Welfare Economics

How poor do poor people feel?

The honest poor can sometimes forget poverty. The honest rich can never forget it.

Gilbert K. Chesterton

Growing up in 1980s and 90s Russia was not easy. For the first few years of my life three generations of my family lived in a tiny two bedroom flat on the fifth floor of a ten story grey Communist monolith. Living in such close proximity, my grandparents on my mum’s side, my parents, and my sister and I shared a lot, except perhaps privacy. With regular state salary payments being rarer than all the world’s blue moons, my mum forwent many meals to keep my sister and I fed. On the flip side, every year, for the best part of the three months that a typical Russian school summer break lasts, my father’s parents inherited the responsibility of taking care of us, the kids. Their apartment, located in a rural town called Gorodovikovsk in the southern Russian Republic of Kalmykia, where my grandmother still lives, was a little roomier, but it lacked many of the amenities that most people living in developed countries take for granted. We used the communal outdoor, hole-in-the-ground latrine, using only old news pages for toilet paper. Meanwhile, on the count of, at best, an unreliable water supply, we filled up every pot and pan in the kitchen with fresh water from the local well, heating just enough every other day to have a quick “bucket wash” (perhaps this explains why I am still unable to take a shower that lasts longer than a minute).

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Inspiring Bolivians to Move On Up

 

December is ‘Inspiration Month’ here at INESAD, so it seems an appropriate time to draw attention to some inspirational figures from Bolivia. Up until recently, the country suffered from a lack of upward social mobility and high inequality, making it virtually impossible for anybody to become successful unless they happened to be born to the right parents. But finally, that seems to be changing.   Read More »

Graphics: Why investing in girls and women is key to development

What exactly leads to development is a topic of great debate in academic and practical circles. Proposed cures for underdevelopment vary from providing infrastructure to enacting large-scale macro-economic reforms. Yet, often, there is little conclusive evidence of many solutions’ consistently marked effects on different countries’ economic prosperity or social and environmental cohesion. One factor that does stand out, which is frequently promoted in reports by the likes of the World Bank, United Nations (UN), the OECD, ActionaAid and even Forbes Magazine as the key to achieving all Millennium Development Goals, is investment in the health, education and equality of women.

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Inspiration: Forum for the Future—Helping the Food Industry be More Sustainable

Whether the food industry can play a constructive role in battling public health and environmental problems is a heavily debated question. On the one end, global companies like Coca-Cola are touting their own efforts towards sustainability and are claiming to be making significant inroads. Meanwhile, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) argues that, despite their sustainability rhetoric, companies like the agriculture giant Monsanto only damage sustainability efforts because they are driven mainly by profits and encourage unsustainable practices like pesticide-use. Whereas, writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), Professor Marion Nestle of New York University and Dr. David Ludwig of Harvard University, argue that companies could act in the interest of public health and environment only if guided to do so by consumer demand and public policy and regulation.

Forum for the Future—a global independent non-profit that seeks system-wide solutions to global challenges—takes a different view. Read More »

GM Crops – Friend or Foe?

Last July billionaire Bill Gates was criticized for donating around US$10 million to the John Innes Centre in the United Kingdom to fund their research which helps the developing world. Why? Because they work on developing genetically-modified (GM) crops. GM crops receive a lot of publicity. They are cast positively as a potential savior of famine-struck countries, with the potential to be more nutritious, higher-yielding, and resistant to pests and extreme weather conditions. Were this true, then surely there would be very little opposition. So why is there so much controversy? Well, because it has become apparent that achieving these goals comes with a lot of difficulty, and because of the threat of potentially disastrous side-effects. Read More »

The Economist on Obesity: A Disappointing Ideological Conclusion

This week’s The Economist featured a story on rising global epidemic of obesity that was part of the Special Report on Obesity. I was very enthused by the initial discussion that mirrored much of the analysis that the Development Roast has offered in the past. Yet a grave disappointment ensued when the piece entitled Fat Chance seemed to contradict much of the preceding argument when reaching its conclusion.

The article begins with the now very familiar recounting of the global statistics that show obesity and its accompanying diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions and food-related cancers as the biggest killers worldwide, in both advanced and developing nations. It then went on to admit that such a widespread trend, which is imposing a heavy cost on both public and private purses, as well as causing a reduction in labor productivity, presents a dilemma for a magazine. Read More »

Inspiration: Redrawing Green-Fingered Battle Lines–An Interview with the founder of the Guerrilla Gardening Movement in London

The city of London is a very expensive place to live. Most Londoners settle for the cheapest available accommodation; small inner city flats in large, grey, 1970’s purpose-built, ex-council authority blocks. Unfortunately, the relative affordability comes at a price; the surroundings tend to be as grey as the buildings themselves.

This is exactly the setting that Richard Reynolds found himself in eight years ago when he moved to a gloomy area of London known as Elephant and Castle (E&C). Development Roast caught up with Richard to find out how people are redrawing the green-fingered battle lines through the Guerrilla Gardening community that he launched in London—a movement of individuals who secretly reclaim and green neglected city spaces. Read More »

99 Percent Democracy: Inspiration from the Developing World

It has been roughly a year since a new catchphrase flooded the front pages of mainstream, social and activist media: “We are the 99 percent.” It came from a wider recognition of the long-established truth that a small percentage of the population in most societies hangs on to an overwhelming majority of wealth and power. It is also a recognition that it is the 99 percent that are asked to pay a disproportionate part of the price for the effects of our collective actions: to bail out the banks and not the failing health services; to pick up the environmental tab and pay through the nose for an increasingly worthless education; to waste their lives sitting on the unemployment list, instead of contributing to society. “We are the 99 percent” is the slogan of a new generation of the disgruntled, jobless youth in the West. “We are the 99 percent” is the demonstration chant of occupiers from Wall Street to St Paul’s, from Cairo to Cape Town. “We are the 99 percent” is  still on everybody’s lips. At the heart of the matter? Democracy. Read More »

Is economy of scale really what’s best for the agriculture sector?

Over the last two decades there has been a great surge in land reform policies in developing countries. These land reform policies have mainly focused on rural property rights, and have consisted of giving small to medium size farmers, who for years have suffered from tenure insecurity, legal ownership of their land and property. Land reform has different objectives in different countries, but it is generally an attempt to boost development of the agricultural sector and rural regions, where poverty is often at its most extreme.  It is also used to appease peasant farmers, who in many countries are increasingly disgruntled by the rural inequality legacy of colonialism that is now being heightened by the rise of wealthy large scale agribusinesses due to the globalization of the food market.

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Weekend Links: Diabetes and Climate Change—New evidence!

As part of a new Weekend Links series, Development Roast brings to you the following Press Release, originally published earlier this year, by the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) describing a study that shows direct connections between climate change and diabetes.

IDF has launched its pioneering Diabetes and Climate Change Report to the backdrop of the United Nations’ Rio+20 meeting on sustainable development. Written by global experts from the health and environment sectors, the Report calls for greater policy alignment to mitigate the risks of type 2 diabetes and climate change. The Report also identifies direct linkages between diabetes and climate change. It urges governments to put both these issues at the heart of sustainable development and to adopt a unified response. Read More »

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