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Poverty

Crowdsourcing Poverty Research

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

A tremendous amount of development research is all but unknown in the countries that are the subject of that research. In Kenya, this is the case with path-breaking papers like the Kremer-Miguel Worms study and the Cohen-Dupas insecticide-treated net pricing experiment.

To increase the visibility of such policy-relevant work, we’re producing a "Kenya 2011 Poverty Research Review" that will be published early next year as part of our larger Poverty Update report, which will be widely publicized in Kenya.

The Poverty Research Review will give an overview of poverty-related research on Kenya published in 2011 in journals or working paper series. There is a wide pool of work to draw from: a search on "Kenya" and "poverty" in Google Scholar produces 12,900 references for works produced in 2011.

As an experiment, I’m going to try drawing from the wisdom of crowds for this project.  Please help me with your suggestions for high-quality papers on poverty-related issues in Kenya that you would like to see highlighted in our review.

Decentralizing Kenya: Four Paradoxes

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

When I was growing up in Bavaria—Germany’s largest and proudest state—there were a lot of efforts to revive remote regions, especially those bordering the former East Germany and Czechoslovakia.

There were special incentives for industries to locate in these regions and important federal subsidies to their local governments. Other countries made much more radical attempts at reshaping their economic geography.

Indonesia forced people from “overpopulated” Java to resettle in remote parts of the country, including to the culturally distinct province of Papua. Brazil, Nigeria, and Tanzania relocated their capitals to “decongest” their mega-cities.

All of these experiments yielded the same result: complete failure! Germany’s remote regions never became centers of economic activity, while the big cities—especially in emerging economies—continued to mushroom and grow.

These lessons are important for Kenya as it embarks on a massive decentralization program—arguably the most radical in the world today.

Rwanda: Resilience in the face of adversity

Birgit Hansl's picture

In times of regional and global turbulence, Rwanda’s economy has demonstrated remarkable resilience. A new Rwanda Economic Update shows why.

In 2011, growth will reach 8.8 percent, inflation has been contained below 10 percent and the exchange rate remains stable. This economic resilience reflects sound macroeconomic management.

Rwanda’s growth prospects for 2011 compare favorably with others in the region, but this outlook is contingent on three factors.  First, prudent macroeconomic management continues, inflation is at single digits and the exchange rate remains stable. 

Informing the Poor: Four Critiques

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Over the last decade, there has been increasing enthusiasm for empowering poor people by giving them information.  For instance, sharing information about absentee teachers and doctors, the availability of drugs in clinics, and the effectiveness of development projects will enable poor people (the intended beneficiaries of these programs) to demand better services—and get them. 

I share this enthusiasm and may even have contributed in a small way to it.  But at a recent aid data conference, I thought I’d consider the criticisms that such efforts have received, and some responses.

1.  They already know.  Poor people don’t need to be told that the teacher is absent from the public primary school.  Their children have been telling them this for years. 

Three myths about aid to Kenya

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

The World Bank and IMF have received much press attention in recent weeks in Kenya.  The Kenyan Kazi Kwa Vijana (“work for youth”) initiative, which the Bank was supporting through its Youth Empowerment Project, and Government’s decision to request substantial IMF funding to support macroeconomic stability have been the source of heated debates in parliament.

This gives me an opportunity to share some thoughts which are influenced by “Delivering Aid Differently”, a book which Homi Kharas and I co-authored and launched in Nairobi and Washington a year ago.

In recent years, the aid industry has been a focus of critical examination and the object of debate.

Poor Evaluation Methods Can Mislead: New Developments in the Millennium Villages Evaluation

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

by Michael Clemens and Gabriel Demombynes

Contrary to persistent perceptions that sub-Saharan Africa is mired in intractable misery, many of the region’s countries have experienced sustained economic growth, deepening democracy, improving governance, and decreasing poverty in recent years.

To take just one aspect of the African Renaissance, in five of six countries for which recent data is available—Malawi, Tanzania, Rwanda, Nigeria, and Ghana—rates of child malnutrition as measured by stunting have declined in the last decade. Because so much is changing in Africa, it is crucial to take this “background” change into account when evaluating the impact of local policy interventions.

This is evident when considering the Millennium Villages Project (MVP) evaluation, which we critiqued in a peer-reviewed journal article. Recently, we examined the three peer-reviewed papers that dealt with the MVP’s impacts and showed that they do not back up the project’s claims of large impacts, in part because they don’t take “background” change into account.

There’s a new development: The MVP has just released its first study that does try to distinguish changes observed at its village sites from broader changes happening across Africa.

Yes, Africa can end poverty…but will we know when it happens?

Waly Wane's picture

Today poverty data are available for almost all countries in the world1.  Because a country’s success is measured by the number of people it lifts out of poverty, identifying best performers is a fair exercise only if poverty indicators are fully comparable. One indicator used is the share of the population whose consumption (or income) level is below a nationally defined poverty line or the US 1.25 dollar PPP per day. But even if policy makers and other stakeholders can count on readily available statistics, the poverty numbers should not be taken at face value.

Data are useful if they give us a sense of reality

Poverty data are based on a set of arbitrary assumptions that may lead to erroneous conclusions.

Kenya rising and Germany falling: A tale of two populations

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

Today, October 31, 2011 our planet reaches a new milestone: we are 7 billion people on earth.

In the past, when the world’s population was a fraction of what it is today, the expansion of humanity was a source of alarm and many apocalyptic tales. More than 200 years ago, Thomas Malthus, one of the leading scholars and economists at that time predicted that the world would simply run out of food. Then, we were less than one billion people.

Now I want to take you on a journey into the future.

Why has the Kenyan Shilling declined so sharply?

Wolfgang Fengler's picture

How would you feel if, after a normal take-off, you noticed one of the engines on your plane wasn’t working properly? What if you then found out the other engine was overheating? Now suppose the captain announces that you should buckle-up because the plane is about to meet an approaching hurricane?

This is what Kenya’s economy is currently going through. The country is in the middle of a perfect storm, and the declining Shilling is the most visible manifestation of Kenya’s economic woes. Why has the Shilling been falling so much and so unpredictably?

The main reason is that Kenya’s economy is increasingly imbalanced: the country is importing too much and exporting too little.

Africa’s statistical tragedy

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Fifteen years ago, Easterly and Levine published “Africa’s Growth Tragedy”, highlighting the disappointing performance of Africa’s growth, and the toll it has taken on the poor. Since then, growth has picked up, averaging 5-6 percent a year, and poverty is declining at about one percentage point a year. The “statistical tragedy” is that we cannot be sure this is true.

Take economic growth, which is measured in terms of growth in GDP.  GDP in turn is measured by national accounts.  While there has been some progress, today, only 35 percent of Africa’s population lives in countries that use the 1993 UN System of National Accounts; the others use earlier systems, some dating back to the 1960s. 

To show that this is not an arcane point, consider the case of Ghana, which decided to update its GDP last year to the 1993 system.  When they did so, they found that their GDP was 62 percent higher than previously thought.  Ghana’s per capita GDP is now over $1,000, making it a middle-income country. 

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