Economics

How Change Happens: a conversation with 25 top campaigners from around the world

Duncan Green - May 18, 2016

Spent an exhilarating morning last week with Oxfam’s ‘Campaigns and Advocacy Leadership Programme’. Must have been at least 20 nationalities in the room, with huge experience and wisdom. The topic was How Change Happens (what else). To give you a flavour, here are some of the topics that came up, with my takes on them: Is power a zero sum game, i.e. empowering one group …

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The Global Beneficial Ownership Register: a new approach to fighting corruption by combining political advocacy with technology

Duncan Green - May 11, 2016

A second post on corruption ahead of tomorrow’s summit. Activists are often more concerned with how they see the world than with understanding how others see it, but understanding what motivates and incentivises others is crucial to building coalitions for change. Transparency campaigner David McNair describes one such example, a wonky-but-important demand for a Global Beneficial Ownership Register to curb tax evasion. After more than …

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Here’s a summary of The Economist’s important critique of GDP and suggestions for reform

Duncan Green - May 6, 2016

‘Laws are like sausages, it is better not to see them being made’ said Otto von Bismarck. Turns out you can probably add GDP to that list. Last week’s Economist had a comprehensive takedown of the uses and abuses of Gross Domestic Product as an indicator of wellbeing, economic health or pretty much anything else. People have been critiquing GDP ever since it was created, …

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Book Review: The Economics of Poverty by Martin Ravallion

Duncan Green - May 5, 2016

Oxfam inequality number cruncher Deborah Hardoon reviews The Economics of Poverty by Martin Ravallion.  It’s hard to think of a better placed individual than Martin Ravallion to have written this book. Not only has he spent over 30 years working on poverty, including 24 years at the World Bank, but in 1990 it was Martin Ravallion who, during dinner with his wife had an ‘epiphany …

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Book Review: Rich People, Poor Countries – the evolution of the South’s plutocrats

Duncan Green - May 3, 2016

Another addition to the inequality library. Rich People, Poor Countries has a less ambitious sweep than Piketty, Deaton or Milanovic’s grand narratives. Author Caroline Freund does some very revealing number crunching on the changing face of the annual Forbes billionaires list to explore ‘the rise of emerging-market tycoons and their mega firms’, in the words of the book’s subtitle. Unfortunately she laces her findings with …

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The income of the world’s poor is going up, but they’re $1 trillion poorer. What’s going on?

Duncan Green - April 28, 2016

Oxfam number cruncher Deborah Hardoon tries to get her head round something weird – according to the stats, the poorest half of the people are getting poorer even though their incomes are rising. It has become something of a tradition that in January every year we take a look at the Forbes list of billionaires and the Credit Suisse Global Wealth databook and calculate how …

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Book Review: Branko Milanovic’s brilliant take on Global Inequality

Duncan Green - April 15, 2016

Some of my favourite development economists are nomads, people with feet in different regions, which seems to make them better able to identify interesting patterns and similarities/differences between countries. Ha-Joon Chang (Korea/UK), Dani Rodrik (Turkey/US) and now Branko Milanovic (Serbia/US), whose latest book Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization is a brilliant and thought-provoking essay stuffed with enough graphs to satisfy …

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How do we make sure the Panama Papers lead to lasting reforms on tax evasion?

Duncan Green - April 7, 2016

Scandals like the Panama Papers are a massive potential driver of policy change. In normal times, the sources of inertia are great and politicians wishing to make change happen face an array of vested interests and fixed ideas telling them what they want is either insane or impossible. It takes a scandal to shake things up, delegitimize the status quo, and persuade decision makers that …

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Tackling Inequality is a game changer for business and private sector development (which is why most of them are ignoring it)

Duncan Green - March 31, 2016

Oxfam’s private sector adviser Erinch Sahan is thinking through the implications of inequality for the businesses he interacts with Mention inequality to a business audience and one of two things happens. They recoil in discomfort, or reinterpret the term – as social sustainability or doing more business with people living in poverty. Same goes for the private sector development professionals in the aid community (e.g. …

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Payment by Results hasn’t produced much in the way of results, but aid donors are doing it anyway. Why?

Duncan Green - March 23, 2016

I recently attended (yet another) seminar on the future of aid, where we were all sworn to secrecy to allow everyone (academics, officials etc) to bare their bosoms with confidence. So I can’t quote anyone (even unattributed – this was ‘Chatham House plus’). But that’s OK, because I want to talk about Payment by Results, which was the subject for my 10 minutes of fame. …

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