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7 May 2015
By Lant Pritchett and Lawrence H. Summers.
[Re-posted from VOX – CEPR’s Policy Portal.]
No question is more important for the living standards of billions of people, or for the evolution of the global system than the question of how rapidly differently economies will grow over the next generation. We believe that conventional wisdom makes two important errors in assessing future growth prospects.
First, it succumbs to the extrapolative temptation and supposes that, absent major new developments, countries that have been growing rapidly will continue to grow rapidly, and countries that have been stagnating will continue to stagnate. In fact, when it comes to growth, our research (Pritchett and Summers 2014) suggests that the past is much less the prologue than is commonly supposed.
Second, conventional wisdom subscribes to the notion of a ‘middle-income trap’ – the idea that when countries reach some intermediate income threshold, growth becomes much more difficult. Our work suggests that any tendency of this type is very weak, and that what is often ascribed to the middle-income trap is better thought of as growth rates reverting to their means. Continue Reading →
29 April 2014
Pablo: The new ESID briefing on “Making political analysis useful” is the result of many conversations with donor staff and other people involved in the Thinking and Working Politically community. Virtually every presentation of our PEA research findings – that the bureaucratic nature of aid often gets in the way of political engagement – was met with knowing smiles and nods all around: after all, these are issues that insiders know very well on a personal level. However, there was often a second part to this interaction, taking the form of a challenge: what would we suggest? Did we have a better way of doing things? Could administrative barriers to politically smart aid be overcome? Given the massive challenges involved in reforming aid agencies, we started to think about alternative ways of interpreting the problem, and came up with the basic message animating the briefing: it is not what particular toolkit you use, or what specific agency you work for, but how you can adjust and scale political analysis to make it more accessible and useful to practitioners.
Chris: Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for increasing the amount and quality of political analysis in the development sector – but your assertion that aid bureaucracy gets in the way of political engagement troubles me. Continue Reading →
8 April 2015
By Pablo Yanguas.
On April 2nd ODI hosted a group of aid practitioners and public sector researchers gathered for the purpose of discussing whether the “Doing Development Differently” (DDD) agenda can in fact be managed by development organisations. It seemed like a very necessary step after the “Doing Development Differently” Manifesto and ODI report, which have focused on changing the basic assumptions and discourse of aid, as well as providing some supporting evidence. The last panel of the day was tasked with debating whether the institutional barriers to DDD could in fact be overcome. Having worked on a similar question for political-economy analysis, I was invited to participate in this conversation, and this is what I had to say. Continue Reading →
30 March 2015
By Tom Lavers
When and why do states take a direct interest in the welfare of their populations? What types of state introduce social policies and which ones are capable of delivering on these commitments?
Research on the politics of social policy in Europe, the US, Latin America and East Asia has already provided a wide range of answers—highlighting, for example, the importance of the political mobilisation of the left, the structure of political institutions, the degree of ethnic diversity and systems of patronage.
When it comes to African countries, however, there has to date been little consideration of the politics underpinning the rapidly growing number of social protection programmes. Instead, debates have tended to focus on the ‘technical’ aspects of social protection: the impact of programmes on poverty; the fiscal space for social protection; or assessments of the value for money of policies. Continue Reading →
17 March 2015
By Pablo Yanguas.
These days I am reading psychologist Daniel Kahneman‘s book Thinking, Fast and Slow (2012), in which he outlines two aspects of our brains which determine how we process information, associate ideas and solve problems. Kahneman speaks of two systems: System 1, which is quick, intuitive, and effortless; and System 2, which is slow, analytical, and costly.
The first chunk of the book is devoted to the interaction between these two systems, and in particular how System 1 is prone to bias by jumping to unwarranted conclusions on the basis of what’s familiar or sounds right, even without us consciously realising what we are doing; System 2 can then jump in to check our intuitions against facts and avoid logical mistakes, but doing so requires willpower and freedom from disruptive stimuli (we all have a limited budget for effort, be it mental, emotional or physical).
As I read the book, I started wondering whether the proponents of political analysis in aid agencies could learn something from the interaction between these two systems in our brains.