Hello Rory Stewart, James Wharton and Baroness Anelay

DFID’s new junior ministers include Rory Stewart, James Wharton and Baroness Anelay (the last a Minister joint with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Minister for the United Nations and the Commonwealth).

First Rory Stewart. He is well known for having walked across Afghanistan and staying with villagers along the way. He has experience with the Foreign Office, and as Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee. In that role, he was said to champion against the Tory-Liberal Democrat and Tory defence cuts. This supposedly resulted in him being booted out of this position and “being dumped” into the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Ok, but seriously, he has a wider range of experience on various other Select Committees. Drawing him into DFID could really mean harnessing his experience and expertise regarding conflict and post-conflict regions. Or it could mean DFID gets an injection of from a FCO heavweight. We shall see….

Baroness Anelay is a another with FCO DNA in her. She has held the post of Minister of State (Foreign and Commonwealth Office) during David Cameron’s Conservative majority government. More specifically, she has been Special Representative on Preventing Sexual Violence in Conflict since June 2015. She also has a strong history in foreign relations/international affairs, having served on the Lord EU Sub-Committee and the Joint Committee on Security. Yes women’s rights and preventing sexual violence was a key priority for the two Cameron governments and naturally should be a development issue, though not exactly a subject that improves economic development. Again it begs two differing perspectives: Will she bring a FCO-related baggage with her into DFID? Or will she act in the realm of international development? Unlike Stewart’s posting, it should also be emphasised that this is a joint ministerial post. Why the need to join them together?

Ok, down to James Wharton, the junior in the group. His immediate previous appointment was “Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Minister for Local Growth and the Northern Powerhouse”. The Northern Powerhouse was a proposal to boost economic growth in the North of England, starting by the then Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government. Under the new May government, this post has been downgraded into a nationwide agenda for boosting productivity outside the south-east. Anyway, this bring in some one with some background in economic growth to DFID. Whether he really applied what he did in his previous role is another matter.

DFID may either have new ministers with some development or issues relating to development. Or it could mean a foreign policy, economic/market-centred DFID, ala the old Overseas Development Administration (ODA, not to be confused with Official Development Assistance). Tune in to another blog post later.

Posted in Baroness Anelay of St Johns, DFID, James Wharton, Posts, Priti Patel, Rory Stewart | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The flaws in the Anti-Corruption Agenda and how to change it

The flaws in the Anti-Corruption Agenda and how to change it

In May 2016, the UK hosted the Anti-Corruption Summit in London, bring leaders from developed and developing nations as well as practitioners and interest groups. World leaders and academic penned various articles on their views and experiences in addressing corruption. The summit ended with a strong communique noting the evil nature of corruption on growth and society, and lots of proposed initiatives to combat corruption. It thus appears that corruption is an evil phenomenon that needs to be constantly fought and removed. This article however asserts that not all forms of corruption are detrimental to a country’s development and anti-corruption methods result in adverse effects on countries.

First, there is no strong definition of corruption. It may be said that corruption is “the abuse of public trust for private again”. However, the term “public trust” is too wide definitions as different parts of the public in a community have different degrees of trust to public officials or the government. Likewise, “private gain” has a diverse range of meanings as such gain could even be redistributed to the wider community. Following suit, the action of say an individual may in fact assist not hinder development. A bribe from a government official may or may not always end up with an inefficient producer. Likewise, a free market capitalist may not always use funding efficiently. Hence, it is not advisable to classify all forms as corruption as detrimental to growth. There may also be instances where local corruption where may in fact be conducive to growth. Ha-Joon Chang cites a case where an investor in Vietnam would be better off accepting a bribe since the common method would require extensive paperwork. This of course may not be the case in all countries. However, it indicates that each country has different social and political institutions or norms which shape the development of that area.

Second, previous and present efforts to address corruption have either not stopped it or in fact inhibited development in the country. A long standing view by donors is that the state should have little inference with economic activity. This longstanding approach especially during the 1980s to the 1990s in fact allowed private and government-owned firms to practice corrupt activities. In the post-Washington Consensus era, donors suggested the state intervene to ensure stronger property rights and rational economic transactions, or just “getting the institutions right”. This meant that the state would ensure a market-centric system would still continue on. Second, it meant that the same rigid framework was presented to developing countries. This constituted the “Good Governance Agenda”, which still did not help rectify corruption. In fact, it fostered new forms of corrupt activities such as “crony capitalism” which was prevalent in post-communist Eastern European countries and before and during the Asian Financial Crisis. The Good Governance Agenda has furthered been a signpost for aid recipients to adhere to in order receive aid, further setting conditions similar to those they faced in the 1980s. As with the Washington Consensus, this agenda actually inhibited economic growth. Yet this is the agenda used by political leaders from that time until this anti-corruption agenda.

The above indicates that corruption isn’t always anti-developmental in nature and efforts have not stopped corruption and stalled development. This article does not aim to let corruption still run rampant; rather new approaches are definitely needed. First, practitioners should not view all forms of corruption as evil or anti-developmental barriers. They must careful examine each different institutional context before implementing any counteracting measures. Second, a whole new approach is needed when address actual forms of corruption. Donors and governments should focus on the poor and equality when conducting anti-corruption measures. They should not just focus on market-centric or growth-enhancing anti-corruption measures. Third, there should be a change of operational culture within donor nations and organisations for a new anti-corruption approach. Practitioners in development organisations may still focus on the same methodology and ideas, despite a stated change in approach. Such an internal change may of course take a while to alter but it is necessary in order for a different approach towards corruption.

To be completed

Posted in Economic Thought, Ha-Joon Chang, International Development, Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello Priti Patel and immediate thoughts

Hello Priti Patel what have you focused on previously regarding international development. Oh Not much. Wait you once said :

A long-term strategic assessment is required, including the consideration to replace DfID with a Department for International Trade and Development in order to enable the UK to focus on enhancing trade with the developing world and seek out new investment opportunities in the global race.

“It is possible to bring more prosperity to the developing world and enable greater wealth transfers to be made from the UK by fostering greater trade and private sector investment opportunities

“Pretty good” for a Secretary of State who has to defend the fixed 0.7% of GNP/GNI position and one who is in charge of the most hated government department by the Tories. Oh the 0.7% fetish lovers will scream murder alright but she does have a point on trade, if the kind of trade is pro-development, not neoliberal or capitalist in nature.

Adding more the “DFID is doomed” part is that there is a “new” Cabinet-level department called “International Trade”, headed by once-Secretary of State for Defence Liam Fox. How this department, along with the “new” “Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy” department (with control over climate change issues) will affect the UK’s 0.7% or overall Official Development Assistance (ODA), one doesn’t know. As Owen Barder placed it, “they [the Conservative Government] are committed to spending 0.7% of GNI on ODA according to the DAC definition of ODA” and “Except that they [the Conservative Government] have a recent manifesto commitment and a UK law requiring them not to drop it”.

Welcome Priti Patel to a job you probably did not want and may hate?

Posted in DFID, Humanitarian Aid, International Development, Official Development Assistance, Priti Patel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello Kate Osamor

What do you know about International Development?

This new Shadow Secretary of State for International Development has never asked a question to DFID Ministers.

Another glance at Theyworkforyou.com shows small questions regarding refugees and homophobia (see this link)

Welcome, newbie! You are just as good as Harriet Harman and Diane Abbott.

Posted in DFID, Kate Osamor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It’s right to question aid, but better to focus on effectiveness, rather than the 0.7%

The 07% fetish comes up again.

Phil Vernon's blog

A version of this post is on Huffington Post.

In the UK, a parliamentary debate can be initiated by popular petition. On 13th June, Parliament will debate the proposition that the government’s approach to foreign aid is flawed. This is based on a petition, initiated by the Mail on Sunday newspaper and signed by over 230,000 people, as follows:

Despite spending cuts at home the Government is committed to hand over 0.7% of national income in overseas aid, regardless of need. The Mail on Sunday believes voters do not want this and instead, we should provide money only for truly deserving causes, on a case-by-case basis. A bill passed in 2015 required the Government to spend a fixed 0.7% of gross national income on foreign aid. UK handouts will rise from current £12bn to £16bn by 2020. This is by far the highest rate of any G20 nation…

View original post 1,233 more words

Posted in DFID, International Development, Official Development Assistance, Posts, Poverty Reduction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Links for Thought 12

1) The Real Hamilton: What’s Not to Love?

A Bloomberg article that talks about Alexander Hamilton, one of the very early US Treasury Secretaries, and how his ideas to grow the US economy then wouldn’t be accepted by the mainstream economists and politicians today. It quotes what my Cambridge Professor, Ha-Joon Chang said about government intervention in the US then.

2) What is new about the BRICS-led New Development Bank?

An article on the Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa (BRICS) Development Bank. Nice to have another non-Washington Consensus-centred Multilateral Development Bank (MDB), but how “new” will the development ideas be?

3) Against Corruption: a collection of essays

Ah, the Anti-Corruption Summit held in London and chaired by the Conservative government has ended. The link i s a collection of articles by academics and world leaders on corruption, but in the neoliberal, new institutional economics version of corruption. The articles while pretty ok, fail to consider that some kinds of corruption do not inhibit ecobnomic growth and that anti-corruption methods have failed or reduced growth. The articles fail to include the works on institutional economists like Ha-Joon Chang or Mushtaq Khan.

4) The Central African Republic must be built from scratch

A Guardian Development article talking about the effects of conflict in the Central African Republic.

5) An age of choice
for developmentfinance

This Overseas Development Institute (ODI) report looks at the multitude of channels for development finance using case studies.

6) Offshore centres hit at US financial transparency ‘hypocrisy’

You also aren’t transparent, or in a known phrase, pot calling the kettle black. Ok, everyone hides their financial assets. How then to realy clamp down on “offshore” (or inshore then)?

7) New development thinking: rising powers and the role of business

An Institute of Development Studies (IDS) article on the role that Indian and Chinese businesses play in development.

8) Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to cooperate with European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

If you are partnering with an established but slightly neoliberal regional development bank (RDB), then where is the “new” development ideas?

9) Unsustainable Development Goals?

Ngaire Woods writes about the enormous challenge of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). I very much agree.

10) Closing Developing Countries’ Capital Drain

I know it’s an article from February, but Joseph Stiglitz always nails it, this time on capital drain.

New article coming soon (hopefully).

Posted in Economic Thought, Ha-Joon Chang, International Development, Least Developed Countries, Overseas Development Institute, Posts, Poverty Reduction, SDGs, sustainable development goals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The NSS 2015 & the SDSR 2015: The “Development” parts Part 3

Other developed-related points include the UK partnering with China for global economic movements and the development of Africa (paragraphs 5.74 and 5.75), an EU-led trade agreement to improve India’s economy. This again may be welcomed by many, but also reeks of capitalist-centred. neoliberal-type objectives. Dealing such commercial and economic links with China on the surface benefits both sides and draws China closer to the (market-centric) global economic arena (not that China requires it). This according to some Western-centric scholars like Patrick Porter, may be counterproductive to the so-called Anglo-American “Special Relationship” but that’s beyond the scope of international or economic development here. It remains to be seen what happens with China’s political economy, barring any such economic partnerships.Paragraph 5.80 gives a brief mention of helping Bangladesh fight poverty, but no detailed information how. Paragraph 5.83 says the UK will engage with middle-income and G20 member over green technology and education but that’s it.

A more important section comes in Section C, where the document indicates that the UK places importance on the United Nations (UN), especially since it is where the Millennium Development Goals (MDGS) and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The NSS and SDSR pledged to increase the number of UK personnel on UN Peacekeeping operations. Peacekeeping does help with development, but do not always drive a country towards the status of a ‘developed country’ (paragraphs 5.9.1 and 5.9.2). The next part states a old promise that has floating around for sometime: that the UK would “to build the inclusitivty of the IFIs’ membership and decision-making”. This has been a promise from not just the UK, but from many OECD states and major shareholders of the International Financial Institution (IFIs). The paragraph (5.9.4) gave the pledge that:

The International Monetary Fund agreed reforms in 2010 to enhance the voice of emerging markets and developing countries. The UK was one of the first members to make the statutory changes to put the deal into effect, and remains committed to its full implementation.

It remains to be seen if the UK follows through with this pledge. Still, it alone cannot elevate middle-income or emerging market economies to the ‘top’. It would require a combined effort of many other shareholders to give such states greater votes and/or voting power as well as a voice in IFI reforms and policy directions. Even if this succeeds, decisions by this new architecture won’t necessary be positive. The next small section looks at pledges for the G7 and G20 groups. Again, section 5.95 pledges global cooperation, but again most definitely to preserve the capitalist/neoclassical economics-centred/neoliberal order…

I’ll skip the rest of the sub-sections until 5.118, which states that “[the UK] will spend at least 50% of DFID’s budget in fragile states and regions in every year of this Parliament.” This focus on fragile states by the Conservatives isn’t new; the the previous Coalition government they pledged and spent 30% of their ODA on fragile states issues. A more comprehensive paper was released at the same time as the SDSR, titled UK Aid tackling global challenges in the national interest. (I’ll review this “White Paper” and topic in another post. For now, see stuff like this Center for Global Development article.)

I’ll stop here. This SDSR/NSS is really long….

Posted in Posts | Leave a comment