Economic development and the effectiveness of foreign aid: A historical perspective
Sebastian Edwards 28 November 2014
The effectiveness of official development aid is the subject of heated debate. This column argues that aid affects recipient economies in extremely complex ways and through multiple and changing channels. Moreover, this is a two-way relationship – realities in recipient countries affect the actions of aid agencies. This relationship is so intricate and time-dependent that it is not amenable to being captured by cross-country or panel regressions. Even sophisticated specifications with multiple breakpoints and nonlinearities are unlikely to explain the inner workings of the aid–performance connection.
Foreign aid is controversial in development economics. Three distinct camps may be distinguished:
- One believes that official assistance is ineffective, and has harmed poor countries throughout the years.
This views official aid as creating dependency, fostering corruption, and encouraging currency overvaluation (Easterly 2014 and Moyo 2010). It also prevents countries from taking advantage of the opportunities provided by the global economy.
foreign aid, development, development aid
Deep roots or current policies – what drives sustained prosperity differences across locations?
Mercedes Delgado, Christian Ketels, Michael Porter, Scott Stern 18 September 2014
There is a consensus among economists that ‘deep roots’ – geography, natural endowments, and institutions – are important determinants of prosperity differences across countries. This column argues that deep roots matter, but they are neither the whole story nor an excuse for political inaction today. Current policies are important – especially the broad range of policies that shape the business environment and the sophistication of companies – and they are affected but not determined by the past.
What explains the dramatic differences in prosperity levels across locations? A large segment of the research-oriented literature points towards ‘deep roots’, i.e. legacy factors that have been set long ago (Spolaore and Wacziarg 2012). The debate rages on as to whether geographic location and natural endowments (e.g. McCord and Sachs 2013, Sachs et al. 2001) or institutional legacies – themselves influenced by geography and natural conditions (e.g. Acemoglu et al. 2001, Acemoglu and Robinson 2012) – are key.
Development Institutions and economics
deep roots, development, Botswana, institutions, geography, colonialism, extractive institutions, natural resources
African growth looking forward
Marco Annunziata 16 August 2014
Africa has generated a lot of enthusiasm lately. The cynical view of the continent as a hopeless basket case has been replaced by the lofty narrative of Africa Rising. This column argues that Africa’s progress is impressive, and there is more to the story than a commodity boom. But Africa is at a crossroads. The opportunities are huge, but the road ahead is long, and will require persistent and patient effort from policymakers as well as business.
Views on Africa’s growth prospects have jumped from utter pessimism to extreme enthusiasm. The latter has been centre-stage with the US–Africa Summit hosted in Washington DC from 4–6 August 2014, with the participation of top political and business leaders. My coauthors Todd Johnson and Shlomi Kramer and I have tried to take a sober assessment of Africa’s progress and prospects, looking beyond the current hype and the inevitable frustration that doing business in the region still generates (Annunziata et al. 2014).
development, growth, Africa, human capital, trade, innovation, infrastructure, commodity boom
Connecting Brazil to the world
Patricia Ellen, Jaana Remes 12 July 2014
Brazil has grown rapidly and reduced poverty over the past decade, but it has grown more slowly than other emerging economies and its income per capita remains relatively low by global standards. This column points out that sectors of the Brazilian economy that have been opened up to international competition have outperformed those that remain heavily protected. Deeper integration into global markets and value chains could provide competitive pressures that would improve Brazil’s productivity and living standards.
Despite a decade of rapid growth and falling poverty rates, Brazil has failed to match the global average for income growth – let alone to achieve the kind of impressive gains posted by other rapidly transforming emerging economies. As of 2012, Brazil had become the world’s seventh-largest economy, but it ranked only 95th in the world for gross national income per capita (IHS Economics and Country Risk data). To raise household living standards, Brazil needs to find a new formula for accelerating productivity growth.
Development International trade Productivity and Innovation
development, growth, productivity, globalisation, MERCOSUR, trade, openness, Brazil, global value chains
Institutions, trade shocks, and regional differences in long-run educational and development trajectories
André Carlos Martínez, Aldo Musacchio, Martina Viarengo 09 July 2014
Institutions are known to play a powerful and enduring role in countries’ divergent levels of economic development. This column presents evidence that institutions matter for within-country inequality, too. In Brazil, changes in export prices and export tax revenues led to an increase in education spending in states that experienced commodity booms, which increased the number of schools and improved educational outcomes such as literacy rates. However, the effect was limited in states where slavery was predominant in colonial times.
Understanding the determinants of long-run socio-economic development is a major concern for academics and policymakers in many countries around the world. In particular, beyond understanding differences in development or educational and other outcomes across countries, the origins of within-country inequality are now a fundamental issue, given the impact inequality has on the long-run prosperity of nations.
Development Economic history Education
development, education, growth, institutions, Inequality, Brazil, colonialism, trade shocks, extractive institutions
Newspaper readership, civic attitudes, and economic development: Evidence from the history of African media
Julia Cagé, Valeria Rueda 14 May 2014
African regions where Protestant missionaries were active had indigenous newspapers a century before other regions. This column argues, based on new research, that this difference has had lasting effects. Proximity to a mission that had a printing press in 1903 predicts newspaper readership today. Population density and light density (a proxy for economic development) is also higher today in regions nearer to missions that had printing presses. The results suggest that a well-functioning media – not Protestantism per se – was important for development.
Poor governance due to lack of political accountability is often cited as an explanation for the low level of economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. Lack of political accountability can emerge when voters do not choose their candidates according to their expected performance. In sub-Saharan Africa, voters often use the ethnic profile of a candidate as an informational shortcut for the candidate’s political agenda (Ichino and Nathan 2013). As a consequence, politicians rely on tribal allegiances that deliver the votes of co-ethnics irrespective of performance (Casey 2013).
Development Economic history Institutions and economics Politics and economics
development, democracy, Africa, religion, technology, media, voting, accountability
More to do on measuring hunger
Joachim De Weerdt, Kathleen Beegle, Jed Friedman, John Gibson 18 February 2014
Whereas the Millennium Development Goal of reducing extreme poverty by half was achieved by 2010, the global hunger rate has only fallen by a third since 1990. Differences in survey design may account for part of this discrepancy. This column presents the results of a recent experiment in which households were randomly assigned to different survey designs. These different designs yield vastly different hunger estimates, ranging from 19% to 68% of the population being hungry.
One of the first Millennium Development Goals is to reduce hunger by half between 1990 and 2015. To date, the global hunger count has fallen slightly, from 1 billion in 1990–1992 to 870 million in 2010–2012 (Food and Agriculture Organization 2013). As a proportion of the world’s population, this is just a one-third fall in the hunger rate, from 19% to 13%. In contrast, the other highly visible Millennium Development Goal – reducing extreme poverty by half – was achieved by 2010.
Poverty and income inequality
development, Africa, Poverty, Millennium Development Goals, food, hunger, measurement error, surveys, Tanzania
GDP and life satisfaction: New evidence
Eugenio Proto, Aldo Rustichini 11 January 2014
The link between higher national income and higher national life satisfaction is critical to economic policymaking. This column presents new evidence that the connection is hump-shaped. There is a clear, positive relation in the poorer nations and regions, but it flattens out at around $30,000–$35,000, and then turns negative.
A commission on the measurement of economic performance and social progress was created on the French government’s initiative. Since 2008, this distinguished group of social scientists has put subjective well-being into the limelight as a possible supplement to traditional measures of development such as GDP (Stiglitz et al. 2009). The British government has also shown considerable interest in developing a subjective well-being measure in recent years as an instrument for policy.
Development Frontiers of economic research
development, growth, happiness, Easterlin paradox, subjective well-being, national income
Government quality and spatial inequality: A cross-country analysis
Andrés Rodríguez-Pose, Roberto Ezcurra 29 November 2013
Does government quality affect the size and evolution of regional inequality? This column approaches this question using regional data for 46 countries with different degrees of economic development over the period 1996-2006. We find that there is a strong negative association between quality of government and within-country disparities. Countries with better quality of government register lower levels of spatial inequality.
Spatial inequality has received considerable attention from both scholars and politicians in the last two decades, coinciding with advances in globalisation. The growing interest has to do with the fact that spatial inequality – income inequality across geographical or administrative units within country or region – is a primary component of overall inequality across individuals (Milanovic 2005). When spatial inequality increases within a given country (all else equal), so does national inequality.
Poverty and income inequality
development, spatial inequality, government institutions
AGOA rules: The intended and unintended consequences of special fabric provisions
Lawrence Edwards, Robert Z. Lawrence 20 November 2013
Preferential import policies that allow developing markets to export to advanced economies are intended to dynamically promote development rather than just provide basic gains from trade. This column argues that the Africa Growth and Opportunities Act achieves the latter but not the former, distorting incentives along the value-added chain. While beneficial, preferential trade deals are not a panacea and are certainly not a replacement for pro-development policies.
The US and EU often claim credit for granting duty-free quota-free access to products from the least developed countries. Such preferential treatment is of interest not only because it might provide one-time benefits in the form of higher incomes and increased employment, but also because trade is often associated with dynamic benefits that lead to faster growth and development.
Development International trade
development, Africa, tariffs, quotas