January 2014

Anatomy of a killer fact: the world’s 85 richest people own as much as the poorest 3.5 billion

Duncan Green - January 31, 2014

Ricardo Fuentes (@rivefuentes) reflects on a killer fact (85 individuals own as much wealth as half the world’s population) that made a big splash last week, and I add a few thoughts at the end. Last week we released a report on the relationship between the growing concentration of income and biases in political decision making. “Working for the  Few” got a lot of attention, …

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Can aid donors really ‘think and work politically’? Plus the dangers of ‘big man’ thinking, and the horrors of political science-speak

Duncan Green - January 30, 2014

Spent an enjoyable  couple of days last week with the ‘thinking and working politically’ (TWP) crew, first at a follow up to the Delhi meeting (nothing earth shattering to report, but a research agenda is on the way – I’ll keep you posted), and then at a very moving memorial conference for the late Adrian Leftwich (right), who is something of a founding father to this …

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The end of North-South, in one graph

Duncan Green - January 29, 2014

Two important findings from the latest Branko Milanovic (with Christoph Lakner) World Bank paper on global income distribution. First , it had previously been thought that, due to the rise of China, the global Gini was falling – i.e. if you took the global population as a whole, inequality was falling. Turns out this may not be true due to under-reporting of top incomes (can’t …

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What happens if you combine life expectancy and GDP into a single indicator? (You spend more on health)

Duncan Green - January 28, 2014

Just been skimming the overview of last December’s report of the Lancet Global health 2035 Commission, chaired by Larry Summers. The report advocates increasing health spending to close the health gap between countries, but the thing that jumped out at me was the practical application of ‘beyond GDP’ thinking in what the report calls the ‘full income approach’: “But while GDP captures the benefits that …

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Carnage on the roads v good news on malaria and guinea worm disease (and a brewing Opium War on Tobacco)

Duncan Green - January 27, 2014

This week’s Economist resembles a reader on some of development’s top Cinderella issues (which are becoming a bit of a thing on this blog), covering road traffic, ‘tropical diseases’ and tobacco. First up, the contrast between the falls in road deaths in rich countries (deaths there peaked in the 1970s), and rising carnage in the developing world. New WHO stats provide a graphic account – …

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Is the British development bubble a good thing? Reflections after another session at DFID.

Duncan Green - January 24, 2014

To be an aid  and development wonk based in London is to inhabit a very unrepresentative bubble. Beyond these shores, Australia has followed Canada in downgrading aid by absorbing it back into the foreign ministry, and subordinating aid policy more explicitly to national self interest. In Europe, most governments are cutting their aid budgets as part of their austerity packages. Wherever I go, people ask …

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Why hasn’t the 2008-14 shock produced anything like the New Deal?

Duncan Green - January 23, 2014

Ricardo Fuentes gave a staff talk this week on his big new paper (with Nick Galasso) on the links between economic and political power. What struck me was a very serious ‘dog that didn’t bark’. The 1929 collapse and the Great Depression led to profound reform in the US, with the New Deal and a sharp reversal of rising inequality. A series of shocks prompted …

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Lant Pritchett on why we struggle to think in systems (and look for heroes and villains instead)

Duncan Green - January 22, 2014

This passage in Lant Pritchett’s new book, The Rebirth of Education, (reviewed here yesterday), had me gurgling with pleasure. It explains, in vintage Pritchett prose, why we all find it so hard to think in terms of systems, rather than agents (i.e. heroes and villains). He totally nails the origins of that glazed look I see in the eyes of my Oxfam colleagues when I …

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How do we move from getting kids into school to actually educating them? Provocative new book by Lant Pritchett

Duncan Green - January 21, 2014

I approached Lant Pritchett’s new book ‘The Rebirth of Education’ with glee and trepidation. Glee because Lant is one of the smartest, wittiest and best writers and thinkers on development. Trepidation because this issue is an intellectual minefield of Somme-like proportions (remember the epic Kevin Watkins v Justin Sandefur battle?). And sure enough, Lant took me into all kinds of uncomfortable places. Allow me to …

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‘Working for the Few': top new report on the links between politics and inequality

Duncan Green - January 20, 2014

As the world’s self-appointed steering committee gathers in Davos, 2014 is already shaping up as a big year for inequality. The World Economic Forum’s ‘Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014’ ranks widening income disparities as the second greatest worldwide risk in the coming 12 to 18 months (Middle East and North Africa came top, since you ask). So it’s great to see ‘Working for the …

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