Highlights from the 2nd Bolivian Conference on Development Economics (BCDE 2010)

The Second Bolivian Conference on Development Economics (BCDE 2010) was held in La Paz last week with approximately 150 participants and 55 presenters, including keynote speakers Máximo Torero from IFPRI and Beatriz Armendáriz from Harvard.

The principal organizers were the Institute for Advanced Development Studies (INESAD, the Society of Bolivian Economists (SEBOL) and Universidad Privada Boliviana (UPB), with crucial support from Kiel Institute for the World Economy. Many other institutions and individuals contributed to the success, including several generous sponsors (the Danish Development Research Network, the Poverty Reduction, Equity, and Growth Network, BancoSol, SOBOCE and Fundación Estás Vivo)and of course the many talented presenters who had made the long trip to Bolivia from every corner of the World.

The conference took place over two days, with keynote lectures in the morning, parallel sessions of contributed papers during the day and plenary sessions by the end of the day. There were many high points during the conference, but unfortunately also one low point when we lost the electrical power for three hours, complicating matters for 18 presenters. However, most of them did remarkably well, improvising with laptops, white boards and even classical greek methods of discourse.

Máximo Torero started the conference with a great keynote lecture on how to measure social exclusion. I believe the main message people took away from that lecture was that small problems can grow into bigger and bigger problems if you don’t handle them correctly from the beginning.

After a whole day of excellent parallel sessions, there was a panel session on the Effectiveness of Foreign Aid with contributions from Rainer Thiele (Kiel Institute for World Economics), George Gray-Molina (an Oxford-Princeton Global Leaders Fellow), Oscar Angulo (AECID) and Morten Elkjær (Danish Embassy in Bolivia). By the end of this session, I believe most people agreed that William Easterly and Jeffrey Sachs are both wrong in their extreme viewpoints, but that Easterly is probably closer to the truth than Sachs, and that the policies and skills of the receiving governments will always be the main determinants of success.

Beatriz Armendáriz is co-author of theHandbook of Microfinance(and she is on record for being highly embarrassed about the exorbitant $180 charged for the book) and she delivered both the keynote presentation Friday morning and participated in the panel session on Microfinance and Development in the afternoon together with Marcelo Diaz (Centro AFIN), Guillermo Collao (FIE), Juan Carlos Sánchez (UPB) and myself. Being one of the gurus of microfinance, she has participated in hundreds of microfinance seminars around the World, but still she claimed that our closing session on Microfinance and Development was the best she had ever attended. This, of course, makes us very proud.

The conference ended with a cocktail party in INESAD’s new offices in Obrajes, where the President of the Bolivian Academy of Economic Sciences presented the Award for Best Development Economics Paper presented at the conference. A jury of the Academy had — with great difficulty — selected the 5 best submitted papers of the conference (excluding, of course, papers by organizers, keynote speakers and Academy members). After lining up the 5 finalists, Enrique Garcia Ayaviri presented the first prize to Stanislao Maldonado, Peruvian Ph.D. student at Berkeley, for his outstanding paper “Resource Windfall and Corruption: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in Peru.” At the same opportunity, Stanislao was appointed Foreign Research Fellow of the Bolivian Academy of Economic Sciences, receiving a great honor and a symbolic silver pin with the seal of the Academy.

Given the great success of the first two versions of the Bolivian Conference on Development Economics, UPB and UCB are competing fiercely to become the host of next year’s conference. This, of course, is a great advantage for the organizers, who look forward to making next year’s conference even better than this year, with outstanding keynote speakers, top quality submitted papers, inspiring panelists and great people from all over the World.

Watch out for more photos on Facebook over the next few days.

(*) Scientific Manager, Conservation International – Bolivia. The author happily receives comments at the following address: landersen@conservation.org.


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