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May 2016

Blog post of the month: What is the serious conservative approach to politics?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. In May 2016, the featured blog post is "What is the serious conservative approach to politics?" by Sina Odugbemi.

The word ‘conservative’ has lost all meaning these days, which is both sad and depressing. It is now used as short hand for all manner of romantic reactionaries (who want to go back to some Golden Age), bigots, racists, obscurantists, buffoons, and carnival barkers. Yet modern conservatism is a serious and intelligent approach to politics espoused by some of the finest and deepest minds in the history of political thought. I always say that when I studied political philosophy in graduate school I went into my studies as a political liberal, and while a came out more convinced of the justness and soundness of liberal constitutional democracy, the thinkers that had impressed me the most were mainly conservative political philosophers, particularly David Hume, Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre and James Madison. An encounter with these minds is a bracing experience. You do not survive it without your mental architecture being somewhat rearranged.

In what follows, I will attempt a restatement of modern (because it is also, like liberalism, a product of the Enlightenment) conservative political thought as I understand it, and try to indicate why I deeply respect this approach to social and political challenges even if I don’t always agree with it.

Quote of the week: Danny Sapani

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“What we want to get to is a place where we look at the human and not the colour, where we are not hampered by what we see. See within. Anyone can tell that story. It may be that there is a sort of access point that makes it easier for us to tell stories either from a western perspective or with a western face, because that is what we’re used to. What we must constantly do is change the access point, in order to create a fairer world.”

- Danny Sapani, a Ghanaian- British actor who has starred in Ultimate Force, Misfits, Hard Boiled Sweets, Singham 2 (a Tamil speaking film), Penny Dreadful, and Danny Boyle’s Trance. 
 

The logframe in an ‘iterative & adaptive’ world

Suvojit Chattopadhyay's picture

Often, the stark reality facing the seekers-of-the-brave-new-PDIA-world is this:

But the Donor needs a Logframe! 

This would bee case, even in programmes that are committed to adopting the problem-driven-iterative-adaptation (PDIA) approach. Let’s assume that high-level commitments from the donor is in place. Even so, where the rubber meets the road, a logframe is an item in the checklist of requirements for those funds to flow.

Well, fear no more, and watch this Matt Andrews video:
 

Search Frame: Let’s Be Logical and Not Just a Framework
 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

 

World Humanitarian Summit: three tests for success
Thomson Reuters Foundation
After months of feverish consultation, preparation and speculation, the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) will finally kick off in Istanbul on May 23. The two-day Summit will convene 6,000 aid leaders to decide on how better to respond to today’s defining crises. So, what will mark the difference between an anti-climactic letdown and a rallying achievement? Here are my three measures of success.

World Employment and Social Outlook
ILO
Over the past two decades, significant progress has been made in reducing poverty in the majority of countries. In emerging and developing countries, taken as a whole, it is estimated that nearly 2 billion people live on less than $3.10 per day (adjusted for cost-of-living differences across countries). This represents around 36 per cent of the emerging and developing world’s population, which is nearly half the rate that was observed in 1990, when the initial international commitments to reduce poverty were undertaken. During the same period, extreme poverty – defined as people living on less than $1.90 per day – declined at an even faster rate to reach 15 per cent of the total population of emerging and developing countries in 2012, the latest available year

Should aid fight corruption? New book questions logic behind this week’s anti-corruption summit

Duncan Green's picture

Over at the Center for Global Development, Charles Kenny wants comments on the draft of his book on Aid and Corruption (deadline end of May). Let’s hope this becomes standard practice – it worked brilliantly for me on How Change Happens – more varied voices can chip in good new ideas, spot mistakes or contradictions, and it all helps get a buzz going ahead of publication.

But let me take it one step further. As a contribution to the corruption summit, hosted by David Cameron on 12 May 2016, I thought I would summarize/review the book. Charles gave the green light, provided I stress the ‘preliminary, drafty, subject-to-revisiony nature of the text’. Done.

The summit is about a lot more than aid – for example the rich countries putting their houses in order on tax havens. Which is just as well, because the book poses some real challenges to the whole ‘anti-corruption’ narrative on aid. What’s more, it is erudite, engagingly written and upbeat – as you’d expect given Charles’ optimistic previous takes like Getting Better. He’s got a great eye for telling research and ‘man bites dog’ surprise findings. Example: ‘Taking a cross section of countries and comparing current income (2010) to corruption perceptions in 2002 and income in 2002, results suggests more corrupt countries in 2002 have higher incomes in 2010.’

His core argument is pretty striking – when it comes to aid and corruption, corruption does indeed matter, but the cure is often worse than the disease: ‘an important and justified focus on corruption as a barrier to development progress has led to policy and institutional change in donor agencies that is damaging the potential for aid to deliver development.’ Ouch.

Campaign Art: Soap that helps early detection of cancer

Davinia Levy's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

If you think about your community (family, friends, colleagues, etc), you probably know someone who has or has had breast cancer. According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, in 2012, breast cancer was the second most common cancer, with about 1.7 million new cases registered.
 
The good news, if any, is that breast cancer has a very high survival rates (of over 90%) when detected and treated at an early stage. A good way to detect cancer early is to perform routine self-exams to search for any lumps or changes in the breast area. A recommended time to do these self-exams is when we are naked and alone – and these conditions are met when we are in the shower.

To incentivize self-exams amongst the local population in Puerto Rico, HIMA San Pablo – a network of hospitals – came up with this public health awareness campaign. They distributed soap with a reminder carved in each soap bar and with waterproof instructions to correctly perform self-examinations in the shower.
 
The Life Soap

The things we do: What the World Humanitarian Summit says about human nature

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Discussions of who mankind is usually begin with stories of small bands of hunter-gatherers roaming the savannah and struggling for survival under the African sun, of great feats of strength at the Olympics, or of monumental hurdles overcome to land on the moon.  They do not usually start like this: hundreds gather in a Mediterranean city to schmooze and discuss the fate of millions of others.  But this event is a quintessential story of who we are as human beings.  The World Humanitarian Summit demonstrates the very human characteristics of cooperation and competition.

Michael Tomasello, Director at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany and author of Why We Cooperate, has explored the distinctiveness of human nature for decades.  He and his colleagues suggest that one of the defining characteristics of humans is that we cooperate.  Many species, from ants to dolphins and primates, cooperate in the wild, but Tomasello has identified a special form of cooperation that is truly human. In his view, humans alone are capable of shared intentionality—the ability to intuitively understand what another person is thinking and act toward a common goal.

Leadership for results

Ajay Tejasvi Narasimhan's picture
In my experience, when development practitioners are called in to help address a complex challenge, they are not alone. Every development project requires an implementation team – people working together to achieve development objectives and outcomes. Depending on the nature of the challenge, practitioners may work with government officials, staff from NGOs and CSOs, community leaders, sector specialists, and others. It, thus, becomes vitally important for members of these teams to understand one another and the stake each has in the project, the perspective from which they approach it, and their assumptions about it, their history with, and their commitment to it.
 
In addition, development professionals must become knowledgeable about the reality of the communities in which they work to avoid designing implementation plans that don’t always work out as intended. For example, we have all heard the stories of cook stoves or toilets that are introduced into communities, but are used as storage objects. This attention to personal, political, and social factors affecting project design and implementation is precisely what the Collaborative Leadership for Development Program helps operational teams achieve and maintain, to get desired results.
 
In the 2015 World Development Report on Mind, Society, and Behavior, the World Bank identifies three kinds of thinking we all do by reflex.
  • Thinking automatically, rather than carefully and deliberatively – we typically do not bring our full analytical prowess to bear on the issues and experiences of our daily lives;
  • Thinking socially, or in ways that are related to how others around us think – the influence of peer-pressure on our thought process is an example; and
  • Thinking with mental models generated by societal norms and the culture in which we live that tacitly influence how we perceive and think about our world.

These ways of thinking, research suggests, are implicit and fundamental and they shape human behavior, including interpersonal and collective interactions and decision making. This insight has enormous implications for our development work. If we do not account for and bring to the surface such social, cultural, and psychological realities in the design and implementation of projects, we can expect to be setting ourselves up for failure. Most challenges today are a complex mix of technical problems and behavioral or adaptive challenges.

Quote of the week: Zaha Hadid

Sina Odugbemi's picture

“If I was a man, do you think I would be called a diva? No — they would just talk about the architecture.”

-Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi architect and the first Arab woman who received the Pritzker Architecture Prize, winning it in 2004. She also received the Stirling Prize in 2010 and 2011. In 2012, she was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire, and in 2015 she became the first woman to be awarded the RIBA Gold Medal in her own right.  Hadid is known for liberating architectural geometry with the creation of extremely expressive, sweeping fluid forms of "multiple perspective points and fragmented geometry to evoke the chaos of modern life." Her acclaimed works include the aquatic center for the London 2012 Olympics, the Broad Art Museum in the U.S., and the Guangzhou, China opera house.  She died on 31 March 2016 in Miami.

What is the serious conservative approach to politics?

Sina Odugbemi's picture

The word ‘conservative’ has lost all meaning these days, which is both sad and depressing. It is now used as short hand for all manner of romantic reactionaries (who want to go back to some Golden Age), bigots, racists, obscurantists, buffoons, and carnival barkers. Yet modern conservatism is a serious and intelligent approach to politics espoused by some of the finest and deepest minds in the history of political thought. I always say that when I studied political philosophy in graduate school I went into my studies as a political liberal, and while a came out more convinced of the justness and soundness of liberal constitutional democracy, the thinkers that had impressed me the most were mainly conservative political philosophers, particularly David Hume, Edmund Burke, Joseph de Maistre and James Madison. An encounter with these minds is a bracing experience. You do not survive it without your mental architecture being somewhat rearranged.

In what follows, I will attempt a restatement of modern (because it is also, like liberalism, a product of the Enlightenment) conservative political thought as I understand it, and try to indicate why I deeply respect this approach to social and political challenges even if I don’t always agree with it.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Curbing corruption and fostering accountability in fragile settings - why an imperilled media needs better support
BBC Media Action
An independent media is one of the most effective assets we have in efforts to curb corruption and foster accountability. Yet it is deeply imperilled, particularly in fragile states and often poorly understood by the international development sector. This policy working paper argues that unless development strategies begin to prioritise support to independent media, corruption may continue to go unchecked and the accountability of states will diminish.

Africa’s digital revolution: a look at the technologies, trends and people driving it
World Economic Forum
We are at the dawn of a technological revolution that will change almost every part of our lives – jobs, relationships, economies, industries and entire regions. It promises to be, as Professor Klaus Schwab has written, “a transformation unlike anything humankind has experienced before”. In no place is that more true than Africa, a continent that has yet to see all the benefits of previous industrial revolutions. Today, only 40% of Africans have a reliable energy supply, and just 20% of people on the continent have internet access.

Undeterred, Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies with Rania Anderson

Enrique Rubio's picture

Rania Anderson talks about her book Undeterred, The Six Success Habits of Women in Emerging Economies. Rania walks us through the habits. 

  1. to be undeterred, not to give up in the face of obstacles;
  2. to prepare yourself with your confidence and courage, and externally through the skills;
  3. to be focus, having goals and plans;
  4. work and life integration;
  5. accelerate, taking the actions that propel you forward and advance and
  6. lead, from wherever you are and whatever you do.

For the book, Rania interviewed ordinary woman who in normal environments and circumstances are being successful. She purposefully wanted to showcase women from emerging economies who have overcome the challenges around them to build successful ideas. Rania wanted to share her findings and the ideas that apply for women in developing countries.

Undeterred

Media (R)evolutions: Streaming into the future - Digital music increases its global share in the industry

Davinia Levy's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

How do you get your music? This is such a relevant question nowadays, since there are many ways to enjoy our favorite melodies: Do you buy physical copies (i.e., CDs - or vinyl for the essentialists amongst us)? Do you download your songs and singles? Or do you stream it directly from the internet? The music market is constantly evolving, and the way we consume music has a large impact in the industry’s revenues.  

Last month, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) launched its Global Music Report 2016, which outlines the state of the recorded music market worldwide. According to their own news release: “The global music market achieved a key milestone in 2015 when digital became the primary revenue stream for recorded music, overtaking sales of physical formats for the first time.”

Mark Mulligan, a media and technology analyst, put together in his Music Industry Blog, the following graph analyzing the numbers from the Global Music Report.

The anti-corruption agenda is in danger of forgetting its principal asset: An independent media

James Deane's picture

Sitting in a large, rain pattered, tent in the grounds of Marlborough House in London last week, I had to admit to a mixture of frustration and admiration.  Admirably hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat, the conference was the civil society and business gathering prefacing the major Anti-Corruption Summit organised by UK Prime Minister, David Cameron. 
 
First, the admiration. Both the outcomes of the Summit and the immense energy by civil society and other leaders in informing and influencing it, are impressive.  Registries of beneficial ownership, fresh agreements on information sharing, new commitments requiring disclosure of property ownership, new signatories to the Open Government Partnership and open contracting Initiatives, the commitment from leaders of corruption affected countries and much else on display this week suggests real innovation, energy and optimism in advancing the anticorruption agenda.
 
The frustration stems from a concern that, while there is much that is new being agreed, one of the principal and most effective existing assets for checking corruption has barely featured in the discussion so far – and it is an asset which is increasingly imperilled.
 
It isn’t just people like myself who point to the critical role of an independent media.  As I’ve argued in a new working paper, when any serious review of the evidence of what actually works in reducing corruption is undertaken, it is the presence of an independent media that features consistently.  In contrast, only a few of the anti-corruption measures that have been supported by development agencies to date have been effective. 

The income of the world’s poor is going up, but they’re $1 trillion poorer. What’s going on?

Duncan Green's picture

Oxfam number cruncher Deborah Hardoon tries to get her head round something weird – according to the stats, the poorest half of the world is getting poorer even though the incomes of these people are rising.

It has become something of a tradition that in January every year we take a look at the Forbes list of billionaires and the Credit Suisse Global Wealth databook and calculate how many billionaires it takes to have the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% of the planet. Since we started doing these calculations, we have watched the wealth of the top grow at the same time as the wealth of the bottom 50% has fallen. The data tells us that the bottom 50% have approximately $1 trillion (that’s $1,000 billion) less wealth than they did 5 years ago, whilst the richest 62 have about $0.5 trillion more.

The extremely wealthy are able to accumulate more wealth in a day than a whole factory full of workers could earn in a year. On 21stApril, in a 24 hour period, Carlos Slim made more than $400 million. Thomas Piketty famously points out that the rate of return on capital is higher than the general growth rate, such that capital owners are at a distinct economic advantage.

Meanwhile those 3.6 billion people in the bottom 50% include people in debt, people with nothing and people with a net wealth of up to about $5,000. People with little, no, or negative wealth, especially in developing countries with poor social insurance mechanisms (four out of five people in the bottom 50% live in Africa or Asia – including China and India), will not only find it hard to respond to financial shocks – like a poor harvest or a medical bill, but will also find it much harder to invest in their families’ future. Having little wealth may be concerning, but having less and less wealth year to year is even more worrying.

Quote of the week: Sadiq Khan

Sina Odugbemi's picture

"I am a Londoner, I am European, I am British, I am English, I am of Islamic faith, of Asian origin, of Pakistani heritage, a dad, a husband.”

- Sadiq Khan, a British Labour Party politician who was elected Mayor of London in the 2016 mayoral election, succeeding Conservative Party Mayor Boris Johnson.  Khan's election made him the first Muslim to head a major Western capital. He won with the largest personal mandate of any politician in the history of British politics and the third largest personal mandate in Europe.

Fighting corruption behind the scenes: The evolving and ever important role of forensic audits in international development

Ryna Ferlatte's picture

Ryna Ferlatte heads the Forensic Services Unit of the World Bank’s Integrity Vice Presidency (INT). She has over 20 years of experience in forensic accounting, audit and corporate financial accounting, and reporting. In this interview, she provides a window into the field of forensic auditing and explains why it's so important to global anti-corruption efforts.

Why do we know so little about forensic auditing?

Big corporate fraud and corruption cases like Enron, Satyam, Siemens and others offer the basis of knowledge for what forensic auditors can contribute, but forensic accountants often work in the background of these large investigations.  These cases show that the standard checks and balances, such as compliance, internal audit and external audit, are not always enough to prevent fraud and corruption.  The role of an independent oversight function such as INT is critical and the World Bank has been a leader in including forensic auditing as part of the exercise of its audit and inspection rights of Bank-funded contracts.  But this is not the only way forensics can add value.

Today, there is more recognition that forensics can be used not only to identify and quantify fraud and corruption losses, but also can serve as a deterrent and help reduce instances of such wrongdoing. And while forensic standards and tools are evolving globally, the results of forensic audits emphasize its value as an effective tool that can be also used proactively to cut financial losses in vulnerable sectors and high-risk projects.

Is piracy democratizing entertainment or destroying it?

Davinia Levy's picture

In many places in the world, there is easy access to pirated movies. You can either buy them in CD or DVD format from street vendors, or, increasingly, download them directly into your computer from online sites.  This form of consuming entertainment content is not only harmful to the movie industry but to culture in a broader sense.

Some may say that piracy is allowing more people access content that otherwise would not be available to them because of price. “Democratizing” entertainment, if you will. Movie tickets are not cheap, and for many, it can be a luxury treat to go watch a movie in the theater or buy the original DVD from a legitimate distributor. Furthermore, some may argue that if someone is pirating material because the price of the original is too high, that act of piracy cannot be considered a “loss sale” when calculating the economic damage of piracy, since that person would not have purchased the original material anyway (because it being too expensive). In that sense, piracy can make movies reach more people, beyond those wealthy enough to have the extra spendable income to go watch a movie in a cinema.

The real economic impact of piracy is hard to calculate in certain terms. However, many authors agree that movie studios lose a lot of revenue to piracy. This has a great impact on the kinds of movies that the studios will decide to invest in and produce. Faced with low box office and sales revenues, the movie industry will be more inclined to produce movies that will draw people to the cinemas and guarantee box office returns (such as big franchise sequels or blockbusters) rather than bet on a production that is considered less mainstream or invest in a new concept from an independent filmmaker. In Trevor Norkey’s words: Due to the increase in film piracy, production companies and movie studios are now much less likely to loan money out to an independent filmmaker with an idea than they are to a team of writers and producers working on a Harry Potter spin-off.

And, to me, that is the worst part.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Corruption? The developing world has bigger problems
Prospect
Few challenges in international development ignite as much passion as corruption. Perhaps ironically given the recent Panama Papers scandal, the UK government has encouraged the “zero tolerance” approach to corruption in international development. This approach may be the ideal, but an effective strategy for tackling corruption must acknowledge that it is a social and political problem, rather than purely a moral one.  In March, we contributed to the UK parliament’s International Development Committee inquiry on tackling corruption overseas. In our evidence, we argued that corruption in the developing world is not the worst of all evils—and that it cannot be wiped out without collateral damage.

Time to let go: remaking humanitarian action for the modern era
ODI
The humanitarian sector is suffering a crisis of legitimacy. Despite a decade of system-wide reforms, the sector is failing to adapt to meet the needs of people in crises. As humanitarian emergencies become more frequent, more complex and last longer, the need for radical change is ever growing. Drawing on four years of research, this report argues that the humanitarian system needs to let go of some fundamental – but outdated – assumptions, structures and behaviours to respond effectively to modern day crises. It argues for a new model of humanitarian action, one that requires letting go of the current paradigm.
 

Knowing what we don’t know (on the web)

Tanya Gupta's picture
Welcome to the third blog of the technology aided gut (TAG) checks series. In this year long skills transfer blog series we use an interactive and just-in-time learning strategy to help you learn to do TAG checks on your data.
 
In our last posting we talked about six techniques to make our questions more precise so as to get the best answers from the Web. In this blog, we look at the other side of the equation: how can we be reasonably confident that the answers we get from an online resource are correct? How can we know that the web has given us the right answer when we do not have the subject matter expertise ourselves?


Path to “Confucian” wisdom

How to know what you don’t know

The adage “True wisdom is knowing what you don't know” has been attributed to Confucius. While addressing this philosophical statement is beyond the scope of this blog, it is appropriate to title a pragmatic article borrowing from ancient wisdom. Knowing what you do not  know is the essential problem of learning in the modern era. Legacy learning depends on teachers and textbooks who you can rely on to be correct. However, for contemporary learning - how can you tell the correct from the incorrect if you don’t have sufficient knowledge of a domain?
 
We describe a four step process one can use to eliminate the really bad answers and get a decent idea of which ones are very good.
 
The process may not be able guarantee the answers we got are absolutely correct, but the level of accuracy of the answers we will get by following the process will be useful in most cases.

Campaign art: Is slavery woven into your clothing?

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

The textile industry, in particular the manufacturing of apparel, has long been a key industry in South Asia.  It provides those with relatively low skills with job opportunities. It also has a unique ability to attract female workers; women’s share of total apparel employment is much higher than in other industries in nearly every country in the region. In recent years, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka have made substantial investments in world apparel trade. In 2012, for example, apparel represented 83% of Bangladeshi exports and 45% of Sri Lankan exports.

Nevertheless, the apparel industry in many locations is burdened with poor working conditions and hazardous, degrading policies that damage the environment.  The harsh conditions that many workers in the developing countries must face have been qualified as “slave labour” by The European Parliament.

The Behind the Seams initiative is a new campaign dedicated to improving the conditions of workers in the international fashion industry and to raising awareness about the environmental impact of the industry. Because bad conditions throughout the production of clothing has a greater impact than just the factory. They started with a clear idea: transparency is the first step to transform the industry. There should be no mystery as to who is making your clothes, and all aspects and impacts of a brand’s supply chain should be known and regulated.
 
There should be no mystery
Source: Behind the Seams

World Bank’s Access to Information Policy— five+ years and going strong

Hannah George's picture

An active player in the transparency space, the World Bank just released its fifth Access to Information (AI) Annual Report. The report presents the evolution and progress of the Policy on Access to Information (the Policy) since it was launched on July 1, 2010, provides a variety of statistics, and highlights a range of transparency activities carried out in fiscal 2015. Since 2010, the Bank has pushed the frontiers to disclose more information and twice revised the Policy to keep abreast of evolving public demand—in 2013 to clarify declassification of certain Board transcripts, and in 2015 to align the treatment of the documents and records of the Board of Governors with the treatment of those of the Executive Directors. The following are select highlights from the past five years.
 
Enhanced information access. The Policy has provided the public with access to a broad range of historical and current information on operations, research, corporate matters, and Board decisions. The Bank has also received and responded to more than 3,000 access to information requests.  The number of requests declined from 700 in 2010 to 474 in 2015, due to the Bank’s proactive and systematic efforts to disclose information online. The main entry points to the Bank’s wealth of information are the Projects and Operations portal, which provides detailed information on lending operations, and the Documents and Reports repository, which contains more than 200,000 documents that are freely accessible to the public. Further, the Archives Holdings website offers a growing collection of digitized records dating to the 1940s.
 
Governance structure and appeals. The Policy has established two robust bodies to manage the appeals process—the AI Committee and the external AI Appeals Board. A new chair of the AI Committee was appointed last fall, Stefan Koeberle, Bank director of strategy, results and risk. In 2015, the membership of the AI Appeals Board was renewed with the selection of a new member and the re-appointment of two previous members. The number of appeals submitted to these bodies has been low, possibly indicating that proactive disclosure and the system for responding to requests are working well. The appeals mechanism ensures that the Bank implements the Policy effectively.

The things we do: Why people hate Uber’s surge pricing so much

Roxanne Bauer's picture

Globally, citizens from Guadalajara to Chengdu both love and loath ride sharing app, Uber. 

We love it for the convenience, the ease with which we can pay, and the ability to avoid intemperate weather conditions— all though a few taps on our mobile phone. 
But… we loath it when surge pricing is in effect.  “Surge pricing” increases the cost of rides by many times the normal fare when demand is swelling, most commonly at rush hour, during inclement weather, or on a public holiday.  In these cases, the supply of drivers is constant or even low, creating a shortage of available rides.  By raising the price of each ride, Uber encourages more drivers to pick up passengers and rations the available supply of rides to the customers who value the service the most (those who are willing to pay more).
 
Nevertheless, while surge pricing may make economic sense, it feels like price gouging for many customers.  The recent clampdown on surge pricing by the Delhi and Karnataka governments illustrates the intense debate over Uber’s policies that has been circulating worldwide. Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal even called surge pricing “daylight robbery”.
 
The debate has polarized opinion not just in India, but also in cities as diverse as Sydney, Paris, New York and Budapest. The reaction is even more severe when there is an emergency, such as during the December 2014 hostage crisis in Sydney, where a masked gunman held people captive in a café. As the central business district was cleared out by police, surge pricing automatically kicked in. Customers were appalled by Uber’s apparent insensitivity to the situation. The outrage grew so intense that Uber was forced it to suspend surge pricing and offer free rides.

Quote of the week: Ariane de Rothschild

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Ariane de Rothschild“In Africa, there is a lightness of being, probably because you have no choice. There’s a lot of poverty, misery, death, but people there have this joy of life. It’s very strong. You laugh a lot, you joke a lot, you have a warmth about you … I think, ‘You know what, we all have problems, good and bad [but] it’s a matter of posture, vis-à-vis life.’ ”

- Ariane de Rothschild, President of the Executive Committee of Edmond de Rothschild since 2015, and vice-president of the Edmond de Rothschild Holding SA since 1999. She also devotes a considerable amount of time to philanthropy through a historical network of family foundations, including the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation. She began her career as a trader in foreign exchange and metals with Société Générale in Australia and in New York. She then joined US insurance corporation AIG and developed the group’s European operations from Paris, France. She married Benjamin de Rothschild on January 23, 1999.

A Call for Global Action against Corruption

Stephen Zimmermann's picture

Supreme Court of Canada“Corruption is a significant obstacle to international development. It undermines confidence in public institutions, diverts funds from those who are in great need of financial support, and violates business integrity. Corruption often transcends borders. In order to tackle this global problem, worldwide cooperation is needed. When international financial organizations, such as the World Bank Group, share information gathered from informants across the world with the law enforcement agencies of member states, they help achieve what neither could do on their own.”
 
This statement was made not by someone from within the World Bank Group, underscoring the value of the Bank’s work in the fight against corruption. It is the opening passage of a decision by the Supreme Court of Canada issued on April 29, 2016 in the World Bank v. Wallace.  By endorsing the integrity efforts of international organizations while upholding the privileges and immunities of the World Bank, the Court’s decision serves as a reminder that better results in the fight against corruption can be achieved when all the actors in the global fight come together in their respective roles.  The investigation and prosecution that led to this decision stand as a clear example of the power we can harness when we work together. They also illustrate the challenges of aggressively fighting corruption while simultaneously pursuing a development agenda focused on ending poverty.

In 2011, the World Bank’s Integrity Vice-Presidency learned that representatives of SNC-Lavalin were planning to bribe officials of the Government of Bangladesh to obtain a contract related to the construction of a bridge over the Padma River.  The World Bank had already agreed to provide more than one billion dollars in financing for this project that was projected to be among the most significant and impactful development projects in the region.  As INT’s investigation unfolded, it voluntarily shared information of its findings initially with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and subsequently with the Bangladeshi Anti-Corruption Commission. 

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

What If We Just Gave Poor People a Basic Income for Life? That’s What We’re About to Test.
Slate
Over the past decade, interest has grown in an ostensibly unorthodox approach for helping people who don’t have much money: just give them more of it, no strings attached. In the old days of policymaking by aphorism—give a man a fish, feed him for a day!—simply handing money to the poor was considered an obviously bad idea. How naïve—you can’t just give people money. They’ll stop trying! They’ll just get drunk! The underlying assumption was that the poor weren’t good at making decisions for themselves: Experts had to make the decisions for them. As it turns out, that assumption was wrong. Across many contexts and continents, experimental tests show that the poor don’t stop trying when they are given money, and they don’t get drunk. Instead, they make productive use of the funds, feeding their families, sending their children to school, and investing in businesses and their own futures.

Media as a Form of Aid in Humanitarian Crises
Center for International Media Assistance
As the humanitarian crises following the Arab spring enter their sixth year, the media coverage of war, displacement, and migration in the Middle East and North Africa tragically have become all too familiar. For mainstream media, the millions of people whose lives have been upended are mostly data points, illustrations of the misery and upheaval that have swept across Syria, Yemen, Gaza, Iraq, and many places between. Yet for those who are caught in the crises, and plagued not only by insecurity and uncertainty but a lack of information, relatively little is available to help them make informed decisions for their own survival.  CIMA’s report, Media as a Form of Aid in Humanitarian Crises, examines how humanitarian crises around the world have led to a major change in the priorities and approaches in media development efforts. 
 

Media (R)evolutions: A 'deep and disturbing decline' in media freedom worldwide

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

It is widely acknowledged that a basic precondition for inclusive, democratic societies to function is a well-established and protected freedom of the press. A free press is one where political reporting is strong and independent, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and media are not subject to burdensome legal or economic pressures. Under these conditions, free debate, challenges to authority, and new ideas are all possible.
 
Nevertheless, “there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels,” in recent months according to the 2016 World Press Freedom Index. The World Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking and report on global media freedom around the world, produced by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). RSF attributes much of the global decline to antagonistic politics, new security laws, increased government surveillance, and physical attacks on journalists that all stifle the spirit of investigation and send chilling messages to journalists and media outlets. 
 
This map shows the countries where media are free to report the news and where the media is strictly controlled.
 
World press freedom visualised
Infographic: World press freedom visualised | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

 

Payment by results in aid: hype or hope?

Duncan Green's picture

Is payment by results just the most recent over-hyped solution for development, or is it an effective incentive for accelerating change?

Madeleine has a 17 month-old daughter who was born at the village's primary health facilityWhen reading up on payment by results (PbR) recently I was struck by the contrast between how quickly it has spread through the aid world and how little evidence there is that it actually works.

In a way, this is unavoidable with a new idea – you make the case for it based on theory, then you implement, then you test and improve or abandon. In this case the theory, ably argued by Center for Global Development (CGD) and others, was that PbR aligns incentives in developing country governments with development outcomes, and encourages innovation, since it does not specify how to, for example, reduce maternal mortality, merely rewards governments when they achieve it.

Those arguments have certainly persuaded a bunch of donors. The UK government (pdf) says that this “new form of financing that makes payments contingent on the independent verification of results ... is a cross government reform priority”. The UK’s department for international development (DfID) called its 2014 PbR strategy Sharpening Incentives to Perform (pdf) and promised to make it “a major part of the way DfID works in future”. David Cameron, the British prime minister, waxes lyrical on the topic.

But I seem to be coming up against a long list of potential problems with PbR. Let’s start with Paul Clist and Stefan Dercon: 12 Principles for PbR in International Development (pdf), who set out a series of situations in which PbR is either unsuitable or likely to backfire. For example if results cannot be unambiguously measured, lawyers are going to have a field day when a donor tries to refuse payment by arguing they haven’t been achieved. They also make the point that PbR makes no sense if the recipient government already wants to achieve a certain goal – then you should just give them the money up front and let them get on with it.

Quote of the week: Angus Deaton

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Angus Deaton at a press conference at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences"Politics is a danger to good data; but without politics data are unlikely to be good, or at least not for long."

- Angus Deaton, a British-American economist. In 2015, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare. The Nobel Prize website writes, "To design economic policy that promotes welfare and reduces poverty, we must first understand individual consumption choices. More than anyone else, Angus Deaton has enhanced this understanding. By linking detailed individual choices and aggregate outcomes, his research has helped transform the fields of microeconomics, macroeconomics, and development economics."