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15 May 2014.
By Indrajit Roy.
Political pundits have described the just-concluded elections in India as ‘transformational’. However, none of the issues highlighted by the national media, the intelligentsia and the ‘mainstream’ political parties – development, secularism, corruption – are really novel. Most of them have nothing to say about widening inequalities, sharpened by discrimination based on caste, ethnicity and religion, and the related questions of social justice. Their deafening silence makes all talk of ‘transformational politics’ sound like empty rhetoric.
Malawi goes to the polls on 20 May. We spoke to ESID researcher and economist Jonathan Said to get a sense of the issues ahead of the election. Said has been working in Malawi as an economist for three years.
Malawi has recently been rocked by what’s termed “cashgate” – the biggest financial scandal in the country’s history. At the centre of the “cashgate” scandal is a computer-based financial information storage system and some government officials who have allegedly been exploiting a loophole in the system to divert millions from government coffers.
13 May 2014.
By Diana Mitlin.
After three-and-a-half days of sitting in central Cape Town, what have I learnt about a core underpinning assumption of ESID, i.e. that academics can contribute to inclusive development?
It is relatively easy to understand what academics have to offer to “effective states”. Strategies to achieve economic growth, ways of improving bureaucratic performance, reviews of the benefits and burdens of regulation, new ways of collecting information about consumer experiences, analyses of ineffective programmes… All of these are themes on which academic research studies may offer insights and advice that governments are likely to welcome.
But policy and programming objectives related to inclusive development are a different ballgame. Inclusive development is going to require large-scale redistribution, especially in countries in which significant proportions of the population remain in acute poverty. Inclusive development requires a shift from interventions to address the needs of a selective (and generally small) part of the population to more universal considerations and larger-scale programming. Inclusive development also requires engaging with the very groups that tend to be excluded, and excluded in numbers, at least some of whom will be seen as the “un-deserving poor”.
8 May 2014.
Along with corruption, a stagnant economy and high inflation dominate the concerns of voters in the current general election in India. Like voters elsewhere, Indian voters seem likely to vote the incumbent government out for poor economic performance. On the face of it, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)’s travails on the economy is surprising, given that economic growth has been the strongest on record during the UPA’s tenure, as compared to previous governments. However, economic growth declined significantly since 2010, and the current rate of growth is not very different to what was observed in the pre-reform period. For voters who have become accustomed to strongly rising incomes for much of the 1990s and 2000s, and especially the young, who are about to enter the labour market in large numbers, stagnant incomes and weak employment prospects were key concerns leading up to the elections, and the UPA government was seen to have presided over such an adverse economic situation.
7 May 2014.
By Pablo Yanguas.
“Politics matters for development”. From project officers all the way up to the heads of multilateral development agencies, from lowest-rung civil servants to cabinet ministers, everyone who has ever worked trying to enact social, economic or political change knows this basic fact. But that does not mean that they can talk openly about it, let alone plan for the eventualities of politics or set aside budgetary items for dealing with it. Aid agencies in particular seem to be trapped in a nether realm where everyone discusses the politics of development in private, but few dare to risk their careers by engaging with it in public. That is why the rise of political economy analysis (PEA) poses an interesting dilemma. The basic principle is intuitive and almost elegant in its simplicity: many projects flounder due to limited understanding of local politics, so the answer is to build more analysis into projects to ensure greater effectiveness. And yet turning this principle into practice has proven to be less than simple.