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January 2012

Year of uncertainties and vulnerabilities ahead

Andrew Burns's picture

A new year has just begun. A year fraught with uncertainties brought on by a heady slide down which began in August 2011. A turn for the worse in the European debt crisis and the downgrade of the US sovereign rating sent financial markets around the globe in a tailspin.

In a matter of five months, stock markets around the world recorded $6.5 trillion (or.

Subsidies, loss aversion, and lessons from Iran

Caroline Freund's picture
One week after extensive protests and strikes against the government’s removal of fuel subsidies, the Nigerian government responded by rolling back prices.  The cost of gasoline had doubled since New Year's Day, and this week’s reversal leaves prices elevated by just one third. Most Nigerians view the subsidy as the main benefit from the country's oil wealth. Though implementation was faulty in this case, there is a strong economic rationale for subsidy removal that goes well beyond their high budgetary cost.  Subsidies distort prices and hence, too much of the subsidized good is used by consumers and producers because it is relatively cheap.

Best Ideas of 2011: Revolutionizing mindsets for a new Arab World

Diana Hollmann's picture

The DM will be having a competition in Egypt around employment in agriculture. We will be featuring articles around these subjects in the coming months as we move toward the competition date.

This article was originally published on http://www.nextbillion.net/. NextBillion is a website and blog bringing together a community in the shared mission of development through enterprise.


Photo Credit: Lorenz Khazaleh via Flickr

Barriers to unleashing entrepreneurial activity

Through the media we mostly hear about the political transformations sparked by the Arab Spring; but the dire economic situation, particularly of the youth in the region, was the final straw that actually got the ball rolling: two thirds of the region’s population is below 30 years of age. Some 20 to 30 percent of youth, in some countries up to a staggering 45 percent, are unemployed while barriers for starting a new business persist. By 2020, 50 million new jobs will have to be created just to keep current unemployment figures on the same level. Business creation will be an important motor for job growth; however, barriers for aspiring entrepreneurs are still commonplace in MENA. When Steve Jobs (who was half Syrian) passed away, a 28-year old from Damascus said: “I think that if (Jobs) had lived in Syria he would not have been able to achieve any of this, or else he would have chosen to leave Syria.”

Towards justice in development

Michael Woolcock's picture

Law and justice play a fundamental role in development processes. In rich and poor countries alike, regulations and rule systems—consisting of a complex web of formal institutions, informal arrangements and hybrid social norms—shape everything from education, land use and agriculture to labor standards, market exchange and everyday social interactions. 

How Can Development NGOs Go Urban?

Duncan Green's picture

Just spent a fascinating week in Nairobi, taking part in a review of our three-year- old urban programme there. Like many large development NGOs, Oxfam is deeply rural – goats, irrigation, drought, that kind of thing - but the world has gone urban, and so in a few countries, we are dipping our organizational toes in the water. Some impressions on the challenges of urban work:

Perhaps most striking are the multiple centres of power and association compared to the rural world. Tier upon tier of government, dense networks of clubs, traditional and tribal structures and militia, social and community organizations, churches, ‘merry-go-round’ savings and loans groups, youth groups, sports clubs, cultural groups – the list is endless. Power is dispersed and often hard to map or even detect. How to chart a way through the forest of organizations and identify potential partners and targets for influence?

In defense of industrial policy

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Like others, I have been skeptical about industrial policy in Africa, where the government selects certain industries for support in order to trigger a process of structural transformation. It’s been tried before—with disastrous results. 

The selected industries were captured by political elites who continued to receive subsidies without generating anything close to labor-intensive growth (the Morogoro shoe factory in Tanzania never exported a single pair of shoes). Furthermore, most of the constraints to industrial growth in Africa are man-made: policies or regulations that stand in the way of poor workers’ employment prospects.

The evil of flowers: women’s work and domestic violence in Ethiopia

Markus Goldstein's picture

After talking about domestic violence measurement and the need for some kind of model when you think about things like domestic violence with Toan last week, this week I look at a new paper from Jonas Hort and Espen Villanger which both asks the question carefully and definitely makes me think hard about what the

How much to referee and how to do it?

David McKenzie's picture

I came back from a week off at the start of this year to find 7 referee requests from different journals waiting for me , of which I accepted 5 and turned down 2 – clearly some people are working quickly on that New Year’s resolution to send out their papers. Getting so many requests in the same week got me thinking about both how much I want to referee this year and what I can do to be a better referee.

How much to referee?

The Rich Role of Mobile Phones in Financial Inclusion

Ignacio Mas's picture

The mobile phone has become a useful tool in tackling the  financial access deficit in many countries. M-PESA in Kenya has shown that adoption curves typical of new information-based technologies (radio,TV, mobiles, internet) can be applied to  financial services. Yet M-PESA-like mobile payment schemes have only scratched the surface of what is possible. The typical mobile money user still uses it only a couple of times a month.

In a recent paper, Colin Mayer of the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford and I argue that the real power of mobile will come when it is seen not only as a mechanism for reducing access costs but also for building new types of banking experiences. Indeed, the agenda needs to shift from access to use.


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