Welfare Economics

HIV is on the rise in Bolivia, but it is concentrated in just a handful of municipalities

By: Lykke E. Andersen* and Alejandra Gonzales**

Thanks to the diligent work of the “Programa Nacional ITS/VIH/SIDA y Hepatitis Virales” in Bolivia, we able to present a good overview of the HIV situation in Bolivia. HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus, which can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The bad news is that it has been on the rise in Bolivia for the last two decades, but the good news is that it is still at a low level by international standards, and it is concentrated in just a handful of municipalities.

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Economics is the most dismal of sciences in terms of gender equality

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

While the World’s education systems currently favour girls and women across most of the World (1), with 112 women enrolled in university for every 100 men worldwide (2), this educational advantage has yet to translate itself into more lucrative and prestigious positions for women. This is particularly so in the economics profession.

Only one woman has ever been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics (Elinor Ostrom in 2009), whereas in Physics there are 2 female Nobel Prize winners, in Chemistry 4, in Medicine 12, in Literature 14, and 16 women have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize (3).

That women have trouble rising to the top in the economics profession is also reflected by the fact that there are currently only eight countries in the World in which the highest ranked economist is a woman (4). In at least three of those cases, however, the female researcher does not actually live in the country, but is rather affiliated with an institution in the country, while currently living in another country (5). Thus, only five countries in the world has a top economist, who is both female and actually lives in the country: Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda. In contrast, there are 120 countries in which the top ranked economist is male (see Map 1). For the remainder of the countries, no data was available, as no economists at all had registered at RePEc.

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Who are the NINIS (out of school and out of work) in Bolivia?

PrintBy: Beatriz Muriel H., Ph.D*

The NINIS phenomenon (that is, young people who neither study nor work) is gaining relevance in the academic debate. However, the meaning behind this word is still a black box with many theories about its content. At one extreme, NINIS are imagined as lazy young people who spend their time playing video games, watching television or doing other unproductive activities. At the other extreme, NINIS are perceived as young people without opportunities for getting education or having a job. Therefore, they are in a kind of social exclusion.

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Dollar Street: A virtual trip around the world to fight xenophobia

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

A phobia is an irrational fear of something. We all suffer from phobias of some kind. My worst phobia is arachnophobia, which is one of the reasons I love living in the (almost) safe haven of La Paz. Instead of trying to confront and overcome my irrational fear, I chose to run away. If I hadn’t found La Paz, I would probably be working as a scientist in Antarctica (which still sounds like a very attractive option to me).

So, although some of my friends consider me excessively rational, I can understand and empathise with people who suffer from irrational fears. Our brains are far from being rational, and are still dominated by emotions that were useful during our evolution over the last several hundred thousand years.

One of those emotions that were useful in our evolutionary past is xenophobia: a deep-rooted fear of foreigners. For most of our evolutionary history, it is quite likely that strangers were very bad news indeed, so this instinct made a lot of sense.

The xenophobia instinct is still very much with us, but it makes little sense anymore in this globalized, integrated, and relatively civilized world. Most foreigners you might meet probably want to work for you, trade with you, or help you in some other ways. Less than one in a million is out to kill you. Your benefit from interacting with foreigners outweigh the risks many thousand times. So it is indeed an irrational fear now.

Anna Rosling (photographer; co-founder of Gapminder; one of Bill Gates’ Heroes in the Field; and daughter-in-law of my biggest hero ever) has made a really nice attempt to alleviate our irrational fear of foreigners, in a safe and comfortable way, with her Dollar Street project. The project visited 264 families in 50 countries and collected 30,000 photos in order to show us normal life for normal families in many different dimension of ordinary life. This, of course, is in sharp contrast to the regular news we receive, which always show us the extremes, and thus give us a completely distorted image of the world. Her point is that people from other countries and cultures are not nearly as strange as they seem to us in the news.

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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.

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Road blog No. 4: Traffic accidents in Bolivia have tripled since 2000

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By: Lykke E. Andersen*

According to official statistics from the National Statistical Institute, the number of people injured in traffic accidents in Bolivia has more than tripled between 2000 and 2013 (the latest year for which data is available). Figure 1 shows the number of non-fatal traffic injuries rising from 5,356 in 2000 to 17,204 in 2013. To that we should add the number of traffic fatalities which increased from 681 deaths in 2000 to 1,848 deaths in the year 2013. Three of every four injuries in 2013 took place in the departments of La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochabamba.

Figure 1: Non-fatal traffic injuries in Bolivia, 2000-2013, by Department

TrafficInjuries
Source: Author’s elaboration based on data from INE (http://www.ine.gob.bo/index.php/seguridad-ciudadana/introduccion-4).

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Road Blog No. 3: On the opportunity costs of road closures and construction delays

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

For more than a year now (since 20 July 2016), the road between Santa Barbara and Caranavi (on the primary road between La Paz and Rurrenabaque) has been closed from 7 am to 5 pm, Monday to Saturday, due to road construction activities. We didn’t know that, though, when we left La Paz at 5 am last Tuesday morning in order to drive to Rurrenabaque. When leaving La Paz, well before dawn, we paid the road toll of Bs. 9.50, and the guy in the toll booth didn’t think to warn us that we would soon have to wait for 9.5 hours because the road is closed all day.

Road closure sign on the road between Santa Barbara and Caranavi.
Road closure sign on the road between Santa Barbara and Caranavi.

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Road blog No. 2: Bad roads are debt traps as well as death traps

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

According to Nina and Arduz (2016), the density of roads in Bolivia is about 8 km per 100 km2 of territory, which is less than half the average density in Latin America and less than a third of the world average of 28 km/100 km2. By 2012, about 52% of the primary road network was paved, while a very small fraction of other roads was paved. The lack of good roads constitutes a serious limitation on the development of the country, as it dramatically increases transportation time and vehicle maintenance costs, and therefore transport costs (1).

This situation is pretty much inevitable for a large, sparsely populated, mountainous, jungle covered country, like Bolivia, but the Government of Bolivia has been doing its best to improve the situation by channelling enormous amounts of money into road construction (around USD 10 billion during the last 10 years), making the transport sector by far the single biggest recipient of public funds. For example, last year the Bolivian Government budgeted 28.9% of all public investment to the transport sector (28.9% of USD 6.4 billion amounts to USD 1.8 billion), while the education and health sectors received 5.5% each, and the water infrastructure sector only 0.9% (2).

The problem is that almost all of these road investments have been unbelievably badly executed.

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Road blog No. 1: Murderous road signs

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Academic research is rarely nauseating, and I did not expect to get sick to my stomach from a research project we have with Boston University called “Safeguarding Sustainable Development.” The project is simply trying to find out whether the social and environmental safeguards of the institutions that finance major infrastructure projects in Latin America (e.g. CAF, IDB, WB) help secure the successful implementation of the projects with minimal environmental harm and minimal harm to the people living in the affected areas. The project covers several countries, but at INESAD we just have to evaluate three Bolivian road projects.

Last week we visited the first of our road projects, which is the double-road between La Paz and Oruro (Bolivia’s Highway No. 1). Most people appreciate this new road because it makes travelling between La Paz and Oruro much quicker and safer. It also created lots of local jobs during construction, and local communities have generally been adequately consulted and well compensated for the direct adverse effects of the road construction project. Local people quickly figured out how to get from A to B using this new road (even if it means driving in the wrong lane in the wrong direction for a stretch), so for them the lack of, or highly confusing, road signs were not considered a big problem.

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Chasing a moving target: 100% coverage of water and sanitation in Bolivia by 2025

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Last month I participated in a very interesting workshop on water and sanitation in rural Bolivia organized by the Ministry of Environment and Water. I learned from the engineers and sociologists there that things are never as simple as economists tend to think. But as the only economist present, I also tried to teach the engineers and sociologists that things are not as simple as they tend to think.

With the combined insights from engineers, sociologists and economists, I have reached the conclusion that 100% coverage is an elusive target for at least five different reasons:

First, the population growth rate in Bolivia is about 1.5% per year, which means that even if we reach 100% coverage by January 2025, by December the same year there will be almost 200,000 additional people who need water and sanitation.

Second, the population is not only constantly growing, but also constantly moving. More than half of all Bolivian municipalities are losing population due to internal migration (see Map 1 below), while a few dozen municipalities are receiving the vast majority of these migrants. The main receiving municipalities are: Santa Cruz de la Sierra (32,000 migrants per year), El Elto (20,000), Cochabamba (11,000), La Guardia (6,000), Warnes (6,000), Oruro (6,000), Sacaba (6,000), and Tarija (5,000) (1). Close to a million Bolivians will have moved from one municipality to another between now and 2025, and most of them will likely come from the disperse rural communities that the government is currently prioritizing for water and sanitation investments. The most extreme example in the map below is the municipality of Chayanta in the northern part of Potosí. In the five years before the 2012 population census, it lost 29% of its population to migration, despite having just reached 94% coverage of water.

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