Thursday, April 28, 2011

Simple Development Stories vs. Reality

The differences between what we want to do, what we are good at, and what we [maybe] need to do. (HT: Barder, Source)

 We’ll never really be free of simplistic development stories. But at least that means the rest of us can have jobs adding another layer of reality to the debate: No, Malawi’s fertilizer subsidies are not simply a glorious story of an African government bucking “the Man.” IMF austerity programs also made the fertilizer subsidies possible.
Zambia continues its fertilizer subsidy program and is encouraging a Russian firm to build a new fertilizer plant to help them do it.
Saudi Arabia in Ethiopia ($2.5 billion for rice) and Zambia ($125 million for pineapple): “Saudi Star plans to export 2/3 of the food it will grow on the Ethiopian land…” The Saudi government announced this year that there are 27 other countries in whose agriculture it hopes to invest.

Hungry families turning down a free lunch. “When India was poor, its failure to feed itself properly did not seem odd. Poverty was explanation enough. But after one of the most impressive growth spurts in history, the country’s inability to lift the curse of malnutrition has emerged as its greatest failure—and biggest puzzle. … Astonishingly, a third of the wealthiest 20% of Indian children are malnourished, too, and they are neither poor nor excluded.” After complaining that Indian plans to reduce hunger are insufficient given the structural and bureaucratic difficulties, however, the Economist’s answer of turning the program into a CCT that wouldn’t address them either seems odd.

Why? Try Banerjee and Duflo's explanation: "The poor often resist the wonderful plans we think up for them because they do not share our faith that those plans work, or work as well as we claim. We shouldn’t forget, too, that other things may be more important in their lives than food."

Easterly asks, Why are we not concerned about the brain drain in North Dakota? I don’t know where he was during the previous gubernatorial election, but in the great state he and I share the brain drain out of New York State was a major debating topic. While it’s true no one proposed putting a wall around the state to keep people in, it was still a topic of concern.

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