Forecast says snow, city government says “start digging!”

Residents of St. Petersburg are starting to wonder why they pay taxes at all when a city politician recommended they clear the streets themselves of snow.

After being criticized for insufficient snow removal, Deputy Governor Igor Albin went on an awesome rant, arguing that citizen dependence on the government is “the disease of modern Russian society.”  Here is what he had to say:

“People expect help to “do their dishes, maintain the yard, raise their children, protect them from foreign aggressors, and put things in order in their country and their home. Instead of watching television, people should grab a shovel and get digging, adding that physical activity is “good for one’s health and helps to order one’s thoughts.”

I hope this guy isn’t expecting another term in city government!  I love the fact that “protect them from foreign aggressors” is one of the attitudes indicating government dependence.

At least one citizen hit back on social media, writing “If there is a fire, then do not call the fire brigade. You need to call your neighbours, grab a bucket and douse the flames yourself.”

Export taxes and Farmers’ incomes in Cote D’Ivoire (my student’s job market paper)

The World Bank’s Development Impact Blog is running a series of curated guest posts where Economics job market candidates can write a non-technical post about their job market paper.

This week’s entry is by my student and job market candidate, Souleymane Soumaharo.

In his paper, Souleymane uses the partition of Cote D’Ivoire and the differing export tax policies employed by the two governments to test the effects of freer trade on cocoa farmers incomes. The study is done at the household level and, if I do say so myself is a mighty fine piece of work. Read his post for the details, and interview him at the AEAs if you are looking for a development person to join your organization!

Markets in everything, cringeworthy development edition

I saw an ad on my FB feed yesterday for a “Compassion Experience” in OKC.  A local church has set up a bunch of trailers to “look like” poor areas of the world, namely Uganda, India and Bolivia. Visitors walk through the exhibit while listening to the voices of real poor people who narrate their lives and explain how Jesus saved them from their grinding poverty.  I kid you not–I couldn’t make this stuff up even if I tried.

Here is the official description of the event:

Through over 3,000 square feet of interactive exhibit space, visitors will step inside daily life in a developing country — visiting homes, markets and schools — without getting on a plane. Through the use of an iPod and headset, each tour is guided by a child whose story starts in poverty but ends in hope. The event is an excellent opportunity to experience another culture and better understand the realities of global poverty. Don’t miss this life-changing event brought to you by Compassion International and Church of the Servant.

and here is the awesomely cringe-worth video.  I think the sentiment behind this is perhaps a good one, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.  Now you can participate in poverty porn without ever leaving your doublewide in OKC.

How you gonna get them off of the farm after they’ve seen Miss Uganda milking a cow?

Back in August, we reported that the Ugandan Army had apparently commandeered the annual Miss Uganda pageant and were going to use it as a vehicle to “promote agriculture” in accordance with the wishes of Uganda’s World Bank endorsed dictator, Museveni.

But even then, I never really thought they would actually do it.

But they did it. Every last bit of it.

“A former mushroom and poultry farmer has been crowned Miss Uganda following a major rebranding of the annual beauty pageant, which saw the glamour of the catwalk ditched for an army-sponsored boot camp on a farm.”

Now you may be asking yourself, what’s the big deal? It’s just harmless fun, right?

People, agriculture “employs” 82% of the Ugandan labor force while producing 23% of Uganda’s GDP.

Ugandan farmers need tractors and combines and milking machines (i.e. capital). They don’t need hotties pretending to milk cows.

And in the absence of a huge influx of capital, Uganda needs to get its people OUT OF AGRICULTURE and into anything else. Manufacturing, services, you name it. Just somewhere in the other 18% of the labor force that is producing 77% of GDP!

(I know I am slightly abusing accounting identities here, but the overall point is, I believe, a valid one).

Finally, I wonder if it mattered at all the the winner’s pops is commissioner of aid liaison in the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development?

Sexism in Development

Daniela Papi had a good piece in the Huffington Post recently entitled “Why Is Sexism Okay in Development Work? Reconsidering the ‘Women are Better’ Dialogue.”

It has become commonplace in the development community to funnel aid and loans solely to women and Papi correctly points to the (what should be) obvious sexism in this practice.  Specifically, she was attending Oxford University’s Emerge Conference and kept hearing about how organizations and businesses would only hire women because men “are too lazy.”

She makes the following excellent point:

Some of the companies were speaking from past experience: “When we hired men for sales, we got a lower return, as most of them didn’t work as hard.” They are speaking from proven results, in the same way you could say, “Asian Americans perform higher on exams,” if using data in American states where that has proven true, or, “African Americans are more likely to end up in jail than their white counterparts.” But I think people would be up in arms if you then said, “So therefore, our company only hires Asians, as they are smarter, and does not hire African American men, as they are more likely to get arrested.”

Those “facts,” based on retroactive data might be true statements of past experience, but stating them as undeniable facts into the future can create self-fulfilling prophecies, biases that lead to further skewed impressions and perhaps self-identification issues among the groups themselves.

She uses a funny personal anecdote to make it clear how crazy this practice is:

When I lived in Japan, I worked in a job where the employee before me had been from Kansas, and apparently he hadn’t done a good job in the role. The community then said they would no longer higher anyone from Kansas, which I found to be an amusing solution to their problem. 

 

 

Slave trade legacies

I just came across another interesting looking paper on slave trade legacies.  It is by Warren Whatley and titled “The transatlantic slave trade and the evolution of political authority in West Africa.”  My reading list is getting long but this will definitely be added to it.
I trace the impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade on the evolution of political authority in West Africa. I present econometric evidence showing that the trans-Atlantic slave trade increased absolutism in pre-colonial West Africa by approximately 17% to 35%, while reducing democracy and liberalism. I argue that this slavery-induced absolutism also influenced the structure of African political institutions in the colonial era and beyond. I present aggregate evidence showing that British colonies that exported more slaves in the era of the slave trade were ruled more-indirectly by colonial administrations. I argue that indirect colonial rule relied on sub-national absolutisms to control populations and extract surplus, and in the process transformed absolutist political customs into rule of law. The post-colonial federal authority, like the colonial authority before it, lacked the administrative apparatus and political clout to integrate these local authorities, even when they wanted to. From this perspective, state-failure in West Africa may be rooted in a political and economic history that is unique to Africa in many respects, a history that dates at least as far back as the era of the transatlantic slave trade.