These are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.
Trading Privilege for Privation, Family Hits a Nerve in South Africa
The New York Times
“Regina Matshega was gossiping with a neighbor over a fence between their shacks in the Phomolong squatter camp last month when a very unexpected sight suddenly popped into view: two ruddy-cheeked white South Africans, a man and a woman, with two towheaded toddlers running at their heels.
‘I couldn’t believe my eyes,’ Ms. Matshega said. ‘What are white people doing here? They live in the rich places. They never come this side.’” READ MORE
The narrative on development economics—the discipline that deals with well-being in the low and middle income countries where 6 billion people on our planet live—continues to swing back and forth between optimism and pessimism. The United Nations’ High-Level Panel report on the post-2015 development agenda (for which I was the Lead Author) calls for the eradication of extreme poverty by 2030, a boldly optimistic goal. But it also emphasizes that this can only be achieved if we learn from our past mistakes; business-as-usual will not get us there because, despite massive and broad-based progress, too many people are being left behind and too many programs are failing to reach scale, points that pessimists focus on.
Chances are by now you’ve seen the video ‘What Does the Fox Say?’ The Ylvis brothers developed a catchy music video starting in Norway and spreading like a wild fire across the planet, jumping from city to city. In less than a week 15 million people watched the fox dance and try to make his case.
Videos and other social media are emerging as one of the most powerful forces shaping countries and cities. For example, Oscar Morales and his Facebook campaign to ban FARC in Colombia, the Arab Spring, and Toronto’s recent police shootings and earlier G20 beatings (video taped and shared widely – police charged and convicted).
Many of us may think of the more urban mammals like a cow or two, raccoons, squirrels, rats, feral dogs and cats, but when it comes to cities, the fox has a lot to say. Here are a few of his likely comments on cities.
The following post is a part of a series that discusses 'managing risk for development,' the theme of the World Bank’s upcoming World Development Report 2014.
As the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus wrote, the only thing constant is change. And with change comes uncertainty. Faced with choices for bettering their lives, people make virtually every decision in the presence of uncertainty. Young people decide what to study without knowing exactly what jobs and wages will be available when they enter the labor market. Adults decide how much to save for retirement in the face of uncertain future income and health conditions. Farmers decide what to cultivate not knowing with certainty whether there will be enough rain for their crops and what demand and prices their products will command in the market. And governments decide the level of policy interest rates and fiscal deficits in the presence of uncertain external conditions and domestic productivity growth.
The best day’s training I ever did was a speed reading course, offered by DFID (I had a short stint there about ten years ago). It helps me every day – when was the last time you could say that about a training course?
The first part of the course covered what you normally think of as speed reading – reading faster. When you read unaided, your eye jumps backwards and forwards, as well as up and down between the lines. By simply using a guide (a pencil, or one of those plastic coffee stirrers) and moving it under the line as you read, you can double your speed without missing content (we tested ourselves at the beginning and end of the day, and it was true).
But you have to concentrate really hard and take regular breaks, and you have to avoid saying the words aloud in your head (which slows you down). Since then, I have occasionally tried it, but it hasn’t stuck.
The second part of the training seemed less significant at the time, but has had a much bigger impact: how to approach a document. Unless you’re reading for pleasure, you should not just assume that you start at the beginning and read through to the end. The document has to earn your time.
- Speed Reading
- Be African or of African descent
- Be within one or two years of completing their Ph.D.
- Be enrolled in an academic institution and returning to university after the program
- Be below 32 years of age
- Have an excellent command of English (both written and verbal)
- Possess strong quantitative and analytical skills
Participation in the program may start at any time during the year. Fellows receive round-trip air travel to Washington, D.C. from their university, and remuneration during their fellowship. Throughout their Fellowship, students will be able to use their access to World Bank facilities, information and staff to enhance their doctoral research. After completing six months of the fellowship, high performers will be offered an additional six months to continue their work with the Bank.
Public knowledge about India's ambitious Employment Guarantee Scheme is low in one of India's poorest states, Bihar, where participation is also unusually low. Is the solution simply to tell people their rights? Or does their lack of knowledge reflect deeper problems of poor people's agency and an unresponsive supply side?
Today, four-fifths of world trade – worth around US$15 trillion – happens along global value chains (GVCs) coordinated by multinational enterprises (MNEs), or corporations that manage production or deliver products across several countries. These enterprises have always played an important role in connecting developing countries to world markets. The issue of what drives their location, and how much countries can do to become part of their value chains is, therefore, of enduring policy interest. We know that fundamentals help – investment climate, infrastructure, and cost of doing business are all important – but they are by no means a guarantee. Rather, serendipity and historical accidents have played major roles in the success or failure of many similar countries in Asia that tried to attract and keep the investment of MNEs. Can the history of global value chains tell us anything about the future? More to the point, is there anything developing countries can do to increase their chances of harnessing this engine of growth?