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Monthly Archives: July 2010

Is Impact Measurement a Dead End?

This post was written by Alanna Shaikh. Alanna is a global health professional who blogs at UN Dispatch and Blood and Milk.

We’ve spent the last few years watching the best donors and NGOs get more and more committed to the idea of measurable impacts. At first, the trend seemed unimpeachable. International donors have spent far too much money with far too few results. Focusing more on impact seemed like the way out of that trap.…

Posted in Metrics and evaluation, Organizational behavior | Tagged , | 31 Comments

The coming end to China’s rapid growth

China’s remarkable growth rate is unlikely to last. No country in history has managed to grow nearly so fast for so long.

“China is defying the law of gravity at the moment,” says New York University economist William Easterly, who has tracked economic development for decades. “But that doesn’t mean that gravity is wrong.”

From 1900 to 2000, NYU’s Mr. Easterly says, per-capita growth of all countries ranged between 1% to 3% a year.

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

The Wellington Dilemma

…[I] request elucidation of my instructions from His Majesty’s Government so that I may better understand why I am dragging an army over these barren plains. I construe that perforce it must be one of two alternative duties, as given below. I shall pursue either with the best of my ability, but I cannot do both:

1.) To train an army of uniformed British clerks in Spain for the benefit of the accountants and copy-boys

Posted in Organizational behavior | Tagged | 9 Comments

Was the poverty of Africa determined in 1000 BC?

The usual development conversation about determinants of per capita income revolves around modern choices of institutions or economic policies. But what if history is the main determinant of development today?

A paper by Diego Comin, Erick Gong, and myself was just published in the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics. We collected crude but informative data on the state of technology in various parts of the world in 1000 BC, 0 AD, and 1500 AD.

1500…

Posted in Academic research, Technology | Tagged | 67 Comments

Holy Bureaucratic Gibberish, Batman!

This post is by Adam Martin, a post-doctoral fellow at DRI.

On July 1 the Department of Defense rolled out two notable new projects that will undoubtedly inaugurate a new era of peace and safety for the streets of Gotham international community. Even the world’s greatest detective could not have seen this coming.

Like their caped crusader namesakes, the DoD versions of BaTMAN and RoBIN are shrouded in mystery, their real identities…

Posted in Military aid, Organizational behavior | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Separating the wax from the gold: social accountability in Ethiopia

This post was written by Helen Epstein, author of The Invisible Cure: Why We Are Losing the Fight Against AIDS.

I was heartened to see that Shanta Devarajan, the World Bank’s Chief Economist for Africa, blogged about my article Cruel Ethiopia in the New York Review of Books.

The article—and Dr. Devarajan’s blog—deal with the extremely delicate and complex relationship between economic and social development and human rights. He and I agree that there…

Posted in Accountability and transparency, Aid policies and approaches, Books and book reviews, Democracy and freedom, Human rights | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Fitting Kwame the cabbie into the brain drain equation

The following post is by Yaw Nyarko, a Professor of Economics at NYU and founding director of Africa House.

Not too long ago I got in a cab in New York with a Ghanaian taxi driver named Kwame. He remembered picking me up several years ago. What a memory he has. Anyway, he told me he has four children: one is a doctor and the two youngest are in private school. He said his kids…

Posted in Academic research, Field notes, Global health | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

The answer is 42! Why Development is not about solutions, it’s about problem-solving systems

UPDATE, Wednesday, July 14: I’m glad we had a good reflective discussion in the blogosphere on these ideas, not the usual polemics. Thanks to all of the bloggers I’ve noticed who have now commented on this post: Aid Thoughts, Nancy Birdsall at Center for Global Development, Innovations for Poverty Action, Metamorphoses, PSD Blog at the World Bank, and Dennis Whittle at Global Giving (please let me know if I left anyone out).…

Posted in Big ideas | Tagged , | 47 Comments

A spoonful of transparency: good but no cure-all

The New York Times ran a story last week about a five-year-old Indian law that reinforces the right—and sets in place the process—for individuals to request government-held information.

Ms. Chanchala Devi, for example, applied for a government grant she had heard was available to help poor people like her build their own houses. After four years of fruitless waiting, she used India’s Right-to-Know law to request a list of people who had received the…

Posted in Accountability and transparency, Aid policies and approaches, In the news | Tagged , | 8 Comments

Thank you, World Cup fans, I now understand institutions for development

UPDATE July 8, 2010 12:10pm: link to a great new article on the spontaneous evolution of rules in the history of football (see end of post)

I learned a lot from the furious debate that followed the post about rules vs. norms, regarding whether Uruguay cheated Ghana.

My original notion was that intentionally breaking the rules to prevent a loss was cheating, and that it was too bad norms prevalent in Football World did not…

Posted in Big ideas, Economics principles | Tagged , , | 23 Comments