August 2009

Ugandan comic books; cash transfers in New York; praise for Jacob Zuma; Reaganite timewarp on healthcare reform and wonderful Magnum pics: links I liked

admin - August 28, 2009

Chris Blattman raves (in a good way) about a comic book (sorry, graphic novel) about the civil war in Uganda And links to a fascinating attempt to apply the lessons of conditional cash transfer programmes in Mexico and Brazil to…… New York The FT finds much to celebrate in Jacob Zuma’s first hundred days ‘The astonishing thing about the current political scene is the extent …

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The great Microfinance debate: Comments on the Comments, some loose ends and some new info

admin - August 27, 2009

Back from Bangladesh and still processing both the real life and blog discussions on microfinance institutions (MFIs), following last week’s post and the good debate in the comments. A few final (probably…) observations: Microcredit v Microfinance: point taken. A lot of the doubts and criticisms apply to microcredit (loans), not to the wider range of financial services (insurance, savings etc) that MFIs sometimes provide. Non-loan …

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Up to our knees in Climate Change in Bangladesh

admin - August 26, 2009

Wading through tidal salt water pouring across a rapidly eroding road in an area of the coast that had never previously seen anything on this scale, climate change has never seemed so immediate. In May, Cyclone Aila breached the embankments and produced a humanitarian disaster, killing hundreds and affecting some 5 million Bangladeshis. Three months on, 300,000 are still homeless and the communities around the town …

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Snapshots of Bangladesh: inequality on wheels, evil prawns, resilient garments, acid attacks and dodgy infrastructure

admin - August 25, 2009

Just spent a week on a ‘busman’s holiday’ (where the distinction between work and leisure gets very blurred), visiting Bangladesh with younger son Finlay (17). A few headlines, and then tomorrow, something more substantial on climate change. Prawns, raised in paddy fields for export, have long had a bad press in Bangladesh, and no wonder. Prawns need salt water, rice needs fresh; the battle over …

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Microfinance again – the views of some Bangladeshi farmers

admin - August 21, 2009

I spent some time yesterday with a group of 20 Bangladeshi small farmers (13 men, 7 women) linked to a sustainable agriculture NGO, Unnayan Dhara (sorry, they don’t yet have a website). Among other things (climate change, access to markets etc) I asked them about microfinance, given my post on Wednesday and the subsequent discussion on the comments. Here’s a summary of what they told …

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What can you do if teachers don't show up?

admin - August 20, 2009

There has been significant progress in recent years in getting kids into school, but what’s the point if the teachers don’t show up for work? In general, the poorer the country, the higher the level of absenteeism. The explanations are both obvious (wages are so low, teachers need to look for second jobs, or funnel their students into private tuition) and less apparent (demoralized teachers …

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The backlash against microfinance

admin - August 19, 2009

The intellectual battlefield of development is littered with magic bullets. New ideas or technologies such as the internet or mobile phones are picked up, promoted as panaceas that will end poverty and transform societies, and then rapidly cut down to size by scrutiny and research. That process seems to be well under way on microfinance. As it happens, I’m in Bangladesh at the moment, where …

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The Global Campaign for Education – a model of international activism

admin - August 18, 2009

‘Global campaigning’ is sometimes criticised for being driven by northern agendas. As one frustrated Indian activist interviewed in the paper discussed here asked ‘what is a global campaign? Does it mean you get a lot of people together in UK, have a Bono concert and ask us here in India to get together and shout? That is not locally relevant.’ One exception is the Global …

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When farmers and weather men disagree, who's right?

admin - August 17, 2009

I recently blogged on an excellent new paper by Steve Jennings and John Magrath on the changing nature of the seasons across a range of developing countries. One of the interesting side issues that emerged is that, while in most countries farmers’ perceptions fit the meteorological data, in a few others, farmers say that seasons, and particularly rainfall patterns have changed drastically since their parents’ …

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Failed States Index 2009, with interactive map

admin - August 14, 2009

Foreign Policy magazine has teamed up again with the Washington DC-based ‘Fund for Peace’ thinktank to produce an interactive map of state fragility, to illustrate their Failed States Index 2009, covering 177 countries. Most fragile are Somalia, followed by Zimbabwe, Chad, Sudan and DRC. Most stable are (inevitably) the Scandinavians – Norway, followed by Finland and Sweden. Annoyingly, I can’t find anywhere on the site …

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