Apr 8 2014

An economics fit for the 21st century

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Professor Robert Wade

Professor Robert Wade

Professor Robert Wade letter to Guardian, which published edited version of last paragraph, 7 Apr 2014.

You suggest that economists’ propensity to treat the subject as a branch of applied mathematics limits its usefulness (“Economics: A discipline ripe for disruption”, 3 April). But mathematical formalism does not only limit its usefulness; it also smuggles in normative judgements under the guise of mathematics.

The discipline gives content to ideas like “society”, “individual”, “market”, and “government” from assumptions needed to make the maths work, as distinct from observation.  The idea of rationality implies that if the individual prefers oranges to apples and apples to pears, then the individual must prefer oranges to pears – for otherwise the maths does not work. The idea of self-adjusting markets rests on the assumption that increasing returns to scale in production are not important, for otherwise equilibrium solutions are difficult to find.  Continue reading

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Apr 3 2014

New International Development MSc in International Development

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We are very please do announce that applications are open for a new MSc in African Development due to start next academic year – 2014/15. 

The African Development programme aims to provide students with a high quality academic introduction to the study of politics, economic development and economic policy in Africa.

The course employs political economy approaches to understand the variegated national trajectories of African states, regionalism and localism in politics and economics, and the political and economic forces that shape Africa’s insertion into to the global economy. One core objective of the programme is to track the causes and effects of shifts over time in development theory and practice — these have exerted powerful effects on public policy in Africa since the mid-twentieth century. A second objective will be to identify forces that produce political economy similarities and differences across and within African countries. A third is to consider the global, political and institutional, environmental, and technological changes that are shaping Africa’s future.

For further information and how to apply please visit the course page on our Department website.

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Apr 3 2014

Ghana President comes at LSE

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The President of Ghana John D Mahama will deliver a lecture at the London School of Economics and Political Science on Saturday 5 April 2014.

Mr Mahama will deliver the keynote address at the LSE Africa Summit business conference which will run alongside a research conference and the Alistair Berkley lecture from 3-5 April.

The business conference will focus the changes and opportunities currently emerging in Africa around African entrepreneurship. Other speakers include Saran Kaba Jones, Founder and Executive Director of Face Africa, Jim Ovia, Founder of Zenith Bank and Juliana Rotich, Executive Director of Ushaidi Inc.

This Blog post was originally posted on the Africa at LSE blog.

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Apr 2 2014

Public concerns about transboundary haze: A comparison of Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia

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Dr Tim Forsyth

Dr Tim Forsyth

A new paper by International Development’s Dr Tim Forsyth

Public concerns about environmental problems create narrative structures that influence policy by allocating roles of blame, responsibility, and appropriate behavior. This paper presents an analysis of public concerns about transboundary haze resulting from forest fires in Indonesia, Singapore, and Malaysia for crises experienced in 1997, 2005 and 2013.

The source of the information is content analysis of 2231 articles from representative newspapers in each country. The study shows that newspaper reporting about haze has changed from a discussion of the potential health and economic impacts of fires resulting partly naturally from El Niño-induced droughts, toward an increasing vilification of Indonesia for not ratifying the 2002 Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution; plus criticism of Singaporean and Malaysian companies investing in palm oil plantations, and ASEAN. Attention to climate change and potential biodiversity loss linked to haze, however, remains low.

The paper argues that newspaper analysis of public concerns, despite political influences on the press, offers insights into how

Read the full paper here.

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Mar 28 2014

The Politics of Loan Pricing in Multilateral Development Banks

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Chris Humphrey PhD LSE International Development 2013

Chris Humphrey PhD LSE International Development 2013

Chris Humphrey, who received his PhD from the Department of International Development in 2013, has published an article in the most recent issue of Review of International Political Economy (2014, 21:3, 611-639) analyzing the political factors that shape the price of loans offered by three multilateral development banks (MDBs)—the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB) and the Andean Development Corporation (CAF).

One might think that the pricing of development loans is a mundane and purely technical-financial issue, but it is in fact deeply political, and is directly linked to the interests and balance of power among borrowing and non-borrowing country shareholders at all three MDBs. On the one hand, the relative weight of industrialized countries in MDB ownership facilitates obtaining a high credit rating and attractive bond terms on capital markets, which in turn leads to lower loan prices for borrowing countries. On the other hand, the same non-borrowing shareholders have an interest in charging higher loan prices to accumulate net income for a variety of purposes, including building the financial capacity of the MDBs without their needing to contribute more capital (and without giving borrowing countries greater voting rights that come with capital contributions), and to allocate income to causes that suit their interests but not necessarily those of borrowing shareholders. The article opens a window into these little researched but highly conflictive topics through an innovative combination of financial data collection and analysis as well as extensive interviews with MDB staff and country shareholders. Continue reading

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Mar 21 2014

A Special Issue of World Development, 2014

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Altiplano 8 (JP rock)Decentralization and Governance

Can decentralization improve a country’s quality of governance? If decentralization achieves anything, it should be to alter the type and quality of relations amongst countries’ different levels of government. That is, it should change governance, with possible effects on the efficiency of public services and the responsiveness of the state to its citizens. But change for the better? For worse? Such questions are particularly important to those of us who care about development.  But bizarrely, they have been overlooked by the vast majority of the (literally) hundreds of published academic studies of decentralization, and the (literally) thousands of “gray literature” papers and reports published over the last four decades, the overwhelming majority of which focus on much more technocratic issues, such as decentralization’s effects on investment levels, primary education, access to health, water and sanitation, etc. Continue reading

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Mar 7 2014

Why doesn’t the UN do what we tell them to?

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Rory Dillon - Development Management MSc 2012/2013
Rory Dillon – Development Management MSc 2012/2013

 I have been wondering if our (the wider interested development community) remonstrations with UN agencies over how they could improve their projects have simply fallen on deaf ears. We have found these new approaches to measuring impact – randomised control trials or community participation – that would revolutionize the way they operated if only they would get involved. Are the UNDP, FAO and UNIDO (or for that matter Oxfam and ActionAid) simply smiling and nodding and trying to get on with ‘the job at hand’?
Continue reading

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Feb 18 2014

Can Subnational Autonomy Strengthen Democracy in Bolivia?

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Faguet, J.P. 2013. Publius: The Journal of Federalism. doi: 10.1093/publius/pjt020

Bolivia is well known internationally for two things: President Evo Morales, the first indigenous president in its 188 year history, and its place at the base of the cocaine trade.  But in policy circles it is also well known for something less controversial but possibly more important – a radical, sincere decentralization programme that has deepened over time as it was taken up enthusiastically by citizens at the grass-roots, and in the process appears to be transforming the country.

One of the strongest arguments in favour of decentralization is that it will deepen democracy and strengthen public accountability by taking government “closer to the people”.  Bolivia recently implemented new reforms that deepen decentralization, granting further devolved powers and resources, known as “autonomy”, to departmental, regional, municipal, and indigenous and rural governments.  With ample information now available from the first round of decentralizing reform beginning in 1994, and the new reforms now getting under way, it is a good time to ask: Can decentralization strengthen democracy in Bolivia? Continue reading

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Feb 13 2014

DESCENTRALIZACIÓN Y DEMOCRATIZACIÓN EN BOLIVIA

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La historia del Estado débil, la sociedad rebelde y el anhelo de democracia

Moira Zuazo, Jean-Paul Faguet y Gustavo Bonifaz (editores)
(Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, 2012)

It must be more-or-less obvious that a department specializing in international development must work in a number of languages.  But the extraordinary dominance of English today in the academic, policy, and business worlds may obscure the fact that there is a great deal of thinking and research going on in developing countries today in languages other than English, and so a number of us publish in non-English languages as well.

En mi caso, español – lengua materna e idioma principal de los países en que he concentrado mi actividad de investigación.  Por tanto, es un gusto especial presentar mediante este foro un libro co-editado con dos colegas y grandes amigos bolivianos, Moira Zuazo y Gustavo Bonifaz.  Se trata de un trabajo de equipo con algunas de las máximas autoridades de las ciencias sociales e historia bolivianas.  Analiza el tema de la descentralización, similar a otro libro publicado en inglés el mismo 2012, pero con una vista histórica mucha más profunda y detallada, con más evidencia empírica cualitativa y menos estadística que el segundo. Continue reading

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Feb 10 2014

Kerry’s billions: Alaa Tartir takes a critical look at US economic plans for the occupied Palestinian territories

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Alaa TartirAlaa Tartir is a Palestinian writer and researcher who is working on a PhD at the Departent of International Development, LSE. He is also the program director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network.

Since May 2013, there has been intense debate about US Secretary of State John Kerry’s economic plan for the occupied Palestinian territories. The plan – known as the Palestine Economic Initiative (PEI) – aims to develop the economy of the West Bank and Gaza over the next three years, as a prerequisite for a political settlement to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, very few of those welcoming or criticizing the plan know anything concrete about it. Hence I call it the ‘invisible plan’. On a trip to the West Bank in December 2013, I met Palestinian and international officials and diplomats who are involved directly or indirectly in the PEI. Their message was that there will not be, as many expect, a third intifada (uprising), but something very different: an ‘investment intifada’. Continue reading

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