CDI Europe as one

How committed is Europe to development really?

Europe’s approach to development could be characterized as energetically tackling the symptoms of poor economic opportunities for developing countries by providing substantial and effective aid, while doing relatively little to tackle the underlying structural causes of poverty.

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Malaria vaccine setback: what can we learn?

There has been bad news about the effectiveness of the leading candidate for a malaria vaccine. Has the time has come for donors to make an Advance Market Commitment?

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Achieving policy impact

The video of a talk I did at the Development Policy Centre at the Crawford School of Public Policy at Australian National University on 9 October 2012.

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"Doc: can you take me back to the days of the Washington Consensus?"

All that glisters: the golden thread and complexity

This second of three blog posts looking at development policy through the lens of complexity thinking considers whether David Cameron's 'golden thread' is good development policy.

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Thwaites Toaster 600px

What is development?

This the first of three blog posts exploring the implications of complexity for development. In my lecture on complexity I argue that development is an emergent property of the economic and social system. This blog post explains what that means.

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development_complexity (1)

Complexity and development [presentation and podcast]

My 2012 Kapuściński Lecture considered the implications of complexity thinking for development economics and development policy. This post presents an updated version as a narrated online presentation which lasts about 45 minutes. Read the full post »
hunger summit

Tough on hunger, tough on the causes of hunger?

Two reasons why I am concerned about plans for a big campaign in 2013 on food, agriculture, hunger, food security and nutrition.

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Chart by NIESR

How’s that austerity thing working out?

Remarkable chart from the National Institute for Economic and Social Research showing what has happened to GDP in each recession, compared to the cyclical peak.

Chart by NIESR
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Two of the three chairs of the Working Group

Could ‘Development Impact Bonds’ work?

Discussing the work of the CGD and Social Finance Development Impact Bonds Working Group.

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David Roodman on the bbC

Microfinance as an allegory for aid

In the latest episode of Development Drums, David Roodman explains that rigorous evaluations of micro-credit suggest that, on average, it has no effect on poverty.

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A younger me arrives at the South African Department of Finance

A new smart sanction which deserves to be tried

A disarmingly simple but effective way to put more pressure on illegitimate regimes: declare that any future contracts will not be enforceable against their successors.

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The Mercato, the commercial hub of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. Ethiopia's economy grew by 7.5% in 2011.

End of year reflections

The Guardian development blog is running a series of end of year reflections on development, including one by me. Many of the articles are upbeat about progress in developing countries, but pessimistic about the short term economic prospects for … Go to to read the rest

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More on the case for higher vaccine prices

Duncan Green has been awaiting “the inevitable response from Owen” to a recent post by Dr Kamal-Yanni of Oxfam and Daniel Berman of Médecins Sans Frontières about different approaches to getting vaccines into developing countries. The main point … Go to to read the rest

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A dollar buys you 16 birr at the official exchange rate

A dollar a day

There seems to be some confusion about what the international definition of poverty actually means.

The Millennium Development Goal is to halve, between 1990 and 2015, the number proportion of people living in extreme poverty.  The poverty line was originally … Go to to read the rest

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Maurice Hilleman may have saved more lives than any other scientist

Should we pay less for vaccines?

Progressive development thinkers have welcomed the announcement of new money for the Global Alliance for Vaccination and Immunization (GAVI), and support the partnership between governments and the private sector.  A minority of NGOs have criticized GAVI on the grounds that Go to to read the rest

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Do economists have better tools?

The interesting question in development is not whether aid works or does not work.  Not surprisingly, the answer is that some aid works and some doesn’t.  A more interesting question is: what kind of aid works best?

Nick Kristof has … Go to to read the rest

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What to read on budget processes in developing countries?

Someone working on the budget process in a developing country contacted me with the following question:

I noticed in your most recent post you mention that you are a budget wonk. I am currently working in [the budget section of

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Election Poster for Bingu wa Mutharika

Malawi success and donor fallibility

On the Oxfam blog, Max Lawson has an excellent guest post telling the story of how Malawi has used an extensive programme of fertilizer subsidies to generate seven years of economic growth, reduductions in poverty and child deaths.

Max cites … Go to to read the rest

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Graph by Maxim Pinkovskiy and Xavier Sala-i-Martin

Economic growth and poverty reduction in Africa

A perennial question in development economics is whether economic growth, by itself, is enough to reduce poverty.

The question came up in the most recent edition of Development Drums. Claire Melamed argued that the fact that so many of … Go to to read the rest

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