More path dependency from the slave trade

I just came across an interesting new working paper on the issue of social capital, slavery, and literacy.  The author’s name is Nonso Obikili and the paper is called “The Impact of the Slave Trade on Literacy in Africa: Evidence from the Colonial Era.”  I haven’t read the paper carefully yet but it looks promising. Here is the abstract:

Recent studies have highlighted the importance of Africa’s history of slave exporting to its current economic development. In this paper I show that differences in investment in education may be one of the channels through which that history has affected current development. I combine data on literacy rates of administrative districts from the colonial censuses of Nigeria and Ghana from the 1950’s with data on slave exports of different ethnic groups. I find a negative and signicant relationship between slave export intensity before the colonial era and literacy rates during the colonial era. I also use contemporary data on literacy rates from the 2010 Nigerian Literacy Survey and find that this negative relationship is still present and significant. Thus, I show that the slave trades affected development through channels other than inter-ethnic group confliict or formal nation-state level institutions.

Scaling up is hard to do

Blogging by Boz has an interesting post about rooting out corruption in the Mexican police force.  He notes that the government had set a goal to vet all of the police in the country but so far has only vetted 75% of the force.  I’m not sure when this goal was originally set, because 75% actually seems quite high to what I would expect.  There have been inevitable delays and some unfortunate unintended consequences.  Here are a few that Boz lists:

1. “Can they define “corruption”? There is a difference between a cop who takes bribes to let drivers out of traffic tickets and a cop who takes bribes to ignore extortion by cartels. The tests have allegedly been far better at finding the former than the latter.

2. Fired police have been recruited by criminal groups. In one particularly awful example in Jalisco, a fired police officer was working as a sicario for a cartel killing other police officers less than two weeks after he was removed from duty. If firing police simply increases the ranks and skills of criminal groups in certain states, that’s not a good policy. These fired officers need an opportunity and training to obtain an honest job.

3. Continued corruption. Even after these tests have taken place, there have been incidents of police who passed the tests working for criminal groups, sometimes in the role of kidnappers. That has harmed the population’s confidence in the testing process.”

Boz concludes by making the excellent argument that vetting is (1) hard to scale effectively; and (2) something that must be done continuously and not just a one-time deal.

On a different note…

I was planning on blogging about this article: El Salvador: Where women may be jailed for miscarrying but it seems that most of the news (and blog posts) about Central America are depressing.  So I decided to change tack and post something positive.

From the WSJ (via the excellent Fausta’s blog), is news about a very cool Scandinavian design firm making waves in El Salvador called Carrot Concepts.  Here’s a description of their story from the WSJ:

“Among other road blocks, there is no large-scale furniture manufacturing to speak of, unreliable export and import capabilities and storage problems. If it’s become trendy in America to esteem handmade, locally sourced products above industrial ones, Salvadoran designers are in the unenviable position of being artisanal by necessity.

“Wood and metal are the basics we can use,” says Claudia Washington. (The aluminum molds that plastic products require can cost upward of $100,000 each, a prohibitive price for boutique designers.) On the other hand, PVC cord, a material many of the Carrot Concept designers work with, can be found in everything from machinery to Salvadoran truck drivers’ seats. As a result, their work tends to have a discernible handcrafted element—a friendliness that’s often absent from comparable professional-grade objects in other countries. “[Our pieces] are industrial looking, but they have a heart,” says Claudia’s husband, Harry. “So while Scandinavians can be very polished or the Japanese very tailored, these pieces have a lot of character. They have a lot of punch and sauce to them.”

I would agree.  Here is a photo of their work and click here for the WSJ’s slideshow (ungated).

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A Death Sentence in Uganda

The NY Times Lens Blog has a heartbreaking slide show and story called Breast Cancer as a Death Sentence in Uganda.

Apparently there is only one hospital in the country that treats cancer and, for a variety of reasons, women often wait until it’s too late to make the trip to the capital.  By the time they do, the cancer has metastasized and there is little that can be done.  Here are some excerpts:

“Jessy Acen would get one shot (of chemo) and then wait two weeks until she got the next shot, so instead of going back and forth to her village — which was a $10 bus ride — she would sleep outside of the hospital on a cardboard box while she was waiting for the next round of chemo. She had two sons back in her village that she hadn’t seen in several months and it was just a heartbreaking.”

“Some who have the resources are able to get radiation. Many of them have to bribe themselves to the front of the line. There’s one radiation machine that sometimes serves four different countries. People coming from South Sudan, Congo, Uganda and parts of Kenya all go to this one radiation machine so there are lines and lines of people waiting.”

h/t scarlettlion

Col. Easterly, in the parlor, with a candlestick

The Independent reviews the Sachs – Easterly death match and calls it for Easterly!

At least I think that’s what they are saying, I don’t actually speak British:

“To this spectator, it looked like a victor emerged last week.  It is not Sachs. If the bell were rung now, Easterly would walk it.”

 

 

 

The most bad-ass doctor ever

In an interesting article on drug cartels and extortion in Mexico, there are some unbelievable tidbits on a bad-ass doctor that refused to pay up.

Here’s how the good doctor originally reacted to extortion demands:

“When the threatening phone calls demanding $20,000 in protection money began in December, Dr. Roman Gomez Gaviria shrugged them off, believing his clinic on the outskirts of Mexico City couldn’t possibly be of interest to criminal gangs.”

Then, in what seems like an understatement, the doctor’s “sense of security was shattered when three armed men barged into his office screaming ‘Dr. Roman, you bastard, where are you?'”

The armed extortioners tried to drag the doctor out of the clinic and he makes this awesome statement: “They thought that, because I’m a doctor, I wasn’t going to resist.”  I don’t think it’s just because he was a doctor, I think they thought he wouldn’t resist because he valued his life.

So how did things work out?  The doctor “managed to break free from his kidnappers, grab one of their guns and shoot two of them to death at close range.”

He claims to live in fear of extortioners now but I think instead that they should live in fear of him!

“Atrocious, monopolistic state schools”

As I’ve mentioned on this site before, one of my favorite books in recent years on development is The Beautiful Tree: A personal journey into how the world’s poorest people are educating themselves by James Tooley.  I had no idea that there were low-cost private schools for the extremely poor around the world. It was an eye opening, fascinating book.

Now, in exciting news, Tooley’s oft-collaborater Pauline Dixon has a book on the topic called International Aid And Private Schools For The Poor: Smiles, Miracles and Market.  The title of this post is taken from a glowing review by Gurcharan Das and there are many more to be found on the book’s Amazon page.

Here’s a brief description of the book:

“Using India as an example, Dr. Pauline Dixon examines the ways in which private, for-profit schools might serve as a successful alternative to state-run systems of education in impoverished communities around the world.

The book begins with a thorough history of India’s government-run schools – based on the traditional British model – which are currently characterized by high levels of waste, inefficiency and subpar student performance. The author goes on to present comprehensive survey and census data, along with analyses of different school management types and their effect on student achievement, teacher attendance and quality of facilities. The book also tackles the problem of inefficient allocation and use of international aid, and offers recommendations on the development of new mechanisms for utilizing aid resources in support of low-cost private schools.”

This one is moving to the top of my reading list.