30 September 2009

Why Migration Matters for Development

Damn you Matt, you scooped my "Migration and Development" post, and even got some climate change in. I love it though. Compensate poor countries for Western carbon emissions by letting their citizens move there.

Anyway, my post was going to be that Lant Pritchett is (was) in Juba today (yesterday) to give a talk about Growth Strategies. Which was good and will probably help shape the Growth Strategy for Southern Sudan. But it was also a grim reminder of the limits of growth. Ten years of insane Chinese-style growth will probably take Southern Sudan to Kenya's level of income. Ten years of ridiculously optimistic growth.

How about a development intervention which can take a Sudanese citizen's income to US levels overnight?

The potential gains to poor people of being allowed the opportunity to work in a rich country for even a few weeks blow every other conceivable anti-poverty measure completely out of the water.


The picture up top comes from this presentation.

28 September 2009

Development Poll - Update

The results are in and it's a dead heat, 7 in favour, 7 against and 2 "what the fuck"? The difference definitely isn't statistically significant at any rate.
"little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things"
I'm sticking to a "yes". Firstly, he does say "little else", so it isn't entirely these three things but primarily them.

Secondly, he is talking about the "highest degree of opulence" speaking from 18th(?) Century England, which translates to barely middle income by today's standards. I reckon this lot of absolute basics can get a country easily to middle-income, and only then do you really need some fancy growth-diagnostics-jiggery-pokery.

The conclusions of the World Bank Growth Diagnostics on Southern Sudan? Your top priorities are security and roads. Oh er... thanks for that...

Monday Links

1. Possibly the finest all-purpose political t-shirt slogan ever conceived - From Ben Goldacre (via Rob Crilly):

2. Pure Genius from Harry Rud. I'm not looking forward to becoming an ex-expat (HT: TH)

3. Top 10 things that the Save Darfur Coalition spent more on than direct aid to Darfuris in 2008 (also TH)

27 September 2009

UN Golf Association of Southern Sudan

I've never played golf in my life but now could be the time to start. This is in the UNMIS compound where the leopard was supposedly sighted. You can also see Ban-Ki Moo, allegedly a gift from Salva Kiir to the UN Secretary General (who presumably thought his cow would be safe with the Indian peacekeepers).

23 September 2009

Juba Business Plan of the Day: Fruit and Veg Delivery

So my girlfriend was nagging me last night about not getting my 5 fruit'n'veg-a-day. Admittedly my dinner of cake (thank you new Syrian bakery, I love you), Indian potato snacks and a tin of pineapple (that's fruit!) last night was a particular low.

My excuse is that it's difficult to stock up when you have no fridge or TESCO express. And all the shops near my house are shut by the time I get home. And even when they're open they only have tomatoes and onions from Uganda (does anyone know of any good tomato and onion-only cookbooks?). All the good markets are on the other side of town.

Short of TESCO opening a new branch in Hai Tarawa (my preferred solution), someone should set up a fruit'n'veg delivery service. Loads of expat khawajas and probably a few wealthy Sudanese are too busy/lazy to get to the market. This even works in the UK for organic veg.

You probably just need a couple of people and a van. A local to get some decent bulk prices from the market, and someone savvy enough to advertise this properly to the people with money.

Come on Juba entrepreneurs!

22 September 2009


Sorry Danny, but I got a bit carried away calling the tweet of the week on a Monday. It actually comes from the US ambassador to Kenya.

USAMB4REFORM: Despite warnings by some, I will still speak out supporting reforms in Kenya. President Obama and the Kenyan people demand nothing less!


A humble suggestion to any ambassadors in Sudan - fancy twittering about CPA implementation?

21 September 2009

Development Poll

AS asked me the other day if I agree with this Adam Smith quote: 
"little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism, but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice; all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things"
A few years ago I would probably have dismissed this neoliberal nonsense, but now I'm not so sure. I think I actually might agree.

Let me know what you think in the box on the right, or sound off in the comments if you have a better answer!

Monday Links

1. Eid Mubarak. "The World Food Programme (WFP) is closing 12 feeding centres for mothers and children in Somalia....it has simply run out of money." Good job world

2. Fun & Games - Third World Farmer via (IPA Blog)

3. Visualising large numbers from Information is Beautiful.net

4. Matt suggests that we have a debate-styled variant of Development Drums called Development Deathmatch.

5. Tweet of the week:

DannyQuah: After hanging out with only martial artists this summer, I'm struck again by the testosterone levels in academic economics discussion #fb

18 September 2009

This rocks my world

From Ryan Briggs: here and here

If you think that population density is important for political and economic outcomes (I do), this development could be pretty revolutionary. I'd be interested though to know how much of this density is due to Nigeria, South Africa, Ethiopia, and the East African Community, and how the other 40 or so countries fare.

15 September 2009


Either I have starry-eyed leaving-Juba syndrome again, or Kenya is amazing.

First the coast. Lamu is like stepping back in time to a medieval town. There are no cars on the island, only donkeys, so the narrow arab streets are covered in donkey-poo and arabs wandering round in robes. Donkey rides are available but I wouldn't recommend them. My backside suffered.

Then you step through to the seafront and it is stunning, like a fantastic mediterranean get-away, except with pirate ships! (ok, fine, "dhows", but they look like pirate ships to me).

North of Lamu is not recommended because there might be real pirates, but the coastline South of Lamu is full of amazing deserted picturesque beaches, and beautiful reefs for diving around.

Ramadan might not be the best time to visit if you're a non-muslim, wondering why everyone is looking at you a bit funny whilst walking down the street munching on some snacks. Then again the iftar is great. There's a kind of battered mashed potato thing which is delicious.

Nairobi just feels completely European. I haven't spent much time here before, but its great just strolling around a proper city with cafes and shops and no baking heat. And doing some supermarket shopping for all those small luxuries.

Anyway back to Juba tomorrow. I've managed to sneakily keep tabs on email on my phone, but I've just opened my feed reader to find 1000 unread items. Jesus Christ.

14 September 2009

Monsieur health secretary

For all its pros and cons, you can always rely on The Economist to be consistent. You always know what their opinion on any issue is before you start reading, so you can screen it out easily if need be.

The unrelenting classical liberalism can sometimes grate.

But sometimes there are moments of pure genius.
"three of the English cricketers who defeated [the Australians] in the deciding match of this summer's Test series were born in South Africa. English fans however, weren't too troubled by the moans. Their lot had won... 
These days, when the English football team is playing and the camera pans to the coaches' bench, it has a distinctly Mediterranean hue...Under the current boss, Fabio Capello, it is romping towards next year's World Cup. 
It isn't only in sport. The boards of Britain's big companies routinely look beyond the country's shores, and the firms' own payrolls, for the best people to run them. Bagehot is wondering: if England's football team can be trained by an Italian, why shouldn't the health service be managed by a Frenchman? Or, to put it less facetiously, why does politics, the business of running the country, draw on so much shallower a recruitment pool than most other important enterprises in Britain?"

Access for Africa

Chris Blattman thinks that publishers should "allow textbooks and academic volumes more than a few years old to be printed copyright-free in Africa".

No need Chris.

I just bought a second-hand book on a Mombasa street corner which was DHL'ed from Europe, which obviously makes far more sense.

2009 Mercury Music Prize Winner

is Speech Debelle.

I called it (kind of).

10 September 2009

Dotty Data......5 Reasons why measuring GDP from Outer Space is a bad idea!

Everyone seems to be blogging about using night-lights to measure GDP (Marginal Revolution, Brad De Long’s blog, the Economist and WSJ blogs, and even here). It does sound uber-cool: Measuring GDP from Outer Space and has pretty pictures to go with it. But really, before we get too excited, here’s why it’s a dubious idea:

1. The major motivation of the underlying paper is that African countries have bad GDP data. But here’s a thought: a lot of Sub-Saharan countries get a LOT of their GDP from minerals and oil. The minefields don’t really create much light (at least not as much as the oil’s worth!) and often most of this wealth does not trickle into local consumption. Think here of all the usual stuff on political economy of resource curse etc. etc. emember President Obiang from Tropical Gangsters still rules Equatorial Guinea…… So basically underestimation seems built-in

2. It’s true we don’t have city-level GDP data. Yeah but first what you’re measuring is not production but expenditure (which is fine since that’s a perfectly valid way to get at GDP). But if you really want expenditure why don’t you just do a usual LSMS-type budget survey in the cities…? Far cheaper than usual African fieldwork (no rural logistics involved!) and guess what, we already know a lot about how to do them properly!

3. But the biggest problem is do we really know what it’s measuring? Does a low GDP estimate from night-lights, especially in Africa, just show a break-down or inadequacy of public provision, the usual way we get electricity???. Just look at Juba, would you? No city power to speak of (most areas of the town don’t even have connections) and generators are way more expensive, both as a fixed cost and to run, than a usual light connection. Of course, you’d see fewer lights…. And its not just the difference caused by the value of electricity !

4. How are lights and GDP related? Even the paper’s evidence shows there just isn’t a one-to-one relationship between growth in GDP and growth in night lights… Read this: In Hungary, Poland and Romania, where incomes rose by 41%, 56%, and 23%, the respective rises in lights were 46%, 80%, and 112%. The relationship doesn’t even seem STABLE!

5. And for the parting argument: Aren’t two error-prone measures better than one? Well, not if the measurement error in the second measure is just far worse than the first one (even if we did know what we were measuring with lights!).Keep everyone guessing which is the ‘right’ number! If you really want more measures, there are other options to choose from: smaller sample surveys possibly? You want local level estimates - how about some small area estimation stuff? Seriously there is enough to complain on the Penn World Tables and GDP estimates: Don’t make it worse!

P.S. This is not your usual correspondent. I’m his usual skeptical audience over beer most days…. Just decided to make the most of his absence from Juba

P.P.S. Lee, before you get to it, measuring population by huts where a Census exists is ALSO a bad idea! And this has nothing to with my love for my day job!!!

05 September 2009

Rest and Recuperation

I'm going to lie on a Kenyan beach, so this might be quiet for a week.

But not before I sneak in a quick aid-worker-moan, who generally get "R&R" every 6 weeks or something ridiculous because Juba is such a hardship post. The poor things. My last holiday was 5 months ago. Yes I'm jealous.

03 September 2009

Ronald Coase, the theory of the firm, and principal agent problems

Coase's Nobel Prize-winning theory essentially states "outsource as much as you can until the transactions costs become excessive. Then stop."

Looks like nobody told the US embassy in Kabul who are paying guards to guard the guards.
The U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan has banned alcohol and assigned American personnel to watch over the embassy's security guards following allegations of lewd behavior and sexual misconduct at their living quarters.
This is nearly as funny as the US needing to build a wall around their fence.
(AP) –

TIJUANA, Mexico — Police in the Mexican border city of Tijuana say they have arrested six men for stealing pieces of the U.S. border fence to sell as scrap metal.

01 September 2009

Why are Arabic streets so narrow?

...asks Tyler Cowen. He isn't convinced by Chris Wickham's answer: 
"the Arab states did not use processions as a major part of their political legitimization; the assembly in the mosque courtyard was sufficient for that. The need for wide boulevards ended" 
Ryszard Kapuscinski in "The Shadow of the Sun" inadvertently offers an alternative hypothesis: 
"...one enters the narrow streets typical of old Arab towns. I cannot say why these people built in such a cramped and crowded fashion, why they pressed together this way, practically one atop another. Was it so that they would never have far to walk? Or to be better able to defend the town? I don't know. But one thing is certain: this mass of piled stone, this accretion of walls, this layering of balconies, recesses, eaves, and rooftops, somehow secured, as though in an icy treasury, a corner of shade, a tiny breeze, and a bit of coolness during the most terrifying noontime heat." 
Maybe Arab streets are designed for this bit of coolness?

Update: Philip Blue also weighs in.