Why 'Human Capital' is an abomination

I’ve always felt uneasy with using the term ‘human capital’ as a synonym for ‘people’. In this month’s issue of the consistently excellent Prospect magazine, philosopher Edward Skidelsky beautifully nails the arguments: ‘Economists, said John Maynard Keynes, should think of themselves as humble specialists, on a par with dentists. But his advice has gone unheeded. […]

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Lifting the Resource Curse (or how to make finding oil a blessing)

‘Lifting the Resource Curse’, a new Oxfam paper, revisits the difficult question of how to ensure natural resources are a blessing, and not a curse, for poor countries. Countries like Angola, where oil revenues (which represent 80 per cent of national income) are estimated at $10bn per year, yet 70 per cent of the population […]

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The gender impact of the global meltdown: 7 new papers and a video

One of the aspects which is almost invariably missing from substantive discussions on the global economic crisis (and which quite often, doesn’t even get lip service) is the gender dimension. Women and men experience crises in different ways, and are unequally affected by government responses. Often, pre-existing inequalities, which include under-representation of women at all […]

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Deadlines; zapping mosquitoes; Rodrik is blogging again; Paul Collier is blaming the NGOs; why isn't Britain more like Norway?, and pregnant breakdancers: links I liked

The end of this week (26 February) is the deadline both for commenting on our new draft paper on the impact and response to the global economic crisis, and to take the ultra-quick online survey to help sharpen up the contents of this blog. After that, I promise not to request participation of any kind […]

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More IMF revisionism, this time on capital controls

Another day, another IMF U turn, this time in a ‘Staff Position Note’ on capital controls by Ostry, Ghosh, Habermeier, Chamon, Qureshi, and Reinhardt (they seem to prefer writing by committee at the Fund – personally, I’m with Sartre: ‘hell is other people’). This comes hard on the heels of its recent rethink on inflation, […]

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A big rethink at the IMF, with subtitles for non-economists

The IMF is doing some very interesting (and praiseworthy) rethinking in response to the global crisis, if a new paper co-authored by its chief economist Olivier Blanchard is anything to go by. It’s written by and for economists, so it’s not exactly bedtime reading (unless you’re an insomniac), but here’s the highlights, and my attempts […]

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Natural Resources and Development Strategy after the crisis: useful (but flawed) new World Bank paper

The World Bank’s influential PREM (Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network) team has a new series of topical notes, pulling together its research on breaking issues (they’ve obviously been reading the literature on using research for influence – rehashing existing research at the right moment for policy makers is one of the most effective forms […]

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Is the spread of supermarkets in poor countries good news or bad?

Supermarkets are not just a northern phenomenon, but are spreading fast across the developing world. Some of them arrive from outside, like the giant Tescos outside my hotel on a recent visit to Korea; others are homegrown. Either way, they are having a big impact on the lives and prospects of farmers, large and small. […]

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Mobiles; Avatar-for-good; Goldman Sachs v Robin Hood; rickshaws (+judges) v cars and conflict/security: links I liked

Mark Weston captures the rush of Sierra Leone’s mobile phone boom An inspired bit of entrepreneurial campaigning. The Dongria Kondh tribe from eastern India publicly appeal to film director James Cameron to help them stop controversial mining company Vedanta from opening a bauxite mine on their sacred land, comparing their plight to that of the […]

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If you want this blog to get better, I need 5 minutes of your time

This blog has now been running for 18 months and it’s time to obey that NGO golden rule – ‘if it moves, evaluate it’ (and if it keeps moving, restructure it…). So, could you please take 5-10 minutes (honest – it’s really quick) to fill out this on-line survey? Why? Because the feedback will help […]

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Why Owen Barder is (mostly) wrong to oppose the Robin Hood Tax

Owen Barder has a thought-provoking post setting out his objections to a financial transactions tax (FTT) in response to the launch of the Robin Hood Tax campaign. I’ll run through the areas where we disagree, then where we agree, and finally the areas where I am still sitting painfully on the fence. Where we disagree: […]

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well-being v 'growth with equity': what are the pros and cons?

The process of evolution takes place in three stages: random mutation, selection and replication. It’s not a bad model for how new ideas emerge within a large organization like Oxfam. Every week seems to bring a new idea swirling around in conversations and meetings (mutation). Most of those will fade away but a small percentage […]

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