31 March 2011

India is really really big

I just got this email from the Skeptical Bandit (republished with permission). Just to clarify - this is not my alter ego but a real person with poor taste in pseudonyms.
India released its prelim Census estimates today. Lots of blog worthy nuggets -
India's population is about the size of the US, Brazil, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia and Japan put together. 
Its more than the whole of Africa and just UP (my beloved home state) has a greater population than any developing country but China or Indonesia- so much for all the people who say India is over-studied in development or over-invested in aid!!! 
The cost of doing a Census is about 40 cents per person. This is somewhere between one-thirtieth and one-fiftieth of the cost in South Sudan. Not saying that the differences in cost of service delivery are always the same magnitude, but guess why it REALLY makes sense to be looking at India. 
Lots of changes in demographics - an improving sex ratio, decreasing growth (esp in the most populous states) and a pretty significant jump in literacy with greater gains for women.
I've attached their PDF presentation here. Take a look. very nifty!

A note on this map - non-Indians should read the numbers with care - the commas are in unusual places due to Crores or Lakhs or some weird thing like that.

New data on States in Southern Sudan

The SSCCSE has uploaded the latest version of the Key Indicators document on its website. 
Key Indicators are now also available for each of the individual states. 
The link is http://ssccse.org/key-indicators-for-southern-su/
We hope you find these documents useful and please let us know if there are any comments or feedback.

Prendergast is at Yale today

Speaking about post-secession Sudan. Any questions? So far suggestions include:

"How does it feel to have the privilege of doing real aid work with a humanitarian such as George Clooney?" 


"Who does your hair?"


Wikio have me at #16 in their ranking of UK economics blogs. Which is clearly horseshit as Tim Harford isn’t on the list, but I’ll take it anyway, so thanks very much Wikio algorithms!

“Get your hand off my tail, you’ll make it dirty”

Hello there! Those of you who are new around here may have missed my incessant jabbering about migration and development. The World Bank has a new report which gives me a good excuse to jump back in the saddle.

This chart neatly shows the date at which recorded remittances from migrants exceed official aid as a resource flow to Africa – round about 2007.


Which is exactly the same year that we saw that great blossoming of attention to migration as a development issue, spearheaded by the fantastic MigrationWatch and MigrationThoughts blogs, celebrity advocates for immigration to the West, Western leaders sitting down with African leaders to discuss how they could increase levels of migration, and a spike in books written about migration and development.


Oh, nothing huh. Well what about the world’s premier development advocacy organisation (which I mean with actual sincerity), I bet they pay attention…. oh I guess not. But ONE, you even have an empty space there in the bottom corner for another issue!


I was about to make another snarky comment about academic research, but it turns out there are almost as many Google Scholar hits for “migration and development” (2.45 million) as “aid and development” (2.67 million). OK academia, my very scientific surveys says that you get a pass.

The rest of you have homework to turn in tomorrow, starting with Lant Pritchett, Michael Clemens, and YouNotSneaky!

29 March 2011

More from the World Bank on Southern Sudan

Gabriel Demombynes has posted some recent World Bank poverty analysis for Southern Sudan, along with videos of Pritchett and Devarajan talking in Juba.

Here's a sobering stat from the report; 75% of household heads in Southern Sudan have no education.

25 March 2011

Bashir committing mass Facerapes in Sudan

His first move came at the start of February when he called upon the citizens of Sudan to 'Like' his page so that it becomes clear that he definitely has more friends on his profile than the opposition. He even went so far as to encourage authorities to extend the electricity grid so that more people can join Facebook and be friends with him. 
However, Bashir did not feel that this was sufficient. Therefore, in true Bashir proxy militia style, he has unleashed his "Cyber-Jihadists" or Cyber-Janjaweed on those opposition supporters roaming the social networking sites with orders to "crush" all that try to topple the government. 
Soon, mass Facerapes will commence and a genocide of profile pages will ensue. Thousands will have to seek refuge in lesser sites such as Bebo, Myspace and even Friendster, where basic services such as chat and tagging are almost non-existent. Livelihoods will be destroyed as countless livestock and crops on Farmville are neglected.
From the essential Bored in Post Conflict (essential that is, if you like dick jokes with your Sudan coverage).

21 March 2011

More Reasons to Ditch Labour

A new group has emerged in the party – called Blue Labour – which thinks it has an answer, and Miliband is listening. Blue Labour, whose best known backer is Dagenham MP Jon Cruddas, proposes an unusual mix of "flag, faith and family" social conservatism and economic interventionism, an odd marriage of the Mail and The Guardian.
From the independent. It also appears that I am an absolute caricature of a middle-class liberal;
Broadly speaking, middle-class liberals place most stress on individual rights and cultural openness. They are highly mobile and pro-diversity and pro-immigration. They are softish on criminals and green on the environment. They are comfortable with globalisation and benefit from it both economically and culturally. At the more extreme end they are universalists, who feel no greater obligation to someone in Birmingham than to someone in Burundi. 
Working-class communitarians, by contrast, have a more collectivist view of rights, and place great stress on community membership. They worry about welfare free-riding, they value the familiar and the local, and are sceptical about mobility and mass immigration. They are draconian on crime and not very green. They are uncomfortable with globalisation, and tend not to benefit from it economically or culturally. At the more extreme end, they shade into racists.
[Blue Labour] thinks Labour is dominated by Fabian elitists, like Gordon Brown, who are contemptuous of the party's working-class base. "Blue Labour has an affection and an understanding of the concerns of working-class people. I don't think that New Labour really liked working-class people
Well probably not the racists.

Here's to Londonism!

18 March 2011

In Praise of Podcasts

I never really got into podcasts, mainly because just looking at iTunes makes me want to bludgeon my face with a rock.

Until I recently discovered the Stitcher app which automatically and quickly downloads audio to your phone. It is a joy.

I subscribe to:
  • BBC World Service Africa Today
  • Development Drums
  • CGD’s wonkcast
  • Freakonomics
  • The Guardian Football Weekly
  • BBC Radio 4 More or Less
  • EconTalk
  • NPR
The Center for Global Development’s “wonkcast” is especially good; it is weekly, it’s not too long, and Lawrence MacDonald is a great host.

The last two episodes with Lant Pritchett and Andy Sumner are fantastic.

17 March 2011

News from Juba

1. The Assembly has passed the 2011 Budget. (Hopefully it'll be up on the GoSS website shortly)

2. The SSCCSE has published its 2010 Statistical Yearbook. (Take note folks writing about Southern Sudan...)

3. The New South Sudan Pound will have Garang's face on it. (Commiserations to the guy who wrote that report on post-secession currency options illustrated with a hypothetical South Sudan dollar)

09 March 2011

David Cameron reads RovingBandit.com

Last April I wrote:
David Cameron has recently proposed a new non-military and optional national service scheme for British youth. That’s £5000 each. How about giving them all a £5000 flight voucher instead, and creating an international service scheme?
Today DFID announced this:
Young adults from across the country and from all walks of life will be given the chance to make a real difference in the poorest parts of the world – by volunteering overseas 
Prime Minister David Cameron and Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell have officially opened International Citizen Service (ICS) for applications.
Dave, you're welcome. And I've got plenty more where that came from. Give me a bell if you need some fresh ideas.

The future of data collection

The Sudanese like to talk, so giving out mobile phones is always going to be a winner. Gabriel Demombynes at the World Bank is now starting to get the first data in from the Southern Sudan Experimental Phone Survey which I wrote about last year.
In November, in conjunction with the Southern Sudan Centre for Census, Statistics and Evaluation, we delivered mobile phones to 1000 households in the 10 state capitals of Southern Sudan. Each month starting last December, Sudanese interviewers from a call center in Nairobi have phoned respondents on those phones to collect information on their economic situation, security, outlook, and other topics.
What is so exciting about this project is the sheer quantity and frequency of data that is being collected at relatively low cost.

For more info see Gabriel’s blogpost and photo essay, and make sure to follow his new Twitter account@gdemom.

05 March 2011

The Revolution WILL be Televised

I was just thinking the last few days about how I should write something about Acemoglu & Robinson’s theory of revolution and how it applies to the Middle East.

Well Tim Harford got there first, and probably does a much better job than I would have:

What kind of concessions should protesters look for? According to the economists Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson, who have built a detailed series of game-theoretic models of political transition, the answer is: ones that cannot be easily undone. Tunisia’s Ben Ali will surely not return, but already activists are concerned that democratic reforms may not be entrenched, and have returned to the streets to protest. Mubarak may be Egypt’s past, but Egypt’s future is unclear.

A fresh constitution, civil rights, and credible elections are all ways of safeguarding the gains so far. The revolutionary protesters are right to insist on them; it would hardly be a surprise to see feet being dragged by those who profited from the status quo.

It is intriguing to view events in the Middle East through this game-theoretic lens. For example, Saudi Arabia’s “royal gift” of $35bn does not seem to have satisfied activists in the kingdom. That makes sense: gifts can be withdrawn. If a dictatorial government can vent the revolutionary head of steam for a while, then the momentum for reform may be dissipated for many years – especially if the ringleaders are rounded up while all is quiet.

The one thing he touches on but does not quite make explicit is the importance of television. The trouble with revolution is that you have to solve a massive coordination problem in order to get everyone out onto the streets at the same time. Nobody wants to be the first one to the party and have to make awkward small-talk with the hosts. Better to arrive when things are in full-swing.

Much has been hyped about the role of Twitter and Facebook, but it seems to me that the real driving force has been the ready news of martyrs, accompanied by moving images, live evidence of the mass crowds out there, and the proven impact shown by the departure of Ben Ali and Mobarak. It was television, not Facebook, that did this.

In the words of the rather prescient-looking Charles Kenny:

Forget Twitter and Facebook, Google and the Kindle. Forget the latest sleek iGadget. Television is still the most influential medium around…

TV is having a positive impact on the lives of billions worldwide, and as the spread of mobile TV, video cameras and YouTube democratize both access and content, it will become an even greater force for humbling tyrannical governments



In the course of finding that Charles Kenny quote, I came across this marvellous paper on the economics of Baywatch.

"aid and Baywatch may have about same value [to people in dev countries]"

04 March 2011

Too Many Blogs to Read?

Yeah me too. So you might want to give Barometer Intel a try:

we scour the blogosphere on a daily basis for news, analysis and commentary on current events so that you don’t have to. We then select the most interesting, informative and incisive pieces and feature them on our webpage. In doing so, we aim to bring the best of the blogosphere to the widest possible audience, raise the profile of bloggers with talent and integrity, and expose our readers to compelling, independent voices from around the world.

All directed by a bunch of smart cool international development-types.