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Sina Odugbemi's blog

Quote of the Week: Hélder Pessoa Câmara

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Hélder Câmara“When I give food to the poor, I am considered a saint.  But when I ask why they are poor, I am called a communist."

Hélder Pessoa Câmara, the Catholic Archbishop of Olinda and Recife, Brazil, serving from 1964 to 1985 during the military regime of the country. He was an advocate of liberation theology, and is remembered for the above aphorism.

Quoted in the Financial Times on June 20, 2015, "A rock-star Pope puts his faith in science" by David Gardner

 

You leak, but I brief. Who is the scoundrel?

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Secret meetingJames Callaghan, Labor Party Prime Minister of Great Britain (1976-1979), is reported to have quipped: “You leak, but I brief”. In other words, while the politician that he was addressing leaked official documents to the media (a wrong, probably illegal move) he merely briefed the media. His practice, he was implying, was less blameworthy. The question is: is it?

Leaks of official documents and the leakers involved are in the news a lot these days. Some of these leakers are leaking documents on an epic scale, exploiting the weaknesses of modern electronic document management systems. Documents that in the past you would have had to break into safes in a thousand different locations around the world to access you can now find in a single online repository…if you have the right hacking or document stealing skills. While in the past a leaker would send a single document by mail to the editor of a leading newspaper, now we are getting thousands of pages stolen and shared all at once.

There is a romantic, Hollywood view of the epic leakers, and movies are also being made about them, usually hagiographies. The epic leakers are seen as heroic figures, doughty champions acting in the overall public interest. Perhaps. I have no doubt that there are leakers who are genuine whistle blowers, determined to expose wrong doing by public officials. But one also suspects that some of these leakers are complexly motivated individuals. And some of the epic leakers are egomaniacs who fancy themselves as world-historic figures.

Quote of the Week: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala

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Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala“I am misfit and a happy misfit.”

- Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, a world renowned Nigerian economist currently serving as Finance Minister of Nigeria. She is credited with developing reform programs in Nigeria that helped improve governmental transparency and stabilzing the economy.  Previously, she worked for the World Bank, including several years as one of its Managing Directors (October 2007 – July 2011). 

As quoted in the Financial Times on June 5, 2015, Lunch with the FT: Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, by William Wallis

 

Quote of the Week: Milan Kundera

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Milan Kundera in 1980"When the heart speaks, the mind finds it indecent to object."
 
- Milan Kundera, author of The Unbearable Lightness of Being and a recurring nominee for the Nobel Prize in Literature. He was born in Czechoslovakia but has been living in exile in France since 1975, as his books were banned by the Communist regime of Czechoslovakia until the downfall of the regime in the Velvet Revolution of 1989.

Quote of the Week: Arnab Goswami

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Arnab Goswami"I've often said this: that, in a choice between right and wrong, black and white, the facts that stare you in your face, will you not take a side on what is right?" 
 
Arnab Goswami, an Indian journalist and the editor-in-chief of Indian news channel Times Now. He anchors The Newshour, a live debate show that airs weekdays on Times Now and hosts the television programme Frankly Speaking with Arnab.
 

Quote of the Week: Barack Obama

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"Because ultimately, in an information age, open societies have the capacity to innovate and educate and move faster and be part of the global marketplace more than closed societies do over the long term. I believe that."

Barack Obama, President of the United States, speaking August 6, 2014 at a Press Conference after U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
Photograph by Lance Cpl. Michael J. Ayotte, USMC, available on Wikimedia Commons

Quote of the Week: Jacob Zuma

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President Jacob Zuma pays a special visit to Former President Nelson Mandela on eve of 2011 Government Local Elections"People tend to try to find something to talk about Zuma. My surname is very nice and simple. Very simple, so they like pronouncing it all the time. So what's the problem?"

-Jacob Zuma, president of South of Africa, on why his name continues to appear in the South African press. 

His administration has experienced a series of scandals that have put his reputation and that of his ruling African National Congress party under scrutiny.

Quote of the Week: B.B. King

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B.B. King Live im Audimax der Uni Hamburg, November 1971“Growing up on the plantation there in Mississippi, I would work Monday through Saturday noon,” he said. “I’d go to town on Saturday afternoons, sit on the street corner, and I’d sing and play.

I’d have me a hat or box or something in front of me. People that would request a gospel song would always be very polite to me, and they’d say: ‘Son, you’re mighty good. Keep it up. You’re going to be great one day.’ But they never put anything in the hat.

But people that would ask me to sing a blues song would always tip me and maybe give me a beer. They always would do something of that kind. Sometimes I’d make 50 or 60 dollars one Saturday afternoon. Now you know why I’m a blues singer.”


-B.B. King, an American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist. He is widely regarded as one of the most influential blues guitarists of all time, inspiring countless other electric blues and blues rock guitarists

Brian Levy’s ‘Working with the Grain’

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Working With the Grain by Brian LevyWhat are the proper ambits of an agenda for improving governance systems in developing countries? And what is the most sensible way of implementing governance reforms, or even thinking about them? If you have been involved with the subject you know that these are vexed questions. Just last week, I attended a book launch here at the World Bank and a senior official involved with governance made the following point. There is no agreed framework for the work in governance, certainly not one developed by political scientists. What we have, he said, is an agenda developed by donors and it boils down to a way of making simple normative judgements based on a linear framework.

That may well be the point of Brian Levy’s fascinating and readable newish book: Working with the Grain: Integrating Governance and Growth in Development Strategies (Oxford Universities Press, 2014). Levy is an esteemed thinker-practitioner who worked for the World Bank until recently and is now a member of the faculties of the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University here in Washington and the University of Cape Town. He divides his time between the two schools.

The book is a summing up of sorts. Levy had tremendous field experience while at the World Bank, and he tells war stories with wit and some panache. It is also the result of his deep reading and reflection. As a result, Working with the Grain is part memoir, part polemic, part hard-headed political economy analysis.  

Quote of the Week: Ray Kurzweil

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Raymond Kurzweil"The reality of information technology is it progresses exponentially... 30 steps linearly gets you to 30. One, two, three, four, step 30 you're at 30.  With exponential growth, it's one, two, four, eight. Step 30 you're at a billion."
 

-Ray Kurzweil, an American author, computer scientist, inventor, futurist, and a director of engineering at Google
 

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