THE GREAT SURGE: THE ASCENT OF THE DEVELOPING WORLD BY STEVEN RADELET.

            Radelet from the readings discusses how economic growth can occur in developing countries. According to Radelet it requires the combination of huge geopolitical shifts, changing economic and political systems, deepening globalization, access to new technologies, stronger leadership, and courageous action. To Radelet, these created the conditions, opportunities, and drivers necessary for progress in growth or development.

Radelet, argues that leaders in Africa, Asia, and Latin America should lower their barriers to global trade and investment, thus, connect local enterprises to the global markets. Radelet further detailed that, charitable foundations and NGOs should join forces with governments and businesses to bring technological benefits to the world’s poor economies, from mobile health and banking services to online education to more transparent governance. According to Radelet partnerships with global organizations such as the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization and the Global Fund to Fight AIDs, Tuberculosis and malaria is also a way of successfully leveraging public funding and a needed nudge from the charitable sector. Further, Radelet believes that knowledge gained from such connections can contribute greatly to states’ capacity to improve their citizens’ welfare in the future. But he warns that failure to address the interplay among political, economic, environmental, and demographic “headwinds” can reverse these gains. Corruption, violent conflict, and climate change threaten to ruin progress. And, absent smart policy, the very forces that have enabled the great surge technological innovation and economic integration could undermine the ability of states to govern, societies to prosper, and nature to provide.

Moreover, Radelet reasoned that, if leaders of advanced and developing economies take action now, that means the United States, Europe, Japan, China, and India must lead the way in investing in research and innovation in the areas of food production and clean energy, work together to cut carbon emissions, and continue to press and accept efforts aimed at democratizing multilateral institutions such the United Nations, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization. For their part, leaders of developing economies must continue to focus on advancing prosperity and democracy in their countries through good governance, support for more inclusive and sustainable growth, and expanded access to education, health care, and a real social safety net for future growth and development to occur. Radelet however continued to argue that if development progress is to continue, foreign aid must be strengthened, with more assistance directed to low-income democracies and those already playing a significant role in the global economy and global decision making. He also calls on aid agencies to do more to partner with universities, foundations, and private business to support research, disseminate new technologies, and encourage private investment.

To sum up, Radelet argued that developing countries need to have a strong connection with leading countries like United States, Europe, and Japan in order to get assistance to help fix global problems like slow economic growth, and also include the rising powers of china, India, South Africa, Brazil and Turkey in shaping global institutions, exerting leadership and making key development decisions.

Further, for development growth to be sustained by these emerging countries Radelet maintained that, there should be effective integration of trade, finance, information, and a great investment into new technologies as well as advances in energy, transportation, health, flow of information and the likes can help propel development progress both in developed and the emerging countries. However, these technologies will not emerge without commitment, innovation and investment.

Finally, Radelet posits that developing countries should adapt skilled leadership strategies which is central for building efficient and effective institutions that can sustain development progress within their economies. To Radelet, there is no formula for success in economic progress to occur, hence all developing countries will have to wrestle with these issues, just as wealthy countries did, and still are to get to where they are now.

The potential for widespread development across many nation in the coming decades is extremely potent and has the possibility to bring people out of poverty, lower child mortality, raise education levels and spread democracy all to those who need it the most (Radalet 2015, pg. 232).  To capitalize on this potential, states will need to facilitate a high level of regular annual growth. China, who has growth rates that vary from 7.4 to 11.7 over the last decade, provides an interesting example illustrate both what has worked in the past and what may cause a slowed growth (Radalet 2015, pg. 235).  There are three major factors. China’s investment has diminishing returns because the needs for improved infrastructure is dwindling and thus the returns on investment are lower. While China has been shifting from large agricultural sectors to manufacturing, the technology they implement is more often their own innovation rather than imported from abroad and those who leave agriculture are steadily joining the service industry in stead.  Lastly, the age demographic of China is beginning to shift towards more senior citizens. But even as China’s economy begins to slow it is provides insight into the process by which states can build continual growth. That is what matters. Utilizing the property of exponential growth, it is important for states to bring continual, positive growth in their country that will increase the real gains over time.

Some projection of the coming decades put growth by 3.5% to 4% per capita annually.  Developing nations that achieve this would be able to lift themselves from poverty and there is reasonable evidence that they can achieved will be able to have regular growth rates.  Between 1977 and 1994, 21 of 109 developing countries were able to maintain a growth rate of 2% a year; from the 1995 and 2013, the number who had a 2% was 71 (Radalet 2015, pg. 239).  These gains have an intrinsic relationship with lowered poverty, higher education opportunities, and better overall health.

These are exactly the kind that SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) will address.  Passed by the United Nations, these goals are to address the the pressing problems from around the world that affect hundred of millions.  Goals such as eliminating extreme poverty, promote build rule of law, effective healthcare, and promote inclusion. To facilitate these goals, civil society organizations are key to ensuring place-based programs that empower local stakeholders to act affect government action.  Programs like SAVI (State Accountability and Voice Initiative) were able to represent the people’s interest and ensure the election process was fair. Local circumstances that often matter more than international organisation give them credit for. Development from above simply does not work.  You need to include ordinary citizens into the the process to work. Civil society organizations bridge the divide to allow for power development. 

Word Count: 450

Improved Development Result?

As time has gone on and the push for global convergence has continued, a multitude of new methods and approaches have arisen. A number of articles, books, and other pieces of literature have also been produced as a means of sharing these ideas. This week we read a piece of literature in the New Yorker, written by Parker (2010), where the method “Randomistas”, created by the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT (J-PAL), is explained. Put simply, the idea of Randomistas is that by implementing small-scale community projects, better developmental policies can be created and consequently the livelihood of poor people in the region will be increased. In formal terms, this idea is called “Randomized Control Traits” or RCTs. Since RCTs, birth in the J-PAL think-tank there have been a multitude of resources and support that has been given to them, and the data has shown some success.

Although, Pritchett (2014) challenges these claims and the creators of the method. Pritchett believes that RCTs lack a core central theory backed by evidence. He goes on to say that the entire approach is built more so around faith and optimism, rather than evidence, thus making it a non-claim-based argument. When thinking back to Parker’s article, he references the word ‘optimistic’ multiple times when talking about Duflo and the assumptions they made. In the context of this article and Parker’s referencing to Duflo as an ‘optimist’, Pritchett’s argument begins to make sense.
Both Sachs and Duflo share and support many of the same ideas, and they both seem to be very optimistic in their prescriptions. However, Duflo goes on to question some of Sach’s theory because she believes that the numbers provided do not accurately gauge and show whether the aid actually changes the lives of individuals. Additionally, she admits she herself is not great with numbers, further enforcing the optimistic bias and assumption.

Neither Duflos nor Sachs approaches could have succeeded in Dertu. The African culture and resistance to change, coupled with a lack of answers and specifics, from Duflos and Sachs leads to a flawed prescription. A prescription that would not work. Optimism is not a sustainable substitute for a lack of answers and that is why regardless of the data, Duflos could not have have fixed the MVPs failures.

The Millennium Development Project, Dertu, and the Barriers to Success

The idea of the Millennium Development Villages (MDV) project suggested that by providing every person in a village with $120 annually, for five years, it would enable them to fight the battle against poverty and ultimately improve the livelihood of the entire community.

Furthermore, Jeffrey Sach’s believed that use of this method could play a critical role in helping developing countries like Africa out of poverty. Sach’s believed that by fighting off the basic factors of extreme poverty, one could begin to improve their lifestyle, by improving education, agricultural yields, and healthcare. In addition to these improvement ideals, plans would be provided with a step-by-step guide would be provided to further help answer any questions on how to go about implementing and ultimately, it would further the chances for success.

One of the best potential test markets for this idea was the Somali Kenyan community of Dertu. To provide context, Dertu was in extreme poverty at the time of implementation. Its first major barrier to successful implementation was that its markets were fragmented and dysfunctional because of its isolation and lack of solid infrastructure (among other reasons) – consequently, economic growth based on industry was difficult.

Additionally, another significant roadblock was the amount and severity of the violence which took place. Due to the crime and violence, it was hard for the community to build sustainable methods of growth and to meet basic needs. The handbooks offered forth by Sachs and his disciples did not account for, nor did they explain how to deal with such violence.

Next, the cultural norms and traditions of the people of Dertu created resistance to the changes being implemented. Religious believes restricted them from taking some positive actions (protecting against unwanted pregnancies) and pastoral values placed too heavy a value on livestock. Other notable barriers included, a lack of funding for a few key areas (infrastructure & other public good resources).

In conclusion, there were multiple barriers facing the people and region of Dertu including crime, poor infrastructure, a lack of compatible values, and more. Consequently, because of these barriers and the lack of answers in the handbook, it is nearly impossible to achieve development in this region, as Sach’s had articulated. This failure proves little-more than Sach’s method is not a one-size fits all. Clearly it has worked in other regions, but it doesn’t work here. If the theory were to work, it needs to have more variability and to account for factors like the barriers in the case Dertu.

Randomistas as a key to development?

 

Experiments has been related to scientist, but in recent decades social scientist and economist have adopted the practice in promoting development. Random trials have been used in proposing developmental policies in improving education and improving the living standard among the poor in world developing countries. This deals with identifying the specific policies to will lead to solving existing problems and promoting development.  Over the years, most scholars have argued about western aid helping to eradicate poverty in the developing world including Jeffery Sachs and somehow Duflo. Others such as William easterly argue poverty eradication can be dine through action of democracy and markets.  Random trials of development has also emerged as another form of development.

The alleged failures of the Millennium Village project can not be assumed to be fix by the “randomistas”. The provision of additional data from Duflo may not necessary solve the failures. Randomization according to Dufflo, identifies the best remedies that are seen attractive to policy makers who are noted to be associated with ideas that work. The idea of providing what is considered a solution to a problem an example been mosquito nets to combat malaria in the developing world. Though it may be a way to help a section of the community for a period, this will not lead to prevention of malaria in the community. Other factors such as individuals sleeping in this net and other environmental conditions that lead to the breeding of mosquitoes should be taking into consideration. As described by Duflo, decision-makers not just as experimental partners but must be adopters of programs that have already been vetted. Having efficient knowledge about the root causes of these issues and battling it from there will be very effective than providing solutions to problems based on present circumstances. The articles talk about how good policy can and does exist, but RCTs can still be highly useful if they identify good policies that can be expanded and adopted elsewhere to promote development.

Also, many countries have stumbled into good policies and good outcomes without having done RCTs. Even though randomista movement, which often claimed to be about reducing poverty, was gaining steam, several countries were experiencing or had experienced the rapidest reductions in low-bar absolute poverty in the history of man.

The success of J-PAL and MVP, and other developmental organizations models, in promoting development must practice on evidence of the ability of faith, passion, and communication and resources to ensure effective implantation of various policies. If randomized trials of public policies work, then the lesson for development is not to for donors to do randomized trials but to develop local capacity for professional education on the subject, so that the country will have leadership that demands proper policy evaluations, as well as the professional labor force that can produce them.

Does Aid Work? (II)

Parker (2010) explains Duflo’s approach to development in the New York Times Article as what she calls it a “very robust and very simple tool.” Duflo and her colleagues are referred to as the “randomistas” who subject social policy ideas to randomized control trials, similar to what doctors do while testing medicine. Duflo argues that this technique makes it clear what the cause and effect of a certain variable is and if at the end of the study one group turns out to have changed then it can be certain that the change is a result of the “treatment.” With the use of the J-PAL technique, Duflo explains that it “takes the guesswork, the wizardry, the technical prowess, the intuition, out of finding out whether something makes a difference” (Parker 2010).

 

As Prichett (2014) explains that there has been “enormous success” with the J-PAL technique in that it promotes the generation of rigorous evidence as a means to improve development practice is evidence of the ability of faith, passion, and communication to have the resources to help the cause, however is independent from any evidence of impact. The focus of the “randomistas” is much different from that of Sachs because it is more attracted to resources and support from development organizations that “could, should and would” produce better development projects and policies, which will ultimately lead to better outcomes for human beings (Prichett, 2014). The difference between Duflo and Sachs can be seen in the fact that Duflo seems to be more conservative with numbers and money, whereas Sachs is much more concerned with doing whatever he can to get these poverty-stricken populations the resources they need in order to develop. Duflo questions much of Sachs theory because she isn’t sure how aid benefits or doesn’t benefit the populations that receive it.

 

The reason that Sachs did not reply to Duflo’s email was that “Duflo suggested that it was too late to use J-PAL methods to measure the existing program, adding that the methods could be used in any later expansion” (Parker, 2010). However, Munk (2013) states that “Sachs dismissed Duflo’s scientific approach to development. ‘Millenium villages don’t advance the way that one tests a new pill.’” With the major differences between the MVPs and the “randomistas” the alleged failures of Sachs’ MVP could not have been fixed by the J-PAL technique, not because their mechanics were completely different but because Duflo and Sachs had different ways of viewing the issues. Duflo’s data is based on patience and time while Sachs states “We are not waiting fifteen years for results—we are trying to move fast as possible to help people who are suffering” (Munk, 2013).

Duflo’s Randomitas and Sachs MVP

Easter Duflo who is also referred to as the randomistas believe in the idea of randomizing control trails in order to come up with an effective policy treatment for poverty reduction. She believes that this randomization connects with the cause and effect which will eventually help to administer a lasting solution. According to Duflo, this is what led to the failure of Jeffery Sachs Millennium Village Project. Sachs MVP simply failed to yield the desired result because he lacks adequate knowledge from the ground, thus, he could not understand the dynamics of poverty people are facing.

A good example of how randomization works could be seen when Duflo carried out a number of surveys in India, such as the randomization trails to address the problem of absentee teachers in schools run by Indian nonprofit Organizations, and the trail to determine an effective priority policy could be drawn for women in West Bangla (Parker, 2010). Before coming up with any policy for women, Duflo accompanied by Chattopadhyay (an economics professor in Calcutta) visited many communities in order to understand the priorities of each community and how they interact and influence each other. After her survey, she was able to understand that drinking water was one of the priorities for women. In the survey to address absentee teachers, Duflo asked each teacher in sixty of the nonprofit organization schools to take a photo of themselves together with their students at the beginning and end of school each day. She uses a tamper-proof camera that timed stamped their photos and compared them with another group of the same size, eventually, she was able to understand that teachers who were photographed were half likely to be absent from school. Findings from the above survey helped Duflo to come up with a good policy that was effective (Parker, 2010).

I want to believe that if Sachs had called Duflo to help design the Millennium Village Project, the projects would have yielded a better result. With Duflo’s randomization, the MVP program would have been more tailored based as they would have enough knowledge about the situation on the ground. It was clear that there was a quite different from the MVP policy and the lifestyle of the people of Dertu coupled with infrastructural and environmental impediments (Monk, 2014). Furthermore, Duflo’s randomization would have helped Sachs to compare the problems of Dertu to the trends and dynamics of other surrounding communities. This would have given Sachs a sense on how to evaluate the projects better.

Duflo believes that the big push to end poverty should yield a bigger pie, if a project fails to register a bigger pie, a good policy was not adopted in the first place (Parker, 2010). Had the MVP been successful, it should have led to overall economic efficiencies. Although there might be some sense in Pritchett’s terming Duflo’s randomities as faith base, and also the claim that Sachs made about the people’s acceptance, Duflo randomitas would have Huge success in the MVP if had been used to develop an intervention in Dertu and other villages.

Better Result for Development Programs?

It is difficult to agree that Duflo’s “randomistas” approach could solve all the problems for Sachs MDV’s failures, but it could be argued that the randomistas approach could open the door to the new possibilities. As the complain letter by one of the community members in Dertu highlighted that “they were cheated, and the project didn’t give them any ownership”, the randomized trial approach could open the doors for more ownership of the project by the community and allowed them to be active agents other than passive receivers of the development program. Sachs’ MDV project was more of a “one size fits all” approach, and with his beliefs that a big push will lift all the poor countries from poverty, the MDV was also designed as one holistic approach other than being tailored based on the ground scenario. As we discussed throughout the semester about the development programs and poverty, there are many reasons for underdevelopment and poverty in the developing world and when something works in one place that does not guarantee that it will work everywhere. If development was that simple now, all the countries have developed, and there was no poverty to be alleviated.

The only solution, Sachs argued, was to dramatically boost people to a level where they could start to develop themselves, but the MDV came up with a completely different result than what Sachs expected. As described by Nina Munk, things looked promising in Dertu at first, but soon, the momentum faltered. Without enough resources available and lack of expertise of the project manager things started to fall apart.

The New Yorker article briefly discusses the idea of “Randomistas” that came into practice by Abdul Latif Jameel, an M.I.T. alumnus and promoted by Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. It is also known as J-PAL and aimed to work with the communities to find out what method works best for them and encourage change through community participation in the trial programs and understand the community’s need based on that data. Duflo describes the Randomistas approach as a way to allocate resources for the best use or maximize use of allocated resources. One thing that challenges this approach is the impact analysis based on faith and optimism other than substantial evidence. No exact data and case study can argue that a project impact was truly based on the RCT approach and the countries that are developed never used this system.

Same as Sachs, Duflo is also an optimist and is in favor of the aid funds to support the developing countries, but she is more focused on trial based impact analysis other than just implementation and numbers which this approach may helped the MDVs to come up with better results.

 

Development Explained?

Third World Countries or Global South nations’ development and drive towards prosperity has been discussed for decades now and volumes of literatures have been published on them. One of the approaches that Parker (2010) in his New Yorker article explains is the idea of “Randomistas”, enshrined by the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at MIT, best known as the (J-PAL) economic think-thanks, including the prominent Easther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee. Closely engaging with poor communities in the least developed countries, they testify their method, known as the new economics, where they tirelessly push for making changes in the lives of poor through community based small-scale projects. Their central claim that has attracted many resources and supports from development organizations and charities, is called the “Randomized Control Trails” (RCTs), similar to medical treatments, would produce better policies for developmental projects which will ultimately, produce better outcomes for the human beings, especially, those under treatments. Pritchett (2014) argues that although the innovators of this lab have had great achievements in the past thirteen years, since its establishment in 2003; however, their approach is lacking a central or critical theory that has shown to work in the past or that will work in the future. From his perspective, the whole approach of the “rigorous evidence” as a way and means to push for economic development is not a claimed based, rather it totally depends on faith and optimism. Pritchett’s idea makes sense when Parker points out that when he asks Duflo of a certain problem, she responds “how would I know?” Parker refers to Duflo as “an optimist [who] hopes that tomorrow might be a better day.” Such optimism is not only falsely leaded, it provides nothing new since the countries like China, Vietnam and others reduced their poverty lines by almost half, before the J-PAL was established or before Duflo received her PhD. in the year 2000, argues Pritchett.

Naturally, Duflo seems to closely relate to Jeffery Sachs’s approach of ‘Big Push’ to end poverty, since both economists support the idea of foreign aid, but what conceptually differ these two thinkers are the fact that Duflo seems to be more conservative with the numbers. Whereas Sachs approach’s success is all about the number of families receiving malaria nets and number of children receiving free milk and oranges to be persuaded to attend schools. Duflo confesses that she is not good with numbers, and points out that she does not know whether the aid helps better or worse or how the people’s lives change before and after aid; that is why she questions some aspects of Sachs’s theory. Duflo’s concern is true, since Munk (2013), in the last sections of her book, The Idealist, highly critiques the idealistic and far from truth approaches of Sachs. Basically, the push for rapid change and seeing immediate fruition in such rural and subsistence, coupled with laziness and carelessness as well as not ready to change-African rural districts, are the only “tall demands” that Sachs could think of. Personally, desperate to change the lives of the poor through his Millennium Village Projects, Sachs calculation is far from basic truth. Though as committed as he is, Sachs, similar to his J-PAL colleagues think of the situation as overly-simplified and totally based on faith and optimism of seeing a future horizon that would save Africa. Alas, he and his J-PAL think-thank intellectuals do not know or are maybe unaware of the proverb that says, “You can bring the horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink.”

Word Count: 585

Blogging Prompt for 12/3/18…

Imagine for a moment that, unlike what actually happened, Jeff Sachs had emailed Ester Duflo back, and asked her to help re-design the MVP to produce better data. Could the “randomistas” have fixed the MVPs alleged failures? How? Or is it unlikely that even with the kind of data Duflo prizes, thing could have really gone better in Dertu?