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Esther Duflo’s refreshing perspective on fighting poverty

Merrell Tuck-Primdahl's picture

A quiet revolution is needed to help pull people out of poverty in many developing countries, since it will be well nigh impossible to replicate export-led success stories like we’ve seen in parts of Asia. Also, even though policies, politics, and corruption are knotty issues that often block progress, there is scope for tweaking institutions at the margins in ways that will improve the status of poor people. These were some of the takeaways I gleaned from the Development Economics lecture yesterday by Esther Duflo, MIT Economics Profession and co-founder of the JPAL Poverty Lab.

Duflo’s lecture was a refreshing mix of pragmatism and idealism. Clearly full of passion for her job and blessed with extraordinary energy, this young economist travels tirelessly to learn what’s happening at the coal face of development and she approaches her task with rigor as well as a sense of mission.

Flying Geese, leading dragons and Africa’s potential

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

The “flying geese” pattern describes the sequential order of the catching-up process of industrialization of latecomer economies.The potential for expanding the industrial sectors of African countries is substantial – this was a message I delivered on a recent trip to Italy, Tanzania, Mozambique and Malawi. This can happen through an improved understanding of the mechanics of economic transformation as well as by focusing on how such countries can follow their comparative advantage in natural resources and labor supply. 

During my site visits and meetings with the private sector for the African segments of my trip, I became more convinced than ever of the strong untapped potential for private sector-led industrialization. Yet that can only happen when the government plays a facilitating role, such as by overcoming information asymmetries, coordination failures and externalities associated with first-mover actions. In Tanzania, initial experiments with industrial parks look promising, as do agricultural development projects and rural transport initiatives currently under way. In the case of industrial parks, it’s important to have a one-stop shop for registration and other administrative obligations, adequate electricity and water supply, and good transport/logistics links.

Doing Development Economics Differently -- Check out ABCDE 2011

Justin Yifu Lin's picture

It's important to have an international forum where leading thinkers can exchange ideas about how to reduce poverty and how to promote growth in low income countries. I'm delighted that, since its inauguration 22 years ago, the Annual Bank Conference on Development Economics (ABCDE) has served this purpose by connecting leading thinkers, practitioners, and students. Now more than ever, we need active and constructive debate about job creation, reducing inequality, empowering women, and improving our approaches to human capital formation and training youth. TheDevelopment Economics Vice Presidency that I lead is enthusiastic in its continued support for this forum.

For people to benefit from development and escape poverty, they need to broaden their opportunities. That's why we chose 'Broadening Opportunities for Development' as our overall theme for this year's conference happening from May 30-June 1 in Paris.

Welfare, Assets, Data Availability and the Living Standards Measurement Study

Kinnon Scott's picture

One is always grateful to see attention paid to the quality and quantity of household data available to study poverty. It is a subject dear to my heart and to my colleagues in the Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS ) in the World Bank. In sub-Saharan Africa, as a recent Global Dashboard post titled “What do we really know about poverty and inequality?” by Claire Melamed points out, there is still a dearth of data, even after years of government effort and international support. But there are data -- in some countries lots of data -- so it’s worth highlighting what is there. Today I wanted to add some nuance to the discussion of income and assets raised by Claire and, probably more importantly, steer people to some new data that will, we hope, excite the most blasé of you out there.

The Warsaw Initiative

Grzegorz W. Kolodko's picture

Old square surrounding Zamkowy Statue in Warsaw, Poland. Photo: Istockphoto.comThrough its forthcoming European Union presidency Poland should inspire other regions of the world that seek their own development path. By no means do current turbulences and crisis disturbances shatter the need of European integration. Just the opposite, they make it stronger. European integration works and will get through this confusion.

Skills, not number of years spent in school, are what count

Vamsee Kanchi's picture

The World Bank recently launched its ‘Education Strategy 2020’ which focuses on achieving ‘learning for all’ over the next decade. The strategy emphasizes looking beyond inputs (classrooms, teacher training, textbooks, computers) to outputs such as cognitive skills and skills for critical thinking (read Elizabeth Kings’ post on this). The strategy emphasizes this approach through the slogan ‘invest early, invest smartly, invest for all.’

How Might Japan’s Natural Disaster Affect the Energy Sector?

Ioannis N Kessides's picture

Photo: istockphoto.comIt is still too early to estimate with much precision the quantitative impacts of the devastating events in Japan on the global energy sector, as well as the effects on energy and economic activity in Japan. Nevertheless, some qualitative conclusions can be drawn about the near and medium effects on Japanese and global energy balances. Much more difficult and speculative are judgments about the effect of the nuclear accident that resulted from the natural disaster on the longer-term energy picture.

Aid, MDGs, and Gender

Swati Mishra's picture

'Development aid’ is always surrounded by questions. Some argue whether it shows results, and some worry about the way it is spent. And the imminent question is, where does it go? Well, it does have some impact. According to the latest UNESCO report ‘Financing Education in Sub-Saharan Africa’, development aid accounts for 50% of the government education budget in some countries of Africa. “Over the last decade public spending on education in Africa has increased by more than 6% each year”, says the report. However, much remains to be done to distribute it well between primary and higher education, as often requirements of the primary education system suffer. Thus, cutting aid is definitely not a smart move as explained by Liz Allcock and Jimmy Kainja in their post ‘Cutting UK aid to Malawi will hurt the poor, not the leaders’.

China’s Special Economic Zones and Industrial Clusters: Success and Challenges

Douglas Zhihua Zeng 曾智华's picture

In the past 30 years, China has achieved phenomenal economic growth, an unprecedented development “miracle” in human history. Since the institution of its reforms and Open Door policy in 1978, China’s gross domestic product (GDP) has been growing at an average annual rate of more than 9 percent (figure 1). In 2010, it has surpassed that of Japan and become the world’s second-largest economy.

Why Civil Registration matters in the countdown to the Millennium Development Goals

Sulekha Patel's picture

With just four years to the target date of 2015, progress on the health-related Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been slow. Measuring progress has been hampered by the lack of quality and timely data; this is especially true when measuring progress toward goals that rely on civil registration for their information, such as Goal 4 on reducing child mortality. Available data in the new edition of World Development Indicators show that of the 144 countries for which data are available, more than 100 countries remain off-track to reach the MDG 4 by 2015.  

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