How I would not lead the World Bank – Bill Easterly

For those, like me, who still miss Aid Watch, here is Easterly over at FP:

I would not appoint U.S.-educated elites vetted by their autocratic home governments to represent the underrepresented peoples of the world. I would not negotiate the contents of World Bank reports with governments in either the West or the Rest, except possibly for correcting typos.

I would not lead the World Bank by perpetuating the technocratic illusion that development is something “we” do to “them.” I would not ignore the rights of “them.” If the New York Times should happen to report on the front page that a World Bank-financed project torched the homes and crops of Ugandan farmers, I would not stonewall the investigation for the next 165 days, 4 hours, 37 minutes, and 20 seconds up to now.

More on this here.

And for more on leadership selection at IFIs see CGD’s policy brief here.

Stanford Africa Forum 2012 (Feb 25th)

Please register here.

exactly when did the rain start beating africa?

HDI divergence

The new HDI rankings are out. Some in the blogosphere have beef with the new geometric (as opposed to additive) method of calculating final scores. I don’t.

Aid Watch’s beef is that:

The biggest change in method was that the new HDI is a geometric average rather than a normal (additive) average. Geometric average means you multiply the separate indices (each ranging between 0 and 1) for income, life expectancy, and education together and then take the cube root (I know your pulse starts to race here…)

Now, students, please notice the following: if one of these indices is zero, then the new HDI will be zero, regardless of how great the other indices are. The same mostly applies if one of the indices is close to zero. The new HDI has a “you’re only as strong as your weakest link” property, and in practice the weakest link turns out to be very low income (and guess which region has very low income).

My two cents on this discussion is that the Continent looks bad irrespective of how we arrive at its HDI scores. It’s best performers are tiny Botswana and Mauritius. It’s biggest countries and potential engines for growth are the DRC, Ethiopia and Nigeria, need I say more? And per capita income has not changed in most places in half a century.

I rarely disagree with Easterly but on this count I do. Let’s not shift posts for Africa. The idea of “African Standards” is condescending and demeaning to Africans. Norway and Chad look like they are eons apart. If the numbers reflect that fact so be it.

I hope this year’s report embarrasses the African ruling elite enough to wake them up from their stupor (come on, I am allowed one wishful thought per post).

More on this here and here. For a summary of this see Blattman.

africa headed for mdg disappointment

As African leaders continue to be preoccupied with civil strife and trying to hang on to power, figures indicate that the region will be the only place on the planet to have not met the millenium development goals by the deadline of 2015.

Child mortality, fertility, illiteracy, extreme poverty, among other indicators are still depressingly grim for this region of the world. The little or no growth experienced over the last two decades has all been swallowed up by a stratospheric fertility rate – all but one of the countries with fertility rates of more than 5 children per woman are in Africa. The number of Africans living in extreme poverty has increased by 90 million.

It is very depressing that the only people who seem to be disturbed by these aweful projections are non-Africans like Bono and Jeff Sachs and not the people who have contributed to the mess – the greedy, mostly illiterate kleptocrats who rule most of the continent.

If the trend is not reversed soon, the African future will be a re-run of post-79 Africa – a vast and dry continent that seems to have more than its fair share of famines, wars, disease and inexplicably high levels of poverty and suffering that belong in the premodern periods of human history. This is the reality that hundreds of millions of Africans are facing.