For those of you who are not interested in soccer and for our young colleagues who are growing up with Messi and Ronaldo: Johan Cruijff was the best soccer player ever. At least according to his Dutch fans; skeptics can convince themselves here. As a player and coach he has won every conceivable prize for club teams, but he has become even more famous as an analyst. His judgments are so inscrutable for mere earthlings that his utterings are considered without exception as deep philosophical wisdoms. One of his more transparent quotes might give you already an impression: Soccer is simple, but it is difficult to play simple soccer. There must be deep insight also in Italians can't win the game against you, but you can lose the game against the Italians. People have collected over the years many more examples, but I want to discuss one of his more recent observations.
Martin Ravallion's NBER working paper titled 'The Idea of Antipoverty Policy' is now accessible online and provides a long view on how the narrative around poverty evolved from the 1800s til now.
America's war on poverty turned 50 this week and Nick Kristof has a column titled 'Progress in the War on Poverty.'
A Free Exchange post draws from a paper by the WB's Quy-Toan Do, Jishnu Das and others in the JED. Their research analyzes the tendency of academic research to focus excessively on the US and to under-study the developing world.
A New Year traditionally comes with upbeat thoughts. New resolutions will make life better. Past mistakes will not be repeated. And calamities are seldom predicted. These positive thoughts are not always justified, but they provide necessary energy during the first cold months of the year all the same.
At the beginning of 2014 some economic optimism actually seems defensible. Five years after the start of the global financial crisis, Europe is finally exiting their recession, albeit slowly and hesitantly. The U.S. economy is accelerating and so is growth of global production and trade. True, the BRICs are no longer as vibrant as they have been for a long time, but growth in China (a key concern of markets in recent days) is still expected to be three and a half times growth in high income countries.
Given the tradition of New Year’s optimism it is salient that the EBRD starts the New Year on a rather gloomy note with their new Transition Report. The title of this year’s report is "Stuck in transition?." But in the text they change the question mark into a firm exclamation mark, even as the report contains some suggestions of ways to escape the current impasse.
Much confusion has arisen in policy debates in India about whether or not growth has helped the poor; if yes, how much and over which time period; and whether growth is leaving certain social and religious groups behind. There remains deep skepticism on the part of NGOs and journalists that growth has been good for groups that were disadvantaged over long periods of time in the past.
Arvind Panagariya and I decided to investigate these claims – see here and here. We ask simple questions relating to the evolution of poverty in the post-reform era in India. How have poverty levels changed over the last few decades? We scrutinize changes across 6 different dimensions: (1) over time, (2) across states, (3) across rural and urban regions, (4) across social groups, (5) across religious groups, and (6) using different poverty lines. We find no basis whatsoever for claims that growth in India has left disadvantaged communities behind.
Nouriel Roubini has a Project Syndicate piece, 'Slow Growth and Short Tails,' which predicts faster growth for the world economy in 2014, but cautions that (the US aside) growth in most advanced economies will be tepid and emerging-market fragility could weigh down growth in the longer term --
Gallup World has a new study on inequality around the world.
The Joint Quantum Institute has a January 2 feature titled 'The Entrophy of Nations: Global Energy Inequality Lessens, But for How Long?' in which Victor Yakovenko's research looking at the parallels between nations and molecules is showcased and the case for renewable energy is bolstered.
Felix von Geyer writes in The Guardian about how Haiti hopes miracle moringa tree can help to combat malnutrition. The government is promoting the cultivation of a tree rich in vitamins, minerals and calcium to tackle food insecurity.
Small iron fish in soup to solve anemia in Cambodia.
Portable medical devices, including x rays, could revolutionize barefoot medicine in remote parts of the developing world.
GravityLight is an innovative device that generates light from gravity. It takes 3 seconds to lift the weight that powers GravityLight creating 25 minutes of light on its descent. It can be used over and over again with no running costs.
Global financial integration and the linkages between the financial and the real sides of economies are sources of huge policy challenges. This is now beyond doubt, after what we saw in the run-up to and the unfolding of the 2008 global financial crisis. As a consequence, the established wisdom regarding monetary policies and prudential regulation has been subject to a deep critical review, including a demise of the belief that they should be maintained as fully independent functions.
Kaushik Basu has a new piece being carried by Project Syndicate that appeared in The Global Times, one of China's leading English language news sites. Titled 'Policy stasis raises odds of 'L-shaped' recovery', it cautions that the tenuous recovery in advanced countries, while buoyed by the latest US indicators, will only hold if economists and policymakers move away from ‘stasis’ positions that fail to promote entrepreneurship and innovation.
He warns that avoiding analytical creativity is dangerous and stresses that, at times, intuition and theory are needed to get out of economic ruts and to keep up with the pace of technological change in our globally integrated world.
Social scientists have for long acknowledged that people evaluate their own wellbeing not only on the basis of what they have but also on the basis of what they have relatively to what other people have. Adam Smith (1776) wrote that "By necessaries I understand not only the commodities which are indispensably necessary for the support of life, but whatever the custom of the country renders it indecent for creditable people, even of the lowest order, to be without".1 And Marx (1847) wrote that "A house may be large or small; as long as the neighboring houses are likewise small, it satisfies all social requirement for a residence. But let there arise next to the little house a palace, and the little house shrinks to a hut”.2
Despite the old age of these ideas, it is only during the second half of the twentieth century that scholars have tried to provide more analytical substance to the concept of relative deprivation. Duesemberry (1949)3 proposed a relative income hypothesis based on the idea that people determine their savings behavior not on their absolute incomes but on their relative position on the income scale. Runciman (1966)4 built an entire theory of social justice around the concept of relative deprivation defined as the sense of frustration that people experience when they observe other people having something they desire and within their reach but unattainable. While popular, these new theories struggled to become mainstream and it is only recently and thanks to studies on happiness that the concepts of relative deprivation have acquired new life.
Buzz is growing about taper readiness, as economists and Fed watchers anticipated the market reaction to the likely end of US quantitative easing in 2014. In 'Are investors ready for the taper?' on the FT's 'The Short View,' Ralph Atkins cites from a joint paper by Poonam Gupta and Barry Eichengreen titled "Tapering Talk: The Impact of Expectations of Reduced Federal Reserve Security Purchases on Emerging Markets"