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March 2015

Two essay competitions for students: One hosted by the International Economic Association, the other by Georgetown University

LTD Editors's picture
Students at higher education institutions worldwide who are studying full time can earn cash prizes for their writing skills, but deadlines are looming.

The International Economic Association (IEA) is holding its first Stiglitz Essay Prize (SEP) in honor of Joseph E. Stiglitz, its past association President. The topic must cover one of two broad themes:
  • The causes and policy consequences of growing inequality
  • A rethinking of macro-economics and proposals for new approaches that speak to the weaknesses in modelling revealed by the 2008 global crisis

The short-listed essays will go to the following judges: Joseph E. Stiglitz (Columbia University and IEA past President), Timothy Besley (London School of Economics and IEA President) and Kaushik Basu (World Bank Senior Vice President and IEA President Elect).

The winner of the prize will win US$1,000, and the runner(s)-up will receive US$500. The winning essay and runner(s) up will also be published on the IEA website.

The deadline for submissions is Sept 1, 2015. More information on the competition can be found here.

Bringing a jobs lens to value chains in Zambia

Sudha Bala Krishnan's picture
One of the biggest challenges in building a jobs programme is understanding why job growth is not happening. Take Zambia as an example. It has many of the fundamentals right. There is political stability and an economy that has grown by over 7% a year for more than a decade. It has wonderful natural resources, including abundant land and water, and it is rich in commodities, especially copper. It has attracted major international companies, such as Parmalat, Lafarge and Airtel that are selling their goods and services both domestically and regionally. And yet, the country still suffers from 62% poverty and job growth that is not keeping pace with population growth.
 
 

Transformational fantasies, cumulative possibilities

Brian Levy's picture

Reality Check Ahead signDreams die hard. I was on the road for much of last fall, talking about my new book – which promotes (as I put it in a recent piece in foreignpolicy.com), the virtues of modesty in our approach to democratic development. While my message is a sober one, my aim is not to foster pessimism but rather to highlight pragmatic ways forward.

Yet, repeatedly, I come up against critics who bewail my seeming lack of ambition. “Why”, they ask, “do you sell short the possibilities of transformation? Isn’t what we need bold, decisive, ethical leadership which cuts through the messiness of present predicaments?  Where governance is weak, bold leaders can and should make it strong – rapidly and systematically!”.

By now, there is plenty of scholarship that makes the case that changes in governance cannot be willed into being – but rather that ‘good governance’ is the cumulative consequence of a long, slow incremental process. Nobel-prize-winner Douglass North and colleagues have clarified conceptually how personalized bargains between contending elites can provide platforms for both stability and (perhaps) the slow evolution of formal rules of the game. Francis Fukuyama masterfully documents, over two volumes, the deep historical roots of the rule of law, and of the difficult challenges posed by democratization in settings where state capabilities remain weak.

For many, though, conceptual and historical perspectives remain unpersuasive. “We need change”, they insist. “Therefore good leaders should provide it.”

Big gaps and Big Data

Aleem Walji's picture
I recently gave a talk at the American Association for the Advancement of Science about Big Data and Analytics and why it matters for development. Unlike other speakers who warned about risks associated with big data - when too much is known about too many people without their consent - I discussed the problem of data gaps and data poverty in the developing world. The challenge of measuring of poverty is different because if we don’t have the data, we can’t know whether we’re making progress in fighting this stain on our collective moral conscience.  
 

Public spaces - not a “nice to have” but a basic need for cities

Sangmoo Kim's picture
The benefits of public spaces in the poorest parts of the world
Source: World Bank Staff

We often think of amenities such as quality streets, squares, waterfronts, public buildings, and other well-designed public spaces as luxury amenities for affluent communities. However, research increasingly suggests that they are even more critical to well-being of the poor and the development of their communities, who often do not have spacious homes and gardens to retreat to.

Living in a confined room without adequate space and sunlight increases the likelihood of health problems, restricts interaction and other productive activities. Public spaces are the living rooms, gardens and corridors of urban areas. They serve to extend small living spaces and providing areas for social interaction and economic activities, which improves the development and desirability of a community. This increases productivity and attracts human capital while providing an improved quality of life as highlighted in the upcoming Urbanization in South Asia report.

Despite their importance, public spaces are often poorly integrated or neglected in planning and urban development. However, more and more research suggests that investing in them can create prosperous, livable, and equitable cities in developing countries. UN-Habitat has studied the contribution of streets as public spaces on the prosperity of cities, which finds a correlation between expansive street grids and prosperity as well as developing a public space toolkit.

Food Safety in China: Addressing Common Problems Requires Unusual Approaches

Artavazd Hakobyan's picture

Over the past three decades, China has successfully lifted more than 500 million people out of poverty. For many years, the government’s poverty alleviation strategy focused on ensuring that every person had access to enough food. Driven by rapid economic development and urbanization, China is today one of the world’s largest producers and consumers of agricultural products.

Now the Chinese government has turned its attention to making the country’s food supply safer. The issue has become so important that, in the words of President Xi Jinping: “Whether we can provide a satisfying solution on food safety to the people is an important test on our capacity of governance.”


According to a poll published in March 2015, more than 77 percent of respondents ranked food safety as the most important quality of life issue. Environmental pollution, which experts consider one of the causes of China’s food safety problems, was another top issue worrying the public.

Chinese people attach significant importance to food, beyond its nutritional characteristics, due to historic memories of starvation. Food is also a symbol of regional pride and distinction, as well as a reflection of respect to guests.
Traditionally Chinese people believe each type of food brings specific medicinal features. Ginger cures a cold, garlic stops diarrhea, spinach is good for the blood, walnuts are good for the brain, pear relieves a cough, etc. When in China, you cannot avoid stories on how adding a specific food to one’s diet helped cure some disease. Therefore, it is understandable why Chinese people attach such importance to food safety. Contaminated or unsafe food poses a threat to public health and also risks undermining social stability and cultural identity.

The root causes China’s food safety problems come from the country’s rapid development. China has experienced unprecedented growth in recent decades and now is the world’s second-largest economy. Such rapid expansion has unleashed positive and negative effects. The industrial boom coupled with urban expansion and infrastructure development put significant pressure on both land and water resources. Over the long term, that pressure could constrain the ability to produce more food.

We are all accountable: The health of Palestinians first and foremost

Samira A. Hillis's picture


Razan was a vibrant, happy girl living in the town of Rafah in the Gaza strip when she was diagnosed with a bone marrow illness not long ago, in November 2014. She needed a bone marrow transplant, a medical procedure available only in Israeli hospitals. Her referral, though urgent, was delayed for 20 days. First, she was directed to the wrong hospital for marrow transplants, and then she was denied financial coverage. The Israeli authorities failed to respond immediately to her parents’ application for an emergency permit to allow her into Israel through the (otherwise impenetrable) Erez crossing. 

Razan died on 25 November. She was just 11 years-old.

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