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?

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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.

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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…

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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).

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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….

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What’s ODA? It’s definition has been changed…


I was about to write Part 3 of the 2015 SDSR when

this news release appeared. In summary, the UK along with others Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Development Assistance (OECD-DAC) have altered the definition of Official Assistance (ODA). This is further detailed in by DAC members. DIFD’s news release provides an easy summary of some of the new definitions here:

*official aid can be used to support the military in fragile countries on issues that promote development, such as human rights and the prevention of sexual violence; this means the international community is better equipped to meet Global Goal 16 (of theSustainable Development Goals ) which calls for the stronger governance in developing countries to prevent violence and combat terrorism and crime

*tackling violent extremism is now formally recognised as a development activity; more than 90% of terrorist attacks occur in states with weak governance and poor human rights records

*donors are incentivised to work more with the private sector to boost economic development and create jobs in some of the world’s poorest countries.

My thoughts”

1) Yes, conflict and fragile states are an increasing issue for development agencies and practitioners. It ma sound welcome that ODA will now be considered ODA in military activities, but that comes as a huge U-turn for donors who see aid as development work, not for military purposes. The UK’s DFID was founded based on the principle that any UK aid would be only considered as development aid, not aid for military means. This was specifically noted in legal format through the 2002 International Development Act. But wait, ok, it says that ODA will be ODA now when the military is involved in the “prevention of sexual violence”. That may be development, but opening up the definition still could mean opening up for abuse, especially for other donors. (Hint, the USAID.)

2) Linking to the first part about conflict/fragile states, ODA will now be ODA if it curbs extremism. Again, this is a murky area–yes, extremism inhibits development. But calling finances to stop development could mean throwing money to projects that are for ad-hoc purposes and may just stop the action for a short term. It might further mean financial flows to groups that only prevent violence, not consider the eventual progression or development of the society or country.

3) Private sector. Well yes many donors have been focused on the private sector, especially since neoclassical economics and neoliberalism says the private sphere is the better way for development. DFID itself established a Private Sector Team for this purpose. Yes, the private sector do aid in development, but no, it is also susceptible to failure (basic development economics.) ODA now will be a financial boost for the private sector (I’m still not sure what is point is a bout). What about OOF (Other Official Flows?) And to take the Ha-Joon Chang argument, a focus on the private sector should not ignore the public sector or state.

ODA ‘s definition does need a change, but changing it opens up more questions, chief of which, is this really development?

More on this at a later time.

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The NSS 2015 & the SDSR 2015: The “Development” parts Part 2


Another also quite obvious development initiative proposed was to continue developing global or international development arena is brought up on page 48, paragraph 5.9 which states that the UK has and will continue to play a leading role in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The UK indeed has been the forefront on the successor(s) to the Millennium Development Goals, as seen in this UN High-level panel news release, this blog post by David Hallam and David Cameron’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly. It of course increases the UK’s political standing by being a leader in forming the SDGs, but it is the quality that counts.

This brings us to the the next paragraph, 5.10 which reads:

Our development programme helps to drive economic development and prosperity overseas, enabling a permanent route out of poverty while creating markets for future British business. Our assistance focuses on improving peace, security and governance; equality of opportunity for girls and women; access to basic services for the poorest; and building resilience to crises and responding to disasters when they occur. We promote the golden thread of conditions (own emphasis added) that drive prosperity all across the world: the rule of law, good governance and the growth of democracy.

The “golden thread” is a term that PM Cameron formed around 2012, whereby you only get real long-term development through aid if there is also a “golden thread of stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law, transparent information.” In essence, only if you follow these strict rules, you will be able to improve your overall development. It sounds like a simple formula to follow but it also sounds like theWashington Consensus policies of the 1980s and early 1990s and the post-Washington Consensus policies of the 1990s such as the Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers (PRSPS). As my old Development Studies lecturer Ha-Joon Chang would say, the UK is a “bad Samaritan” and is “kicking away the ladder” (the route it took in (economic) development) for these developing countries. If the UK wishes to improve the global arena, it must diversify its “golden thread” and allow states with different local institutions to develop in their own time. (You can read more about Cameron’s “golden thread” in this
gGoogle thread, this House of Commons International Development Committee publication and Simon Maxwell’s articles .)

To Be Continued

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