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December 2012

Why ‘Why Nations Fail’ Fails (Mostly): Review of Acemoglu and Robinson - 2012's Big Development Book

Duncan Green's picture

Every now and then, a ‘Big Book on Development’ comes along that triggers a storm of arguments in my head (it’s a rather disturbing experience). One such is Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoglu (MIT) and James Robinson (Harvard). Judging by the proliferation of reviews and debates the book has provoked, my experience is widely shared.

First, what does the book say?

‘The focus of our book is on explaining world inequality’, which is essentially a phenomenon of the last 200 years (certainly at its current extreme levels) – the average income of a conquistador was only about twice that of a citizen of the Inca empire.

Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?

Maya Brahmam's picture

This week, the Financial Times reported that Jacob Rothschild bought into a peer-to-peer lending (P2P) company, Zopa, which allows people to lend to each other directly over the Internet. The Lending Club, a US-based P2P company, has processed more than $1 billion in loans and is preparing for an initial public offering.

Why has this sort of lending taken off? According to Rothschild, “Savers are looking for a way to get enhanced yield and at the same time, borrowers are looking for options where banks aren’t lending.” A recent post on Bloomberg noted that “Lending online became popular in China after a tightening of bank credit in 2010 following two years of stimulus spending to fight the global financial crisis.” Furthermore, the total amount that circulates as loans among friends, families and companies is $1.3 trillion – an amount equal to last year’s US budget deficit.

When Business Gets Personal: How Laws Affect Women's Economic Opportunities

Yasmin Bin-Humam's picture

12-12-12 marks an auspicious day on which couples are rushing to get married. Globally, many women and men have been waiting for this day to mark as the day they got married. Those who miss it will need to wait 100 years to have another chance like this one again. But depending on where in the world they are, getting married will mean different things for these women, their career and future business opportunities.

In many economies around the world women are legally prevented from conducting basic transactions which are necessary precursors to entrepreneurship and employment. Women, particularly married women, can be barred from actions such as opening bank accounts, determining where to work or live, and having the ability to move freely. In some economies married women need their husbands’ permission to carry out such actions.

“Oops! Did I just ruin this impact evaluation?” Top 5 of mistakes and how the new Impact Evaluation Toolkit can help.

Christel Vermeersch's picture

On October 3rd, I sent out a survey asking people what was the biggest, most embarrassing, dramatic, funny, or other oops mistake they made in an impact evaluation. Within a few hours, a former manager came into my office to warn me: “Christel, I tried this 10 years ago, and I got exactly two responses.” 

My Wakeup Call

Onno Ruhl's picture

It was a 4:30am wake-up call on a cold morning in Delhi for my flight to Lucknow. I stepped into the shower… only to find cold water. Not the best start of a day I have had!

When I got back from my trip a few days later, I asked the building manager why there had been no hot water at that time. “Sir” he said, “it is solar; 4:30 is too early!"

I had to think about that for a while. Different perspectives raced through my mind: First, I thought it was great that the water heating was solar and thus running on clean energy. After that, I thought that it was a real pity we do not know how to store solar energy so that we could still have hot water at 4:30 in the morning. After that again, I actually felt it was perfectly OK not to have hot water at 4:30 in the morning: we will not be able to solve our energy problems without some compromises for those of us who have hot water at all. And that brought me to the most important realization: millions and millions of people were waking up at the same time as I did, but theirs was a dark winter morning because they do not have electricity to turn on a light bulb, let alone get hot water for a bath.

What Does a 'Rights-Based Approach' Look Like in Practice? A New Oxfam Guide

Duncan Green's picture

Sometimes it seems like the devil has all the best tunes, while the angels struggle to get their message across. In development, some of the most interesting and important concepts are rendered impenetrable to non-specialists by a morass of jargon.

Take human rights for example. Yesterday was the International Human Rights Day, but I for one, find that the dry, legalistic and jargon-filled language of the ‘human rights community’ often seems depressingly, well, inhuman. One example is, alas, Oxfam’s new ‘Learning Companion to the Right to be Heard Framework’, published yesterday to coincide with this year’s International Human Rights Day’s focus on ‘voice’.

But please read it, because under all the jargon-laden sentences about ‘governance components as mechanisms to ensure transparency and accountability in delivery of quality essential services’ there is some real and useful substance. Trust me.

Egypt DM launch and roadshow!

Ehaab Abdou's picture

After several months of planning and consultations with our partners, which started in May 2011, the Egypt Development Marketplace (DM) was launched on November 8, 2012. As part of the outreach strategy, the Egypt DM team organized a series of information sessions in four of Upper Egypt’s major cities; Asyut, Qena, Aswan and Minya. The sessions were co-organized and co-hosted with Egypt DM partners International Labor Organization, Social Fund for Development, Sawiris Foundation, and others. The sessions were attended by approximately 400 leaders from agricultural cooperatives, NGOs and small companies. In addition to the usual warm welcome and generous hospitality, typical of Egyptians, here are some reflections based on what we heard from the participants:

Chart: Good jobs for development are not the same everywhere

LTD Editors's picture

From the World Development Report 2013.

Looking through the jobs lens and focusing on the key features of the different country types can help identify more clearly the kinds of jobs that would make the greatest contribution to development in each case. This focus allows for a richer analysis of the potential tradeoffs between living standards, productivity, and social cohesion in a specific context.

Youth at the Forefront of Anti-Corruption Movement

Joseph Mansilla's picture

Jiwo Damar Anarkie from Indonesia is a young co-founder of the Future Leaders for Anti-Corruption (FLAC) a local NGO, and he uses storytelling and hand puppets to teach integrity to elementary school students.
 
"They're very young, at the stage where character building is still possible. Storytelling is one of the most effective ways to do so," said Anarkie.
 
The organization did an initial road show in four schools in Jakarta, and later built partnerships with Komisi Pemberantasan Korupsi (KPK, Corruption Eradication Commission), allowing the team to reach more schools in more cities as well as to train more storytellers and purchase more hand puppets.


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