December 2008

How much is $700bn?

admin - December 30, 2008

The arguments for a bailout to avoid systemic collapse are of course genuine and persuasive, but so are the arguments for aid and against standing by and allowing a child to die every 3 seconds, or a woman to die in childbirth every minute. To put the proposed Wall Street bailout into perspective. $700bn: · Would clear the accumulated debt of the 49 poorest countries in …

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How will the meltdown affect development?

admin - December 29, 2008

If the current financial meltdown causes the US and Europe to sneeze, will poor countries catch cold, succumb to pneumonia, or have they discovered a new flu vaccine in the growing economic presence of China? I’m currently on a visit to East Africa, and that is the question that is preoccupying many of its leaders. Here are some initial thoughts, but any pointers to good …

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Update on global poverty figures – another 400 million below the poverty line

admin - December 29, 2008

As discussed in my previous blog, the World Bank has now issued its revised global poverty numbers. These have been recalculated to respond to its improved measure of ‘purchasing power parity’, which rebalances figures for GDP to allow for the fact that the price of goods and services varies between countries (i.e. a haircut in Sierra Leone costs a lot less than a haircut in …

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Shocks and Change

admin - December 29, 2008

Funny thing, the Chatham House rule. Introduced by the Chatham House thinktank to enable policy makers to speak more freely at seminars and meetings, people often assume it means you are sworn to complete secrecy about what was said. Not so. The actual rule reads “When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information …

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Never make predictions, especially about the future

admin - December 29, 2008

The panacea of technological innovation is routinely trotted out by political leaders faced with difficult problems. Poverty? A laptop in every village! Climate Change? Carbon capture and storage, with a side helping of biofuels! So no need to ask, let alone answer, difficult questions on distribution, or possible environmental limits to growth – the magic bullet of technology will get us all off the hook.

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Recession, development and climate change: the big picture

admin - December 28, 2008

This article of mine first appeared in the 25th October issue of the Scotsman. If the 1930s are any guide, the seismic shock hitting the global economy has a long way to go. First came the plummeting stocks on Wall Street, then the social trauma of mass unemployment, soup kitchens and skid row. But they in turn triggered much deeper changes.

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Bailouts v aid v climate change – $ reveals priorities

admin - December 28, 2008

The most popular post ever on this blog was ‘How much is $700bn‘ – a set of ‘killer facts‘ on the initial US bailout. These days $700bn feels like small change, so it’s time for an update in the run up to Saturday’s Financing for Development meeting in Doha and Monday’s start to this year’s big climate change ‘conference of the parties’ in Poznan. ‘Skewed Priorities’, …

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What might Obama do on US Aid Policy?

admin - December 27, 2008

By the time I got to the US (a week after the election), euphoria seemed to have given way to the strange interregnum between presidents. I found a vast gossip machine on who gets what job in the new administration (7000 jobs are up for grabs), and a lingering underswell of pride and anticipation, laced with concern at inflated expectations (not confined to the US …

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Complexity, Chaos, Catastrophes and Change: Is the New Physics much help to development wonks?

admin - December 26, 2008

One of the unfinished tasks in From Poverty to Power is developing a better model for analysing processes of change, so I’ve been going back to my prehistoric roots as a physics undergraduate, and reading about complexity and chaos. Exploring the Science of Complexity is a newish (February 08) paper from the Overseas Development Institute that wrestles with the question posed by Robert Chambers back …

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