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The Multidimensional Poverty Index Debate: rounds 2, 3, 4 …

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

There has been a first-class debate on various blogs on the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), including here, in this blog. Here’s a brief round-up:

Rivalité fraternelle au Burkina Faso

Damien de Walque's picture

L’école, une opportunité rare, objet de choix stratégiques dans les familles.

“Ici, pour les parents, l’école n’est pas une priorité”. Cette réflexion, empreinte de fatalisme, est souvent entendue comme explication des taux de fréquentation scolaire faibles dans certaines régions d’Afrique. Une étude récente menée dans la Province du Nahouri au Burkina Fasosuggère que la situation est plus complexe.

A debate on multidimensional poverty indices

Gabriel Demombynes's picture

At Duncan Green’s blog, there is a fascinating back-and-forth on the UN’s new Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) between its co-creator, Sabina Alkire, and the World Bank’s Martin Ravallion. This is very much a live debate in development circles. The MPI is a descendant of the earlier Human Development Index and is similar to the various Unsatisfied Basic Needs indices long used in many countries.

I agree wholeheartedly with Martin’s critique, but Sabina does offer a spirited (and highly hyperlinked) defense. Martin’s emphasizes two points: 1) what’s the point of aggregating a bunch of indicators into a single index? and 2) the choice of weights for such an index is inherently problematic.

Varieties of African successes

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Tolstoy notwithstanding, the 20 African success stories described in the booklet “Yes, Africa Can” show that success comes in many different forms.  Broadly speaking, the cases fall into three categories:

- Success from removing an existing, major distortion.  The best example is Ghana’s cocoa sector, which was destroyed by the hyperinflation and overvalued exchange rate in the early 1980s.  When the exchange rate regime was liberalized and the economy stabilized, cocoa exports boomed (and continue to grow).  Similar examples include Rwanda’s coffee sector and Kenya’s fertilizer use.  Africa’s mobile phone revolution, too, is an example of the government’s stepping out of the way—in this case by deregulating the telecommunications sector—and letting the private sector jump in. 

Raising the Volume on 'Quiet Corruption'

Shanta Devarajan's picture

 
Photo: Arne Hoel

In Uganda, teachers in public primary schools are absent 27 percent of the time. In Chad, less than one percent of the non-wage recurrent expenditures reaches primary health clinics.  In West Africa, about half the fertilizer is diluted before it reaches the farmer. 

More cell phones than toilets

Shanta Devarajan's picture

An article in yesterday’s New York Times observes that, with the number of mobile subscriptions exceeding five billion, more people today have access to a cell phone than to a clean toilet.  Leaving aside the relative value of these two appliances, the surge in cell phones in Africa—some 94 percent of urban Africans are near a GSM signal—is transforming the continent.  Farmers in Niger use cell phones to find out which market is giving the best price; people in Kenya pay their bills and send money home using M-Pesa.

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