Welfare Economics

Sachsy development

SanneBlauwBy: Sanne Blauw*

The logic is irresistible: if we send enough money to developing countries, poverty will be put to an end once and for all. We have got to help, it’s our responsibility. In the book The Idealist, Nina Munk portrays the charismatic Jeffrey Sachs and his Millennium Villages in Africa. How good intentions can have destructive consequences.

Already at a young age Jeffrey Sachs (1954) stood out: he received high grades in school, won math competitions, and displayed leadership qualities. He was already a successful economist when the Bolivian president Victor Paz invited him to help Bolivia in the mid-eighties. The country was poor and the economy was in chaos. Inflation reached 25,000%. Sachs wrote a plan for economic recovery. The strict fiscal and monetary policies caused hundreds of thousands of people to lose their job or pension. But the “shock therapy” helped: inflation fell to 15%. As it turned out: the economy is controllable, as long as you are willing to make concessions.

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We live in a dangerous world and not only rural, indigenous, old women are vulnerable

Lykke Andersen

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Even the most affluent and powerful people in the World are exposed to the risk of adverse shocks and stresses: Christopher Reeve (Superman) became a quadriplegic after a riding accident; Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years; Mel Gibson had to pay more than $400 million in his divorce settlement; Steve Jobs got fired from his own company; and Donald trump has declared bankruptcy four times.

We are all at risk of adversity, or even calamity, and the list of threats is endless: Natural disasters, illness, accidents, unemployment, price fluctuations, conflict, vandalism, fire, robbery, pest attacks, technological change, pollution, climate change, etc. Most of these threats are almost entirely outside our control and it is important that we build up resilience against them so that we will be able to overcome the challenges that we are bound to encounter.

Some people and households are more resilient than others, however. They bounce back even after severe adversity. Nelson Mandela, for example, became one of the most famous and respected presidents in the World and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize after spending 27 years in prison; Christopher Reeve claimed that the accident, which left him paralyzed from the neck down, helped him appreciate life more and considered himself a very lucky man less paralyzed than many able-bodied men; and Donald Trump evidently rebuilt his fortune between bankruptcies.

While resilience is an integral part of the human psychology, it would be useful if we could measure and compare resilience in a more general way. This is what a new research paper and Policy Brief from INESAD proposes.

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The Universidad Académica Campesina – Carmen Pampa: a College for Bolivia’s Rural Population

Rachel Satterleeby Rachel Satterlee

Bolivia is a beautiful, mountainous country that is very culturally diverse but which also has many inequities. None are more pronounced that those in education: As of 2004, secondary school completion rates in urban areas were at 65 percent for men and 50 percent for women, whereas rural rates were extremely low at 20 percent for men and 10 percent for women (Ministerio, 2004). Lack of educational attainment disproportionately affects the indigenous poor. According to the National Institute of Statistics, two-thirds of rural dwellers (compared to only 44 percent of urbanites) identify with one of Bolivia’s 38 recognized indigenous groups—the largest of which include the Quechua, Aymará, Guaraní, Afroboliviano, Mosetén, and Chiquitano—and in rural areas 66 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. The Unidad Académica Campesina-Carmen Pampa (UAC-CP) is one institution helping to meet this challenge by offering undergraduate degrees to men and women from Bolivia’s rural areas. Read More »

Guest Roast: Kaya Children International – Comprehensive Protection for Children and Adolescents Living on the Street

Lucia CunoBy Lucia Cuno

UNICEF estimates that the total number of street children in the world runs into the tens of millions. A study by Toybox, a Christian charity committed to helping street children in Latin America, found that in Bolivia there are over 2,500 children living on the streets in major cities such as La Paz, Cochabamba, and Santa Cruz; that 20 percent of them had left home because there wasn’t enough food, 20 percent were abandoned, and 60 percent had been abused; that most street children are illiterate because they left school; and that 90 percent use solvents as a form of escapism.

Bolivia Children's Right 1

Meanwhile, these children have legal rights that are supported by the Bolivian constitution, but which are not realized in the real world. This injustice is the reason for the existence of Kaya Children International.

Kaya is a small, grassroots, non-profit institution located in La Paz. It was originally called the Bolivian Street Children Project, and was founded in 1997 by Dr. Chi Huang, who at the time was training to be a doctor in Boston, U.S.A. with sponsorship from the Park Street Church of Boston. The organization seeks to promote the development and protection of, and to restore the fundamental rights of, children and adolescents who live on the street, are in high-risk situations, or are the victims of violence or abandonment. The first home opened in 2001 as an initiative of the Park Street Church; over the next years the project grew and became an independent non-profit organization. The leaders realized that the next stage of growth was not to just build more homes, but to engage in preventative interventions to enable families to raise their own children in a better way. In 2008, to mark this stage of development, the organization was renamed to Kaya Children International. Read More »

The Ironies of New Social Movements: An interview with Dr. Judy Hellman

jhellmanSocial movements generate a lot of excitement. Many people see them as the most legitimate way of enacting change in society, as they are “from below”, from the people themselves, more ‘inclusive’ and ‘democratic’. Movements that have come around since the 1960s differ from older styles of public pressure where the voice of the poor and the oppressed was expressed through leaders in trade unions or political parties. Examples of the “New Social Movements” in contemporary Latin America include the indigenous movement EZLN (Exército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional) in Mexico and the landless workers movement in Brazil, the MST (Movimento Sem Terra). But how truly democratic and inclusive these new movements are is rarely a serious research question, but a mere assumption by scholars and supporters who fall in love with the idea of movements from below.

For almost 20 years, Dr. Judy Hellman, professor of Political Science and Social Sciences at York University, Canada, has written critically about the largely uncritical worship of new social movements that seems to have swept the world. She spoke to Development Roast about her once controversial views (which are increasingly becoming common wisdom) and the past and future of research on social movements in Latin America:

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First in Queue: How improving water access for the poor can help meet other Millennium Development Goals.

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The United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) set to reduce by half the number of people without access to clean water by 2015 as target ten of goal number seven: ensure environmental sustainability. And—although this fact remains controversial*—this target was met three years early in March 2012. However, this is not a cause for complacency since, according to the 2012 report by the Joint Monitoring Program—the body that carries out MDGs target assessments—780 million people are still at the back of the queue for access to clean water. In the future, improving access to water for the remaining three quarters of a million people without it will need to become a bigger, more crosscutting priority because it has much more to offer than environmental sustainability. Read More »

Graphics: Bolivia tops Violence Against Women in Latin America chart.

PAHO Violence Against WomenIn a March 2013 report, the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, presented comparative cross-country data on the state of violence against women in 12 nations across Latin America and the Caribbean. As the subsequent infographic by Hispanically Speaking News illustrates, Bolivia topped the chart by some margin.

When asked about their experiences over the past 12 months, one in five Bolivian women claimed to have been victims of physical abuse, with 53.3 percent of women reporting physical violence by a partner.

Intimate partner violence in Bolivia is 35 percent larger than the next highest abuse rate of 38.6 percent for both Colombia and Peru. At 17 percent, Dominican Republic appear to have the lowest, albeit still unacceptably high, level of partner violence against women. Read More »

Graphics: Is the Flipped Classroom really reinventing education?

The concept of a “flipped classroom” emerged in the late 2000s as an alternative (or the beginning of one) to the classical system of teaching where the teacher introduces the content in class and the students practice it at home. Instead, in the flipped classroom, students learn the content at home, and do the “homework” in class. The concept’s creators, two American high school teachers Jonathan Bergmann and Aaron Sams, first recorded lectures for students who had missed classes. Soon, however, the lectures became so popular that they decided to substitute all their classroom lectures with online ones, and use classroom time to engage with students individually. This flipped classroom allowed for students to learn at their own pace, enabling them to skip the online videos that they feel like they master, and repeat those on which they are stuck. The model proved a big success: many of the students’ performances improved, better preparing them for jobs that (should) await them, and they seemed to be having more fun than before.

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INESAD News: Economic Symposium a Success

With a record number of supporters, the fifth annual Economic Symposium, held in Cochabamba, Bolivia on April 18, 2013, led by INESAD, proved a giant success. The event was attended by almost 150 participants from across the academic, public and private spheres.

The symposium would not have been possible without the Bolivian Private University (UPB), the Bolivian Catholic University (UCB), the University Center for Social Studies (CESU), the Center for Population Studies (CEP), the Social Interaction Unit of the Faculty of Economics at UMSS (PROMEC), the Research Institute of Social Sciences (INCISO), the Institute of Social and Economic Studies (IESE), National Association of Economists, and the Electricity Conveyor (TDE), on whose premises the symposium was held.

INESAD, CESU,  IESE, INCISO, UPB, and CEP all further participated in the Economic Book Fair. Read More »

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 »

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