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Poverty

Africa's great strides towards the MDGs

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

This week’s Millennium Summit has given data mavens like myself motivation to take a second look at the development indicators for the countries where they work.

For Kenya (my current focus, along with Sudan) a rich source of information is the recently published report for the 2008-09 Demographic and Health Survey.

Below I’ve graphed several indicators from the Kenya DHS from 1998, 2003, and 2008-09. We see that there have been substantial gains along several lines. School attendance rates rose with the introduction of free primary education earlier in the decade. Vaccination rates increased sharply between 2003 and 2008. Access to improved water sources also expanded, and phone access jumped as the mobile revolution hit Kenya.

After the World Cup: Policy Dilemmas Tackle South African Government

Sandeep Mahajan's picture

The 2010 FIFA World Cup drew to a close on July 11, 2010, with a Spanish victory and a thunderous ceremony. South Africa took a bow as the world applauded its wonderful organization of the high profile tournament.

A record number of people across the globe viewed the tournament, and the crime rate was the lowest of any World Cup. The direct economic impact of the event is estimated at around 0.5% of GDP in 2011, and the tournament did much to burnish South Africa’s image across the world as an attractive tourist destination.

Sadly, the real drama started after the curtains came down on the World Cup.

In particular, a coalition of unions, representing over one million-public servants -- including teachers, doctors, nurses, police, and court and government officials -- has launched an indefinite strike after the unions’ demand for an 8.6% salary increase (plus 1,000 rand monthly housing allowance) was rejected by the Government.

Patrick v. Shanta, Round 2

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Patrick Bond’s lengthy comment on my response to his blog post merits a separate blog post.

Patrick:
Thanks for your response.  It appears as if there are at least four areas where we end up agreeing, except that I reach these conclusions using economic reasoning, which also serves to highlight some differences.

1. I’m glad you agree that there is a difference between accounting and economic welfare.  But you still don’t seem to accept the result of my simple example of two countries (one following a wasteful trajectory and the other the optimal one) that genuine savings is the same in both cases. 

The Multidimensional Poverty Index Debate: rounds 2, 3, 4 …

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

There has been a first-class debate on various blogs on the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), including here, in this blog. Here’s a brief round-up:

Rivalité fraternelle au Burkina Faso

Damien de Walque's picture

L’école, une opportunité rare, objet de choix stratégiques dans les familles.

“Ici, pour les parents, l’école n’est pas une priorité”. Cette réflexion, empreinte de fatalisme, est souvent entendue comme explication des taux de fréquentation scolaire faibles dans certaines régions d’Afrique. Une étude récente menée dans la Province du Nahouri au Burkina Fasosuggère que la situation est plus complexe.

A debate on multidimensional poverty indices

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

At Duncan Green’s blog, there is a fascinating back-and-forth on the UN’s new Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) between its co-creator, Sabina Alkire, and the World Bank’s Martin Ravallion. This is very much a live debate in development circles. The MPI is a descendant of the earlier Human Development Index and is similar to the various Unsatisfied Basic Needs indices long used in many countries.

I agree wholeheartedly with Martin’s critique, but Sabina does offer a spirited (and highly hyperlinked) defense. Martin’s emphasizes two points: 1) what’s the point of aggregating a bunch of indicators into a single index? and 2) the choice of weights for such an index is inherently problematic.

Comments on “Wax, Gold and Accountability in Ethiopia”

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Last month’s post on the exchange between Helen Epstein and Ken Ohashi on Ethiopia generated a large number of comments (and rejoinders), a response from Helen herself, and references in the Addis press

One set of comments were about the facts. Many commentators questioned whether human development indicators were actually improving in Ethiopia, while others questioned whether the political situation was as repressive as described by Helen in her original piece in the New York Review of Books.  Some asked whether the facts coming out of Ethiopia (on agricultural productivity for example) were reliable.  Since these are questions of fact, they can and should be verified.

Another group of comments questioned my interpretation of the facts,

Wax, gold and accountability in Ethiopia

Shanta Devarajan's picture

The exchange between Helen Epstein and my colleague Ken Ohashi about the role of aid donors in “subsidizing” what Epstein calls a politically repressive regime highlights the difficulty in linking politics at the top with poverty alleviation on the ground. 

Even politically open regimes, such as India, have difficulty delivering basic services to poor people—the absence rate for teachers in Indian public primary schools is 25 percent; the rate for doctors in public primary clinics is 40 percent.   Conversely, as Epstein points out in her reply to Ken’s letter, “poverty and disease have fallen sharply in some repressive societies, from Cuba to China…”

Will the South African economy get a kick from the World Cup?

Sandeep Mahajan's picture

As the month-long FIFA 2010 World Cup tournament kicks-off on June 11, all eyes will be on South Africa. Quite literally, since the 2006 tournament in Germany had a global viewership of around 30 billion.
 
The event is an opportunity for South Africa to showcase itself not just as an attractive destination for tourism and investment but also as the Rainbow Nation, home to people of every race, color, and creed.
 
The economic dividends will be plenty. As President Zuma explained: “the country’s transport, energy, telecommunications, and social infrastructure are being upgraded and expanded. This is contributing to economic development in the midst of a global recession, while improving conditions for investment.” 
 

Some economists are skeptical, seeing white elephants in large stadium constructions and citing analyses that show little net economic benefit to the hosts of previous such events.

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