28 September 2010

If you beat my sister, I’ll beat yours

Hanan Jacoby and Ghazala Mansuri on a solution to domestic abuse in Pakistan:
watta satta, which often involves a brother-sister pair marrying another such pair from a second household, comes with mutual threats: A husband who treats his wife badly can count on his brother-in-law doing the same to his sister. That mechanism allows two sets of parents to have leverage over how their daughters are treated.
World Bank Working Paper 4126, soon to be in the American Economic Review

27 September 2010

Highlights from MDG Week

New post on the IPA blog.

(also a quick poll – do people like getting links to posts at IPA like this? Or should I post the whole thing here? Or post nothing and let you find it yourself over there?)

25 September 2010

The Missing Millenium Children

5 years ago the Guardian started tracking a child born in 10 different African countries as part of its MDG coverage. It caught up with them all this year. Except the Southern Sudanese child. Who died before reaching his 1st birthday. Along with the other 1 in 7 Southern Sudanese kids who don’t make it to five. Damn.

The Economics of Marmite?

people often retain very strong preferences for the kinds of food they grew up eating. Just ask the expatriate Britons who flock to “Tea and Sympathy” in New York’s Greenwich Village for pots of Marmite, a yeast-based spread whose delights baffle other nationalities (and many of their own compatriots).

So what you might say? Well,

the effects of habit formation in consumption may also lead economists to rethink the way they calculate the gains from trade. This is because opening up to trade is in some ways akin to migrating. It changes the composition and prices of the goods that are available to a person. In particular, it can raise the relative prices of the goods that a region or country has a comparative advantage in, such as crops that the country’s climate or soil favour. These are the things that would have been relatively cheap and common in a closed economy and therefore the things that people might have acquired a taste for. To the extent that such preferences persist, people will benefit less from the increased variety of goods and altered relative prices that trade brings about than they would do if habits were not a significant determinant of consumption.

And the bottom line: for internal migrants within India:

As a consequence, migrant families consume fewer calories per rupee of food expenditure than non-migrants do.

That is fine Mr. Economist journalist, but how much fewer? 50 percent fewer calories? 0.00004 percent fewer calories? Don’t magnitudes matter? For that I had to go to the original paper by David Atkin.

holding total food expenditure constant, there will be an average caloric loss of 2.7 percent coming from the correlation between tastes and price changes (about 54 calories per person per day) … In geographic terms, the negative caloric impacts that come from tastes correlating with price changes will not be spread uniformly across India … with poorer regions more likely to suffer caloric losses on the consumption side, with predicted caloric losses of 20 percent in some of the poorest regions.

So yeah then, er, 20 percent is pretty big.

I’d better go pack some marmite in my suitcase.

24 September 2010

On healthcare and luck

New post on the IPA blog. (Photo credit: Emily Oriel Lowe)

Just in case you were concerned about media freedom in Uganda….

The ruling National Resistance Movement has concluded its primaries, in an exercise that was shambolic and the true antithesis of popular democracy.

Election theft, violence, manipulation, intimidation and avarice are NRM’s “winning” strategy, which saw them they effectively used in the past two elections. Now Uganda is stuck with shameless leaders who will lie and tell cynical jokes at their own rape on democracy.

From the East African, my favourite newspaper in Africa.

An argument I’ve heard Paul Collier make in the past is that small countries don’t have a large enough market for specialised business/economics reporting, and so have weak accountability on economic policy. The East African, part of the Kenyan Nation Media Group, tackles this problem by covering the EAC states Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi, plus bits of Eastern DRC, Somalia, and Southern Sudan, a combined population of about 150 million people.

They also have an awesome cartoonist. Here is Gado on the catholic church. Dark.

Probably the best Economist-Priest in Juba

The vision of Jesuit priest Michael Schultheis, the [Catholic University of Sudan] just started its third year. "We're about a month late starting classes," said Father Schultheis who has a Ph.D. in economics from Cornell. "That's because we had to find a new location."

From the HuffPo, Hat Tip: TH

18 September 2010

More Awesome News from the (non-)nation of Somaliland

Monty Munford thinks that Somaliland, not content with democratic elections and biometric passports, is also likely to become the first nation to become a cashless society, due to expansion in mobile money transfers and retail payments.

He also throws in these tidbits:

For every dollar there are almost 17,000 Somaliland Shillings

The state itself runs on a budget of only $40 million dollars

competition between the country’s carriers means calls from Somaliland are five to six times cheaper than other African countries.”

I really have to go visit.

17 September 2010

Why DFID should still give aid to "India"

   1. Just because the Indian government doesn’t need UK aid (as demonstrated by the space program, nuclear program, and its own overseas aid programs), doesn’t mean that some of the millions of individual Indian people living in extreme poverty with chronic malnutrition would not benefit from foreign assistance.

   2. India is cheap. This means that in general aid given to Indians can go much further than aid to Africans. The same amount of money will feed more people, build more schools, or pay more nurses in India than anywhere in Africa.

   3. Because India is so big, we don’t have to worry so much about aid distorting the economy, or government accountability to citizens, or government spending decisions. The government (and the economy) don’t even notice. But those poor individuals certainly do.

Not that I’m totally convinced by any this, but it does seem that we too often lazily confuse a country (“India”) with its government and/or its people. Countries are abstractions, they are not actors which take decisions. And we should not confuse governments with people.

12 September 2010

Have your development cake and eat it too

So, British public, you think that it is morally right to for the UK to help developing countries, but you don’t want to spend any money on it?

Well, apologies for sounding like a broken record at times, but:

Good news!

Some of the best things in life are free (almost). Like allowing poor people access to our labour market and our consumer market. Or lobbying to end those EU farm subsidies. Or backing our firms to take risky but potentially profitable (and beneficial for the host country) ventures overseas.

Plus we can make the aid money we do spend go further by spending it on things with PROVEN IMPACT. DeWorm the World would be a good place to start, but more to come soon from IPA on other proven ideas.

11 September 2010

Rumbek Rocks

Probably the best expat Rock band in Rumbek, Southern Sudan.

09 September 2010

From the annals of weird aid

There are two ambulances parked outside of the Ministry of Health in Accra.

Donated by the Government of…..wait for it…..

the Islamic Republic of Iran.

08 September 2010

How to combat gender-based violence (Congolese heroes edition)

Mama Muliri responded to the threats by going to Lubutu herself and facing the tribal leaders eye to eye. As promised, they met her brandishing machetes and guns. They chanted threats, and they threw rocks at her. Still, she stood her ground, told them about the new constitution passed in 2006, and how the law now differed from the tribal customs. She demanded that they comply with the law, and asked them to attend a HEAL Africa conference on conflict transformation.

Daily Kos, via TexasisAfrica

New report on Vocational Education in Southern Sudan

Essential reading for Southern-Sudanese-education-policy-wonks. The Full Report is downloadable here:

Starting from Scratch: The Challenges of Including Youth in Rebuilding Southern Sudan.

Written by the marvelous Karuna Herrmann for the Women’s Refugee Commission.

The context is appalling. Only half of primary-age kids are in school. Only 2% of girls 14-17 years old are in secondary school.

Despite this, many of the issues around vocational training are strangely similar to those in the UK (I did some work on this briefly for the British government).

Namely, a poor reputation for vocational training relative to formal academic education, training providers struggling to link graduates with jobs, and the best vocational training often coming from employers themselves. In the UK, this led to the widely-mocked government-recognition of McDonalds training.

There are also some great interviews with young Southern Sudanese giving a flavour of the everyday ordeals which have been all too common for this generation.

Emmanuel Maniol, 24: “I am 24 years old and I was born in Khartoum. My family left Lakes in 1983 because of the war. In 1995 my uncle came to Khartoum and my parents decided that I should return to the south so that I could receive education in English, because in Khartoum the schools teach only in Arabic.

We took a plane from Khartoum to Wau. This was possible because the government was helping the IDPs [internally displaced people] to return and so they arranged our fight. We reached Wau by plane and they left us there. The only way for us to reach Lakes state was on foot, so I walked with my uncle from Wau to Rumbek. Many others were walking with us, and the journey took us fifteen days [my emphasis] because I was still small and could not walk very fast. There were many challenges for us along the way. There were still many wild animals in the bush then and I was very afraid, and there was never enough food.

How to dance (for men)

"The head, neck and upper body come out as the key features that are important for good dancing and that surprised us," said Neave, whose study is published in the journal Biology Letters. "When you see brilliant dancers, you'll see their bodies, heads and necks are all doing ever so slightly different things in time to the music."

Will Brown, a psychologist at the University of East London, said more work was needed to disentangle why dancing is attractive and its biological significance.

"When you have so much movement data from a relatively small sample of dancers, you might get chance associations between certain moves and dance attractiveness," he said.

From the Guardian (not the only thing I ever read, honest). HT: Herrmann

02 September 2010


That is twi (pronounced “chwee”, the principal native language of Ghana), for Welcome.

I was just welcomed to Ghana by a sign in the airport which read something as follows:



Ghana warmly welcomes all visitors of goodwill.

Ghana does not welcome paedophiles and other sexual deviants.

Indeed, Ghana applies extremely harsh penalties for such sexually aberrant behaviour.

If you are planning to engage in any such activities, we suggest that you go elsewhere.

Fortunately for me I am a visitor of goodwill and not a sexual deviant. I am here visiting IPA Ghana and doing a bit of work on setting up a new project.

Tips on things to see and do are very welcome!