16 April 2014.
By Kunal Sen.
Why are there such significant and persistent differences in living standards across countries? This is one of the most important and challenging areas of development policy. For individual countries in the developing world, extreme fluctuations in growth over a relatively short period of time can cause staggering changes in living standards. Income gains and losses of as much as three times GDP capita have affected whole populations.
Our new research aims to understand the causes of such economic growth (ESID Working Paper 26). First, we need to understand what growth is (ESID Handbook on Economic Growth). We show that economic growth in developing countries is an episodic phenomenon – massive discrete changes in growth are common in developing countries, with most developing countries experiencing distinct growth episodes: growth accelerations and decelerations or collapses.
9 April 2014.
No system of development administration can be effective that ignores or discounts the political dimensions of decision-making. Ultimately, all development plans are political statements and all attempts to implement them are political acts. The pretension that planners and administrators are politically objective or neutral is naive. The belief that development administration is beyond the scope of politics usually reduces planners and administrators to a politically ineffective advisory role in which they produce plans that are never implemented.
From Dennis A. Rondinelli‘s Development Projects as Policy Experiments (1993). A 20-year-old answer to the Why ESID question. To learn more about the politics-development frontier check out our PEA work.
7 April 2014.
Last month our partners at the Ghana Center for Democratic Development hosted political scientist Richard Joseph (Northwestern University) for a talk in which he questioned the “revisionist” argument that high levels of economic growth require sacrificing some of the principles of liberal democracy, a conclusion reached by David Booth and others on the basis of evidence from such cases as Ethiopia and Rwanda. Joseph believes instead that countries like Ghana should pursue a “macro-institutional rupture” pursued through democratic means instead of autocratic ones. His analysis resonates with ESID‘s work on the developmental implications of different kinds of political settlement. You can read Joseph’s full lecture on his blog, or watch the embedded video below.
4 April 2014.
The Independent Commission for Aid Impact released today a report criticising the selective use of evidence in DFID and the reporting bias that stems from the pressure to demonstrate “results” (see the article on The Guardian). This resonates with a point that we made at a workshop on evidence held at LSE last year. Here’s how we see the dilemma of using evidence in development.
Progresa-Oportunidades is a Mexican programme of conditional cash transfers to the poor whose success stems from the central role of evidence in both its design and operation: empirical data were produced at all stages in order to determine whether performance failures were due to faulty theory or implementation, thus allowing for constant adaptation in search of greater effectiveness.
The World Bank is a major development agency which has invested heavily in generating evidence for better policy. However, a 2006 evaluation found that the large volume of high-quality research produced at the Bank had not been used to improve policy on a technical level, but to proselytise and generate political support: research that supported pre-existing policies was publicised, whereas unfavourable research was ignored.
This contrast illustrates the two faces of evidence in development, demonstrating that its role in policy-making ultimately depends on the nature of the politics surrounding it.
2 April 2014.
By Kunal Sen.
On 2-4 March 2014 the Stanford Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) Governance Project organised a workshop on “Measuring State Quality: In China and Beyond”.
The workshop was led by Francis Fukuyama and attracted a high profile group of participants. The attendees included qualitative and quantitative political scientists from the United States and continental Europe, Chinese scholars and US public administration officials. Some of them are already engaged with ESID’s work, such as Peter Evans – one of ESID’s advisory group members – and Matt Andrews from the Harvard Kennedy School; this meeting provided an opportunity to make new connections.
The objectives of the workshop were twofold: