Guest Roaster

Guest Roast: Good Governance and Development – Which causes which?

By Edvin Arnby Machata

The international development community has for almost two decades focused on improving governance as a strategic priority for aiding economic growth. This article points to the historical record and argues that 1) growth does not require good governance, 2) good governance and representative institutions are products of economic development – not the other way around, and that 3) the configuration of national institutions determine whether a political order will produce developmental outcomes or not.

‘Good governance’ has been a mainstay component in most donor-funded development programmes during the last two decades. What exactly constitutes good governance is empirically problematic, but while implementations vary, demands for good governance generally include provisions to minimize graft and increase respect for human rights.

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Guest Roast: Bad news? Sick and disabled people in British media

By Dr. Kayleigh Garthwaite

For the past three years, I have been studying the lives of long-term sickness benefits recipients in North East England, U.K. as part of my PhD research. In that time, government policy has increasingly distinguished between the ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ in relation to sick and disabled people. Yet it is not only policy that makes that distinction.

In recent years, the media have taken a more vitriolic stance towards sick and disabled people, often branding them deeply offensive terms such as ‘scum’, ‘feckless’, and ‘work-shy’ (Garthwaite 2011). A comparable discourse is evident not only in political debates and the mass media, but also when considering public opinion. Polls show unsurprising support for welfare reform plans, signalling the public’s negative view towards benefits and people who receive them. For example, an IPSOS Mori poll carried out for the BBC published in October 2011 revealed that although a resounding 92 percent of British people wanted a benefits system providing a safety net for all, 63 percent doubted the U.K. benefits system works effectively, 72 percent wanted politicians to do more to cut the benefits bill, and 84 percent wanted to see stricter testing for sickness benefits. Read More »

Guest Roast: Poverty – Who is to blame?

By David Harper.

Who’s to blame for poverty?  Is it the poor themselves?  Or society?  Or is it just bad luck or fate? Just over forty years ago, American sociologist Joe Feagin asked over a thousand Americans and found that 53 percent blamed the poor themselves, 22 percent blamed societal factors and 18 percent put poverty down to fate (1972). In a very real sense people were prepared to blame the victim. The tendency to blame the victims of poverty for their own fate is similar to what Melvin Lerner (1980) has called the belief in a just world – the Just World Theory – where people get what they deserve and deserve what they get. Thus if a person is poor they must somehow have deserved that poverty.

In 1990, some colleagues and I drew on Feagin’s work, designing a survey to examine how British people explained poverty in the developing world. The most popular explanations for poverty included the inefficiency of developing world governments, exploitation by other countries and climate. However we found that those with a stronger Just World belief were significantly less likely to agree that poverty in the developing world was due to exploitation by other countries, war or the world economic and banking system.

Does it matter what explanations people give for poverty? Read More »

Guest Roast: Is Poverty a State of Mind?

By Erin Taylor

What is the psychology of poverty? This question has been a contentious one in anthropology, particularly during the last half a century. In La Vida (1966), a study of poor Puerto Rican families, Oscar Lewis argued that poverty produces certain psychological traits and social behaviours that become enculturated. His ideas caused an uproar because they were widely interpreted to imply that so-called poor people are not capable of escaping poverty. Critics lamented that his book was being misappropriated by the U.S. Government to implement paternalistic, “blame the victim” policies among poor African-American communities that stripped them of their agency, treating them like hopeless cases that needed to be disciplined rather than assisted.

Since then, a plethora of research in poor communities around the world has overturned the idea of a global culture of poverty. Read More »

Powering the forest sector in Bolivia with renewable energy

Miguel RodriguezBy: Miguel Rodríguez Tejerina

Despite half of Bolivia being covered by forest, the forest sector represents only 1-2% of GDP. According to Supreme Decree 26075 of 2001, more than 40 million hectares are destined by the State for sustainable forest use, but currently only about 9 million hectares are being sustainably managed for wood production, mostly by private companies (5 million hectares) and indigenous and peasant communities. The rest is either not being used, or being exploited in an illegal and haphazard manner.

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Theory Bites: Can war create strong states today?

By Edvin Arnby Machata 

Historically, war has been a crucial factor in the evolution of today’s developed states. War both increases the direct need for state institutions like a tax authority and an organisation to manage conscription and training of soldiers. It has also weeded out weaker states to be assimilated into stronger ones.

How well this past experience remain true today is however unclear. There are a few important differences with developing state capacity in our time compared to 100, 500 and 1500 years ago (depending on the area). The most important is probably globalisation. If a state would emerge in isolated territories with limited external influence, it could much easier establish and maintain authority, as its main rivals would likely be tribes or states with similar resource levels but with authority centred in different areas. Read More »

Theory Bites: The violent origin of states

By Edvin Arnby Machata

The state is a key player in implementing successful development strategies. The state collects taxes and uses these for public investment like roads and schools, from which society will reap rewards in the form of a growing economy and better way of living. More fundamentally, the state provides the legal framework – courts, laws, and police forces – that shape economic activity in the country. A state that effectively maintains these functions is called a strong state.

Too many developing countries however have weak states, which instead of facilitating economic development are often inhibiting it through corrupt policies that only benefit a small part of the population. In the search for ways to improve the capacity of today’s weak states, it is useful to consider how today’s strong states emerged. Read More »

GUEST ROAST: The Battle for Green Growth—The New Politics of Sustainable Development

By Michael Jacobs

Over the past four years the concept of ‘green growth’ has burst onto the international policy scene. A term rarely heard before 2008, it now occupies a prominent position in the international policy discourse. The last two G20 Summits—international meetings of the heads of government of the largest 20 economies that began in response to the financial crash in 2008—declared their support for this goal.  The World Bank, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development  (OECD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) are all now committed to it.  A new body, the Global Green Growth Institute, has been created to advise governments on its implementation. A whole panoply of green growth networks, forums and ‘knowledge platforms’ has sprung up.

Why? Read More »

GUEST ROAST: Symbiotic demand—A new mechanism to reward sustainable farms’ ecosystem services

By Tim Gieseke

“Give me a lever long enough and a place to stand, and I will move the world.” Archimedes, 230 BC

Nothing seems to loom larger than the degradation of the environment at the hand of the growing global economy. This antagonistic relationship has been recognized for centuries and was made famous by Garrett Hardin’s 1967 essay of the “Tragedy of the Commons”. Read More »

Guest Roast: 9 Development Phrases We Hate and Suggestions for a New Lexicon

Last month the team at WhyDev wrote an article describing nine of their most hated international development phrases, which are often over- and misused,  and asked their readers what they should be called instead. Today, as part of the Fun Economics month at INESAD, they share with Development Roast the results of the humorous public poll and ask for your thoughts and further suggestions. Read More »


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