Monday’s links are full of Lant

I am teaching a Ph.D. class this semester on Economic Development and I was telling my students about an article that Lant Pritchett had written about Indian education.  I told them I’d find the link and that they should read all of Lant’s work because it was some of the most interesting and thought provoking work in the field.

To help them out, I put together a list of links of Lant’s recent work.  Given that we blogged this morning about Lant’s book, I figured I’d make it an all-Lant Monday and reproduce the links here:

1. Service with a Smile  “For government services to improve, those providing them should want to do a better job”

2. The first PISA results for India: The end of the beginning

3. Is Microfinance A Schumpeterian Dead End?

4. Interview with Lant on Indian Education

5. Fact and Ficiton in Development

6. One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Lant Pritchett on Mimicry in Development

7.  Everything you think you know about poverty is wrong

8. Lant Pritchett v the Randomistas on the nature of evidence – is a wonkwar brewing?

 

Schooling Ain’t Learning

Today is the official launch day for Lant Pritchett’s new book: The Rebirth of Education: Schooling Ain’t Learning.

You can buy the book here,

You can read about it here.

While governments in the developing world have indeed managed to increase school enrollment rates substantially (as they were advised to do by rich country aid agencies and the MDGs), the payoff has been muted at best because of the often low to non-existant level of actual education available in the schools.

Development advice and aid often focuses inappropriately on the inputs at the expense of the outputs (though the RCT nation is changing this), perhaps nowhere more strongly though than in education.

To me it’s another example of “cargo cult” development (Lant is much more polite, well, ok a little more polite, and calls it “isomorphic mimicry”). Build a straw airplane and balsawood control tower and wait for the cargo to fall from the sky.

Of course in education policy it can be even worse as the balsawood control tower is frequently staffed by un-accountable, un-dismissable, personnel.

Lant doesn’t write in development-speak (the isomorphic mimicry phrase not withstanding). You’ll have no trouble figuring out what’s on his mind.

Both Mrs. Angus and I plan to use this book in our teaching and we highly recommend it to anyone interested in education policy and development.

(This post also appears at Kids Prefer Cheese)

Is this progress? The $640 toilet seat arrives in Uganda

From Uganda’s Daily Monitor:

 

The Public Accounts Committee yesterday refused to accept explanations from Defence ministry officials over the purchases which are captured in an Auditor General report under consideration in the House. Army officers bought a saucepan for almost Shs2 million and spent close to Shs8 million on a gas cooker in transactions which have astonished a House committee probing suspected corruption in the military.

 

The exchange rate is around 2500 shillings / $ so that translates to a $800 saucepan and a $3200 gas cooker.

 

Sound familiar? I guess Ugandan institutions really are converging to American institutions.

 

Even the excuses sound familiar: “Ms Edith Buturo, the stand-in accounting officer at Defence, attributed the prices to a “war situation”. “

 

Climbing the ladder in Sub-Saharan Africa

It’s not easy, according to the World Bank’s Thomas Bossuroy.

Here’s the money ‘graf:

Many African economies have grown quickly, and education has expanded dramatically. But growth has been mostly driven by extractive industries rather than labor-intensive sectors like agriculture or manufacturing, and educational systems are performing poorly. As a result, social mobility seems to have remained low, and the weight of the social background still determines most of individual trajectories.

 

Bossuroy also points out that while education is often an important factor in upward mobility, the overall low quality of education in many Sub-Saharan African countries makes this factor very weak in the region.

 

 

Mexico & Migration

The New York Times had an article on Sunday called “For Migrants, New Land of Opportunity Is Mexico.”  It had the following interesting points about migration and Mexico:

“The shift with Mexico’s northern neighbor is especially stark. Americans now make up more than three-quarters of Mexico’s roughly one million documented foreigners, up from around two-thirds in 2000, leading to a historic milestone: more Americans have been added to the population of Mexico over the past few years than Mexicans have been added to the population of the United States, according to government data in both nations.

Mexican migration to the United States has reached an equilibrium, with about as many Mexicans moving north from 2005 to 2010 as those returning south. The number of Americans legally living and working in Mexico grew to more than 70,000 in 2012 from 60,000 in 2009, a number that does not include many students and retirees, those on tourist visas or the roughly 350,000 American children who have arrived since 2005 with their Mexican parents.”

I didn’t find the second half of the article very convincing, however, since it relies heavily on anecdotal evidence and doesn’t broach the topics of drugs, violence, or the fact that the Mexican economy is tanking in 2013.  Trading economics has a nice figure (click for a better view) of Mexican GDP growth in the last 5 years.  So far Mexico has seen essentially zero GDP growth in 2013, causing the government and IFIs to drastically reduce forecasts.  If economic growth continues to stagnate, I predict a resurgence of migration north.

mexico-gdp-growth 

“The corpse of a failed state”

The NY Times had an excellent article and slideshow yesterday called A Haitian State of Mind.  In it, they profile the work of Paolo Woods, a photographer who grew up in Italy with a Dutch mom and Canadian dad.  He attributes his unusual upbringing to his fascination with questions of national identity and statehood.

He moved to Haiti to try to understand what it means to live in a “failed state.”  In his words: “How does a failed state live? Who takes the place of the state? How is society organized and how does it reorganize on the corpse of a failed state?”

Woods has some interesting things to say about the effect of NGOs on the island:

“I am convinced the NGOs do not do development. If you go through Haiti, it is littered with the projects of NGOs — mills, canals, thousands of different projects that were built and inaugurated with beautiful pictures that ended up in glossy brochures and that no longer exist. They come to Haiti without a knowledge of the place, and when they leave, everything they constructed falls because they did not create a structure to keep it up.”

He also finds evidence of hope, that people want a functioning government that would provide law and order.  He points to an illegal housing development where the people had named the streets and left lots open for a future town hall and police department. He notes that “This is a completely illegal settlement, yet they desire the presence of elements that represent the state. The whole idea of anarchy and that they are people who do not want a functioning government is completely contradicted by that.”

Here is one of his photos in the show.  It is of Michel Martelly, the current president, in front of a crumbling presidential palace:

president_haiti

 

Always good to dream big

I’m late to this story, but I was recently reading about President Yahya Jammeh of The Gambia.  While many African countries have made great strides in democratization in recent years, Mr. Jammeh is apparently not a fan.

In 2011he claimed that he “will rule for “one billion years”, if God wills.”  Apparently God still wills it as he hasn’t stepped down.   And what about critics who say that he wins elections through intimidation and fraud.  They can “go to hell”!

Other great claims by the big man of Gambia:

1. In 2007, he noted that he could personally cure HIV/AIDS with herbs.

2. He can also cure infertility in women.

3. In 2008, he threatened that any homosexuals in the country would be beheaded.  He later backed off that threat, but in 2013 stated: “Homosexuals are not welcome in the Gambia. If we catch you, you will regret why you are born. I have buffalos from South Africa and Brazil and they never date each other. We are ready to eat grass but we will not compromise on this. Allowing homosexuality means allowing satanic rights.”  Note: what is up with the buffalo and grass references?

The 2011 article about the president that I referenced above ends with this awesome statement: “The tiny West African state is a popular tourist destination.”  Really? As compared to what?  Somalia?

Hijacking the African statistical development program

African Arguments has an interesting article on the intersection of academia and politics.

The economist Morten Jerven has an excellent new book out called Poor Numbers: How We Are Misled by African Development Statistics and What to Do about It.  Jerven was supposed to give a speech Tuesday at the United Nations Economic Commission on Africa (UNECA) about his work but it was cancelled for political reasons.

Jerven alleges that Pali Lehohla, South Africa’s Statistician General, issued an ultimatum to UNECA that “if they let me speak he would withdraw all South African delegates from the UNECA meetings.” 

yellow_suit

Lehohla, pictured above in the yellow suit, admitted his disagreement with Jerven’s work.  Apparently it has touched a nerve throughout Africa.  Here are some allegations:

1.  Lehohla argues that Jerven  “has not done his research” and “that we agreed as statisticians that we shall not engage him any further until he can demonstrate that he has done scholarly work on Statistical Development in Africa.”

2. Mr Lehohla adds that “Morten Jerven will highjack the African statistical development programme unless he is stopped in his tracks.”  Given what I’ve read of African statistical agencies in Jerven’s work, I can only hope that he does highjack their program.

3.  Dimitri Sanga, former Director of the African Centre for Statistics at the UNECA, characterizes Jerven’s work as “sulphurous.” I’m not even sure what that means but it sounds like an insult.
4. The Zambian Statistical Office accuses Jerven of “sneaking 

into CSO premises and collecting information on such a big institution without any authorization at all.” As if that weren’t slanderous enough, the go on to add that

It is clear that Mr. Jerven had some hidden agenda which leaves us to conclude that he was probably a hired gun meant to discredit African National Accountants and eventually create work and room for more European based technical assistance missions.”

Jerven took the high road in the controversy and stated that “It is unfortunate that some people perceive my book as a criticism of the people working in African Statistics, when my intent is to elevate the discussion on how to support African countries in improving their statistical systems.”

It is rare that academic work makes such waves in the real world and I think the backlash is actually encouraging because it opening up debate (and shedding more light) on issues that rarely get discussed.  It reminds me a bit of the reaction that Krugman got in East Asia when he compared growth in the region to the Soviet experience, arguing that much of the growth was fueled by factor accumulation and not productivity.  The initial reaction was sharply negative but a couple of years later Krugman was invited to Singapore to discuss ways in which the country could raise productivity.  Hopefully something similar will happen in this case.

“Just like Christ multiplied the penises”

The President of Venezuela has been at it again.  Not only is the economy tanking, but Maduro’s continual gaffes make him an object of ridicule.

The Latin Times reports that the President, already looking very presidential  in an “Adidas track suit in the bright red, blue and yellow colors of the Venezuelan flag” committed a Freudian slip recently when he “made allusion to the Biblical miracle of the seven loaves and fish, but said “penes”, meaning “penises” instead of “peces” (or fish).”   Somehow he made this slip when he was discussing education.  Specifically, the stated that “We need to go in school by school, student by student, high school by high school, community by community, get in there, multiply ourselves, just like Christ multiplied the penises – “, realizing his mistake, he paused to correct himself, ” – pardon me, the fishes and the loaves. Pardon the expression. Just like Christ multiplied the loaves and the fish.”

Here’s the video if you want to see Maduro in all his patriotic glory.

That isn’t all though folks, because last week he also said the government would give “children 35 million “books and pounds” (“libros y libras”) for Monday’s return to school” and this week he fell off his bike while leading a large procession of people.

The best part of all this though is Maduro’s response.  He acted like this was all part of his master plan.  Here is his great comeback:

“The right wing is stupid. As they want to censure the historic fact that we are going to give 35 million books to the boys and girls of Venezuela … I left them a little trap, and some fell for it,” he told supporters. “Some of the most stupid ones put the video on Twitter. Great! Because they show where I say we’re giving away 35 million books. At least people see it. If they hide things due to hatred of the fatherland, I’m obliged to find other ways.”