21 December 2013

60% discount on holiday giving

I've been frustrated this year about not really being able to give to GiveDirectly because they aren't registered in the UK and so are ineligible for Gift Aid (a 25% top-up donation by the government taken from your income tax payment).

I just discovered that this PROBLEM IS NOW SOLVED.

The new Giving What We Can Trust is eligible for Gift Aid, and they will pass on your money directly (plus gift aid) to the charity of your choice (as long as its either one of their recommended charities, or one of Givewell's recommended charities, which GiveDirectly is, though I'm guessing there is some additional bank charge for the trust to send money to GiveDirectly in the US?).

On top of this, Good Ventures (an awesome foundation financed by one of Facebook's co-founders) is offering a 100% match for any donations to GiveDirectly up to January 31st 2014.

So if you give £100 to the trust, this becomes £125 with gift aid, and £250 with the match (which is your 60% discount), which minus processing fees comes to around £225 directly in the hands of a family living in extreme poverty somewhere in rural Kenya, a pretty hefty chunk of cash when you're living on a dollar a day.

Big thanks to everyone at Give Directly, Give Well, Giving What We Can, Good Ventures, and Innovations for Poverty Action who have made this stunningly simple effective efficient way to make the world a slightly better place possible.

Merry Christmas!

Why are flights in Africa so expensive?

Part of the reason is the lack of competition on so many routes, because countries restrict the rights of airlines from third countries to connect them with other countries - so called "fifth freedom" rights - despite an agreement to do this in 1999.
A comprehensive 2010 World Bank study led by Charles Schlumberger looked at a number of specific examples of what happened when routes have been liberalized in Africa. When the Nairobi-Johannesburg route was fully opened up in 2003, passenger volumes increased 69-fold. When the domestic South African market was liberalized, passenger volumes increased by 80 per cent. On average in the Southern African Development Community (SADC), routes that were liberalized saw fares drop by 18 per cent. The study estimates that full liberalization in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region would increase passenger volumes by around 20 per cent.
More here (by me) on the AfDB Integrating Africa blog.

16 December 2013

Two ways to make the world a better place

According to Angus Deaton, either be like Jean Drèze, or be like CGD. He actually comes off pretty well in this interview.
"The moral obligation is important because I don’t want it to sound like I’m a heartless bastard who has no interest in this partly because there’s just this: these people are hurting and if you can help them you ought to help them. Secondly, some of their hurt is to do with us, you know the colonial programme was not a great success. It might have been a great success for the Brits, it was not a great success for what happened in India. So we owe them big.
I have students I meet at Princeton who come to me and say “I want to devote my life to making the world a better place” and “I want to dedicate my self to reducing global poverty” and I say there are two ways: one is impossibly hard but I know at least one person who did that, some other people have done it. You go to Sierra Leone, you go to India or wherever. You become a citizen, you use your skills to help local groups agitate. You don’t take any money from outside, you just become like them and you use the skills and knowledge you’ve learnt here to help them. My friend Jean Drèze is an activist in India who’s been incredibly successful in doing this. He had to renounce his Belgian citizenship, it was very hard for him to even get that done. He lives without money because he’s frightened of being compromised by that and he’s been enormously successful. But it’s like the camel going through the eye of the needle right? It’s hard. 
The other thing I tell my students to do is go to Washington and tell them to stop selling arms to poor countries. These are very very articulate smart kids who are going to be national leaders and god knows what else. You may not think you have much power now but you really do – go and get high positions, go and put pressure on these bastards to stop doing this. There’s a lot of stuff about aid but not that much publicity for debt relief. What about publicity about Britain selling arms? Fighting on those causes is something that people in our, rich countries have the legitimacy and standing to do because they’re citizens of those countries."
There is also some praise for DFID despite concerns about the strong incentives to keep dispersing no matter what:
"I was at DFID recently and they were actually much more receptive than I thought they would be. Many of these arguments are fully familiar to them, which tells me that it’s a very good aid agency. They’re people who don’t have their heads buried in the sand."
Read the rest here (and part one here), via Tom H

13 December 2013

Statistical literacy at DFID

Some fascinating results from a new survey of DFID staff about their use and knowledge about evidence (credit to DFID for doing this and for publishing it), including these delicious stats:

84% seem to know what an RCT is
77% know what a census is, aaaaaaand
39% know what a national sample survey is.

hmmmmmmmmm........... maybe there is a point somewhere after all in all of this scepticism about the RCT hype ........?

Are South African kids worse educated than Tanzanian kids?

Although South Africans are more likely to actually be in school, they are also more likely to be functionally illiterate. 

From an integration of measures of access and quality for primary education by Nic Spaull and Stephen Taylor. They call it "effective enrolment" and I like it. 

12 December 2013

Development as.... development?

When I told people at my secondary school I was going to university to do "Development Studies" the girls thought it was really sweet that I was interested in child development. To which I kind of thought (but probably failed to very well articulate) "fuck off, I'm going to study the development of whole countries and economies with factories and industry and epic social transformation and all that, not little kids or whatever."

Funny how this path somehow led me to the latest international development focus on early child development goddamnit

11 December 2013

We don't need no education

I have a massive backlog of half-written draft blog posts that I'm going to try and start getting out the door, so, er, enjoy the early Christmas presents or something?!

OPM organised a workshop earlier this year in Oxford with JICA and Kobe University to discuss preparations for a session at the Tokyo Conference on International Development on Youth Employment in Africa. The absolute stand-out highlight for me was Francis Teal presenting his paper entitled “Education for Job Creation” in which he argued vehemently that spending money on education in Africa is a total waste of time if your goal is job creation.

I am very biased because Francis taught me how to do research, but.

Francis would probably hate the use of a trendy neologism, but what he is basically saying is that the binding constraint to good job creation is on the demand-side rather than the supply-side. Education in Africa might be often of poor quality, but dramatically improving the quality is unlikely to lead to jobs with improved incomes unless Africa can create better linkages to sources of demand. To do this it needs to connect better to the global economy. 

Here are a couple of pieces of illustrative evidence.

Chart 1: There is basically no correlation between the growth rates of aggregate levels of education, and aggregate levels of income

Chart 2: At the individual level, although there is a positive correlation between education and earnings, the more important point is the massive variation around the average. Until you get above 20 years, an education in Africa really doesn't guarantee anything at all

Interesting, provocative stuff, which sits uncomfortably with economists and education policy wonks with an interest in Africa. Perhaps I need to resign myself to education for the sake of education? Something vague about culture and philosophy and the intrinsic worth of education? Is there any better evidence for the benefits of education than this?

and video from the CSAE conference here: http://fsmevents.com/csae/session2/

05 December 2013

Awareness raising for development: nonsequitur of the day

only 30% [of EU citizens] see education as a priority [for development] ... There is still a lot of awareness raising we need to be doing in the education sector. (says Global Partnership for Education staff member)
I'm trying to keep the snark to a minimum these days but this was too tempting. Personally I think it is appalling that the EU public doesn't see improving the welfare of economists and consultants as the top continent-wide priority, and there is a lot of awareness raising to be done to help citizens appreciate just how under-appreciated economists are.

More constructively, call me crazy but maybe just maybe it should be developing country citizens who are setting the development priorities rather than EU citizens?

And finally, "raising awareness" is actually already on the development #bannedlist so just stop it. If you want to sell or market your product or idea that is fine, but would you ever say that Coca-Cola are sensitizing people or raising awareness about their great taste? Exactly. What you are talking about is advertising or marketing. And to go out on a bit of a limb - isn't it possible that the very language of "sensitization" and "awareness raising" actually helps to reinforce the unhelpful narrative of expert foreigners with all the answers showing up to tell the ignorant locals what is what - and thereby contributing to the general lack of attention paid to the opinions of the poor? Wooooah, I might have betrayed a bit of exposure to SOASian critical theory there. But language matters.  
"if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought ... Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind." Mr. Orwell, 1946

03 December 2013

New Africa macroeconomics blogging

Greg Smith is blogging at Ndoronomics.com - sharp analysis on macroeconomics in Ghana and elsewhere. Self-recommending.