Impressions from the 8th Bolivian Conference on Development Economics

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Despite my initial hesitations about going ahead with the 8th Bolivian Conference on Development Economics much too late and without any confirmed sponsors, I have to admit that the 8th BCDE conference, carried out at UPB-Cochabamba this week, was once again a big success, and that I have thoroughly enjoyed two intensive days of frontier development research and networking in Cochabamba.

One of the main benefits of organizing the BCDE conference is the chance to invite and meet amazing people. This year, I was particularly delighted to meet Sara Farley of the Global Knowledge Initiative. Her keynote speech was about Collaborative Innovation, and while that was very inspiring in itself, it was even more interesting to hear, over dinner, how she applies that concept to everything in her own life (even her recent hiking & camping wedding on a mountain top in the US). I would love to try to apply some of her methods and strategies to the complex development problems of Bolivia.

Keynote speakers, Carlos Végh (World Bank) and Sara Farley (Global Knowledge Initiative), with Manuel Olave (Rector of UPB), and Boris Branisa (head of the BCDE8 Organizing Committee) at the inauguration session, UPB-Cochabamba, 26 October 2017.
Keynote speakers, Carlos Végh (World Bank) and Sara Farley (Global Knowledge Initiative), with Manuel Olave (Rector of UPB), and Boris Branisa (head of the BCDE8 Organizing Committee) at the inauguration session, UPB-Cochabamba, 26 October 2017.

I was also pleased to finally meet Rómulo Chumacero, a famous Bolivian economist at the University of Chile, whom I have heard about ever since I arrived to Bolivia 20 years ago, but never actually met in person before. He gave a provocative talk about the effect of Evo Morales on Bolivian development over the last decade.

Rómulo Chumacero, in a special session of the 8th Bolivian Conference on Development Economics, sponsored by UPB.
Rómulo Chumacero, in a special session of the 8th Bolivian Conference on Development Economics, sponsored by UPB.

The debate between Antonio Saravia, Oscar Molina and Fernanda Wanderley concerning the relevance of inequality was also highly entertaining. At the beginning of the session, participants were asked to vote, in an on-line survey, whether inequality matters or not. Then the three panelists were invited to provide arguments for (Oscar and Fernanda) and against (Antonio). After hearing the arguments, and after the panelists answering questions from the audience, the audience was once again asked to vote on the relevance of inequality. Thanks to his very crisp arguments, and one dirty trick, Antonio managed to convert quite a big share of the audience from Yes to No. The debate continued later over dinner and drinks, though, and there I believe Oscar and Fernanda regained a lot of ground.

Boris Branisa (INESAD) moderating the debate on inequality between Antonio Saravia (Mercer University), Oscar Molina (UPB) and Fernanda Wanderley (IISEC).
Boris Branisa (INESAD) moderating the debate on inequality between Antonio Saravia (Mercer University), Oscar Molina (UPB) and Fernanda Wanderley (IISEC).

Juan Vargas of CAF gave a very interesting talk about the costs and benefits of urban growth in Latin America, and the policies that help reduce the former and increase the latter. The flagship report behind the talk can be downloaded here.

Juan Vargas of CAF giving a special talk on urbanization and fried eggs at the 8th Bolivian Conference on Development Economics.
Juan Vargas of CAF giving a special talk on urbanization and fried eggs at the 8th Bolivian Conference on Development Economics.

We received a record number of paper-submissions this year (150), and the ones that were selected for presentation at the conference were of very high quality. The paper “The Long-run Effects of Teacher Strikes”, written by Alexander Willen, a Ph.D. Candidate in Policy Analysis and Management at Cornell University, won the Best Paper Award awarded by the Bolivian Academy of Economic Sciences. By that achievement, Alexander also became a Foreign Research Fellow of the Academy.

The winner of the Best Paper Award at BCDE8, Alexander Willen (Cornell) together with the two runner-ups and representatives of the four organizing institutions: INESAD, UPB, ABCE and SEBOL.
The winner of the Best Paper Award at BCDE8, Alexander Willen (Cornell), together with the two runner-ups and representatives of the four organizing institutions: INESAD, UPB, ABCE and SEBOL.

Oscar Molina, Vice-Rector of UPB, announced that after having organized five out of the latest eight BCDE conferences, UPB will need a break of at least two years, but that they hope to organize the BCDE in 2020 at the new UPB campus in Santa Cruz. Next year we are hoping that the Catholic University of Bolivia will host the conference in La Paz.

* The author is a Senior Researcher at INESAD, Ph.D. in Economics, landersen@inesad.edu.boThe views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Fundación INESAD.

 

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