Why is underdevelopment so persistent? A growing consensus in recent years suggests this is because poor countries lack the institutions needed for economic growth. Implicit in this consensus is the notion that, first, specific institutions do matter, and second, institutional endowments are extremely hard to change.
We have already told you about Kiva and their innovative model for extending micro-loans to African firms. Since we originally blogged about them they have been embraced by the blogosphere - consequently running out of businesses to fund.
From Friday's New York Times, a piece I wrote in a personal capacity:
At this week's ministerial meeting of the World Trade Organization in Hong Kong, negotiators have once again hit an impasse over how and when to open the rich world's agricultural markets to farmers in the poorest countries. What few people have realized, however, is that poor countries don't have to wait for the World Trade Organization. There is plenty that they can and should do to help their own farmers to trade.
As every gardener knows, plants flourish when they get exactly the amount of water they require. A sudden downpour is wasted: The ground cannot absorb it, and the runoff erodes the soil. The same goes with funding development in Africa and other poor nations. Too little money, whether domestic savings, export revenues, or aid to governments and nongovernmental organizations, hampers progress. But too much is bad as well, national economies can absorb only a certain flow of money usefully.
...is remittances, apparently. Well, that's nonsense. (Apparently the top 100 GDPs in the world also contain a bunch of corporations, game worlds, cities, California, etc. Enough!)
But this is still an interesting-looking piece from Time on migration and remittances:
The Christian Science Monitor profiles the ‘yahoo-yahoo boys’:
In the heart of sub-Saharan Africa's most-crowded metropolis, in a dimly lit Internet café thumping with Nigerian music, clusters of two and three teenage boys hover around aging computer screens. They use their Nike T-shirts and baggy jeans to wipe sweat off their brows and palms as they intently craft deceptive e-mails and scour the Web for foreign e-mail addresses.
Nancy Birdsall posts at Views from the Center. She is thinking about constructing:
...a measure of the quality (beyond the quantity) of the aid programs of the major donors. We have some initial ideas, building on the measure already used in our Commitment to Development Index: extent to which aid is tied, extent to which it goes to countries with honest, accountable governments, and more...
The only way to give food security to 200 million sub-Saharan Africans is to give them the tools, not to rely on yet more aid and government mismanagement. World food production has increased with population by 90% in the last 50 years; the real price of food has declined by 75%. Yet Africa has none of the factors that made this possible: greater agricultural productivity, internal economic freedom and international trade.