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Growing capacity

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.

The 39th largest GDP in the world... 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 “entrepreneurs” behind those email scams

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.

Measuring donor performance

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...

‘Africa needs freer markets’

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.

Good intentions are not good enough

The World Bank has recently released ‘Reaching The Poor: What Works, What Doesn't, and Why.’ The disturbing finding is that most health programs designed to reach the poorest instead help the better-off. Neither public nor private pro-poor initiatives shine. But should policies target certain groups? And if so, what is the best way to do this?