or something more recent.

Posted in Data and statistics | Tagged , | 6 Comments