With Nong Zhu
Migrant workers have been contributing to one-sixth of China’s GDP growth since the mid 1980s. The impact of rural migrants’ contribution is best seen in cities during the Chinese New Year, when they return to reunite with their families, leaving behind a massive urban labor shortage. This happens every year despite urban families and restaurant owners offering high bonuses.
There is a consensus that migration has contributed to increased rural income, but views differ on its impact on rural inequality. My view is that rural households with higher incomes are not more likely than poorer households to participate in migration or benefit disproportionately from it. Adding to my recent blog in People Move, I would like to discuss the reasons behind this.
With Nong Zhu
Chattarpur district in Madhya Pradesh state of India is famous for the Khajuraho temples. About 40 kms from the district headquarters is large village called Chapran, which is surrounded by minor tributaries of the river Ganges and the backwaters from Lehsura dam, causing the village to become like a water-trapped island, particularly during the monsoon season.
A few years back, the only option available for the villagers was to walk along a railway bridge to cross the surrounding water. Unfortunately, a blind turn along the railway track made it impossible for a passer-by to see if a train was oncoming, until it was too late. To avoid disaster, they often had no option other than to jump off the 12 metre high bridge or risk losing a limb or their life by getting crushed under the train.
Laxmibai’s aged eyes crinkled with tears as she narrated the tragic story of her son-in-law to us: “Five years ago Raju, who was 25 years old, had come to our village on the eve of a festival. It was monsoon season and the village was surrounded by water.” Taking a deep breath, she continued, “On his return home, he was riding a bicycle along the railway track, to cross the water. Suddenly a train appeared around the blind turn … some laborers who were working in a nearby field later told us that he didn’t have time to even get off the bicycle. We had to collect his body in a sack, there were limbs all over. Had there been an overbridge or any other arrangement to safely cross the stream, this tragedy would not have happened.”
In many parts of the world, a picture of a woman sitting in front of a smoky cookstove preparing a family meal remains an iconic picture of life today. For many families, the three- stone fire or a traditional stove as a cooking device has not changed over centuries. This need not be the case, and in a growing number of nations, that traditional pattern is changing.
Serious research on improved cookstoves dates back to the 1950s. However, large-scale field programs focused largely on the inefficiency of designs. While the stoves may appear simple, the socio-cultural systems in which they operate, and their impacts on so many aspects of household and regional health and economics, is far from simple. Many approaches have been tried, with some successes and many failures.
Over the last few years, a more complete view of the full human and environmental health impacts of indoor air pollution and the global impact of the fuel and stove cycle has emerged. Poorly managed fuel systems encourage use of unsustainably harvested fuel such as charcoal produced from illegal and ecologically damaging informal production network.
The World Bank is looking at opportunities to improve not only cookstoves themselves, but also the full stove fuel cycle as a way to address energy poverty, human health, and the global greenhouse gas problem. I was delighted to see a new publication that looks at this nexus between health, environment and GHG benefits called Household Cookstoves, Environment, Health, and Climate Change: A New Look at an Old Problem. This report takes stock of existing knowledge on the subject and points out new opportunities by identifying `game-changers’ in the stove technology and fuels.
The 6 foot 6 inch man looked me in the eye.
“And if we don’t like the results, I’ll break your kneecaps,” he said, without smiling.
This encounter, on my first impact evaluation, made me wonder about the impartiality of the whole exercise…and I am still wondering.
A perennially relevant question is making the rounds again in the wake of the Arab Spring: Why can't anyone predict revolutions? (See Sina's "quote of the week," for example.) The issue is again raised in this piece by Foreign Policy managing editor Blake Hounshell, in conjunction with Foreign Policy's seventh annual publication of its Failed States Index (FSI).
The article seems geared toward explaining why the FSI didn't "predict" the Arab Spring, and it discusses the fact that indices are generally better at providing snapshots rather than acting as crystal balls. It also notes that while the FSI has captured some elements of political destabilization in the Middle East, it has missed others. Experts quoted in the article note that revolutions may be inherently difficult to predict, due to the so-called "demonstration effect" (whereby revolutions, aided by satellite television and other advances in communication technology, allegedly spread by contagion) and other factors.
Once again we find ourselves trying to dissect the root causes of food price increases as they bump and grind their way back toward their 2008 peaks. Is it speculation in commodity markets? Is it the booming demand from Asia for feed grains? Is it land use switching out from food crops to biofuels? The sentiment among our agriculture, energy and transport specialists is that the answer to these questions is: "Yes. All of the above."
A well-held belief in development circles is that, in broad terms, transparency leads to greater accountability and often, as a result, reduced corruption. Yet when the Institute of Development Studies recently looked at the impact and effectiveness of transparency and accountability initiatives that aim to improve governance in various sectors, it pointed out that “growing evidence exists that transparency alone is insufficient, and only leads to greater accountability in interaction with other factors.”
With sluggish growth in advanced economies, much investment money is heading south to more favorable climates. And while capital flows can provide greater opportunities for emerging and developing economies to pursue economic development and growth, capital inflows can also pose some serious policy challenges for macroeconomic management and financial sector supervision. Recently, large capital inflows in some middle-income countries have placed undue upward pressure on their currencies, adversely affecting macroeconomic and financial system stability as well as export competitiveness in a number of these countries. Furthermore, the pro-cyclical nature of global capital flows to emerging and developing economics can serve to aggravate these risks.
|Map courtesy of Wikipedia through a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.|
Taking development to the outlying provinces of Solomon Islands is not an easy ride. I found this out when going on a site visit to the Rural Development Program (RDP) at the country’s far western province of Choiseul.
At the Northwest region of Choiseul province where the island faces open waters that span to the Micronesian archipelago of the Pacific lies a village called Polo. The Polo community has a primary school that was established in 1957 when Solomon Islands was still a British Protectorate, prior to independence in 1978. Since its inception, the Polo school never had a permanent classroom building until two years ago when through the RDP participatory process, the community identified the school as their main need.
“Nobody predicted the Arab Spring because nobody can predict the human spirit. We have formulas and equations for many things, but not for the point at which fear breaks”
--Roger Cohen, When fear breaks, New York Times, June 10, 2011
- Roger Cohen