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June 2011

Transfer mineral revenues directly to citizens—and avoid the resource curse

Shanta Devarajan's picture

My colleague Marcelo Giugale and I have an Op-Ed in today’s Guardian online advocating the direct transfer of mineral revenues to citizens. 

Mineral revenues typically go from the extracting company to the government without passing through the hands of citizens.  As a result, citizens do not scrutinize the expenditure out of these revenues as much as they would if it were financed by tax revenues.  The net result is misallocation of public spending, slower growth and even slower poverty reduction in many of these mineral-rich countries, such as Cameroon or Nigeria. 

How can Zimbabwe avoid having the world’s worst Human Development Index?

Martin Ravallion's picture

Each year the mass media and many governments look keenly at the country rankings by the Human Development Index (HDI). In the 2010 Human Development Report, Zimbabwe has the lowest HDI in the world at 0.14 on a (0,1) scale (UNDP, 2010). The next lowest is the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), with 0.24. (Norway is highest, at 0.94.)

It is natural to ask: what would Zimbabwe need to do to get its HDI up to the level of the DRC or better? Zimbabweans will no doubt have a strong interest in knowing the answer, as will those interested in the HDI in general.

There are three components to the HDI, for life expectancy, schooling and income. Let’s look at these in turn.

Is Africa more vulnerable to oil price increases?

Shanta Devarajan's picture

As world oil prices rise to near the levels of 2008, and growth on the continent resumes to pre-crisis levels (as reported on Africa’s Pulse), a natural question to ask is whether Africa’s oil importers are becoming more vulnerable to oil price increases. 

A partial answer is given by a recent briefing note by my colleague Masami Kojima.

Vulnerability is determined by how much of a country's income is spent on oil imports. Looking at the period 2003-2008 (the latest for which comparable data are available), the study found that vulnerability rose in all oil importers (except Mauritania) and even in some oil exporters such as Equatorial Guinea and Republic of Congo. Also, 15% of the income of Seychelles, Liberia and Sierra Leone is used to import oil. This is among the highest in the world.

Interestingly, despite a significant increase in the price of oil during that period, the rise in vulnerability happened because energy became more oil-driven in 24 out of 42 countries.

Human Rights and Human Development

Shanta Devarajan's picture

“Shanta, are you against human rights?” a colleague asked when she saw that I was arguing for the negative in a debate on “Is a concern for human rights needed to achieve human development outcomes?” 

Needless to say, my debate partner, Varun Gauri and I are not against human rights (Varun has written extensively on the subject), but we did argue—based on the evidence—that a concern for human rights was neither necessary nor sufficient to achieve health and education outcomes. 

Unlocking the Kinshasa-Brazzaville Bottleneck

Gözde Isik's picture

Kinshasa-Brazzaville is predicted to become Africa’s largest, and the world’s 11th largest, city by 2025.

With an international border running right through it, it is the obvious focal point for cross-border exchanges between the two Congos. But despite this, formal trade and passenger traffic between the two cities is pitifully small.

Why do Kenyans want to live in cities?

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Every day, Kenya’s capital Nairobi is facing endless traffic jams. Our colleagues spend hours every day to commute to and from work. One Kenyan colleague escapes traffic by leaving home at 4.30am, others by leaving the office as late as 9pm. Given this congestion, escalating costs of living and high crime, why are Kenyans moving into cities more rapidly than ever – more 250,000 every year?

The Oxford Millennium Villages Debate

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

In March at Oxford, I had the opportunity to debate John McArthur on the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) evaluation, which is the subject of a paper I co-authored with Michael Clemens of the Center for Global Development.