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23 February 2015
History has much to tell us about the politics of inequality, but the moral of the story depends upon the lens through which we choose to interpret its lessons. The recent DLP conference on this theme raised many of the questions that ESID is attempting to address, as well as demanding some considered defence of the ‘political settlements plus’ framework that constitutes our analytical lens for understanding the politics of inclusion.
There was little disagreement among contributors at the DLP conference that the politics of inequality should be understood through a social justice lens. Frances Stewart’s opening address showed that social justice thinking offered the most coherent philosophical framework for thinking about the politics of inequality, not least as it enables us to place our concerns over inequality in the broader context of what kind of ‘good society’ we value. Thinking in terms of social justice demands that we consider the political arrangements required to secure good societies, and also that we confront the trade-offs that this involves, most notably between the sometimes competing priorities of challenging inequality whilst protecting freedom. Continue Reading →
17 February 2015
The case of public sector reforms in Rwanda is apparently exceptional. As mentioned already in the blog post presenting ESID’s Public Sector Reform project, Rwanda is an outlier in terms of state effectiveness compared to the other case studies, namely Uganda, Ghana and Malawi. Going into the details of the five core state functions identified by the project – coordination, public finance management (PFM), civil service management, auditing, and anti-corruption – Rwanda offers an interesting case, both empirically and theoretically. Continue Reading →
03 February 2015
By Anthony Bebbington
Clark University, University of Manchester
As a geographer, the idea that the relationships between humans and the environment are central to problems of development and social organisation is hardly alien to me. Yet in development studies and policy it has often seemed that natural resources are treated separately from the “big” problems of political economy and social change. This sidelining of nature seems strange.
Try talking about contemporary capitalism without thinking of oil or natural gas and their many derived forms: simply impossible, as Matt Huber (2013) and others have so clearly argued. Or try talking about the possibilities of democracy without thinking of hydrocarbons: equally impossible, or at least that is what Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy argues so compellingly. Or try thinking about the future of development and development policy without thinking of climate change. Indeed, one might argue that climate change is itself a product of this same policy and theoretical blindness regarding the ecological foundations of the economy; as well as of the political power that control over natural resources has conferred to groups who deploy this power to continue derailing any serious attempts to mitigate climate change. Continue Reading →
3 February 2015
By Pablo Yanguas.
Last week DFID’s research team hosted representatives from four research programme consortia on development, including ESID, for a debate and set of presentations on what we have found so far and what – if anything – DFID can do about it. Without going into details – there were surveys, concepts, migrants, onions, and even vampires – it was yet another interesting opportunity to witness that uncomfortable interface between academic and practitioner frustrations.
In a very polite and reasoned way, researchers shouted to DFID staff that “context matters, reality is complex, and you’d better take politics into account!” while DFID staff in turn shouted back that “we too are subject to a political context, and you’d better show us how what you are suggesting would work in practice!” Of course, this being a professional event in the UK, there wasn’t any actual shouting; but one could sense the deep-seated frustration, misunderstanding, even recrimination underlying the entire event.
Eventually, we ended up where all these meetings seem to end: with the realisation that everyone needs to do more to facilitate stronger researcher-practitioner linkages. Which is not a bad message at all. But it still makes me wonder what comes next. Continue Reading →
19 January 2015 [29 December 2014, original post].
By Abhiroop Mukhopadhyay.
Is the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) suffering a midlife crisis or are we staring at its death? From a budget of ₹401 billion in 2010-11, it has plummeted to ₹330 billion in 2013-14. Given the much higher wages currently offered to workers, it has taken a serious hit.
The position taken by government officials (and many economists) is that there is a general lack of interest in MGNREGS. The rise in agricultural real wages over 2004-05 to 2011-12, coupled with a general dismay regarding quality of assets produced and evidence of corruption, has led to a call for a scaling down of the rural job guarantee scheme. The natural question is: should MGNREGS be retired or scaled down, having served its purpose or does it need a revamp? And if so, what issues have to be addressed? Continue Reading →