Assessing the social, political and economic impact of armed movements in affected regions and on the country as a whole has never been an easy task. It is an exercise that needs constant revision taking into account the progression in the conflict situation, and yet, there can be no finality to the assessment. Probably the enormity of the challenge has prevented such an exercise from being undertaken in Indian conflict theatres—in the Northeast as well as in the Left Wing Extremism affected states. Click here to read complete report.


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What are the most effective ways to increase primary school enrollment and student learning? We argue that innovations in governance of social services may yield the highest return since social service delivery in developing countries is often plagued by inefficiencies and corruption. We illustrate this by using data from an unusual policy experiment. A newspaper campaign in Uganda aimed at reducing capture of public funds by providing schools (parents) with information to monitor local officials’ handling of a large education grant program. The campaign was highly successful and the reduction in capture had a positive effect on enrollment and student learning. Click here to read complete article here.

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Planning climate compatible development: lessons from experience

Effective planning can both help make development resilient to the impacts of climate change and help policymakers identify opportunities to harness development benefits from lowering emissions. In developing countries, such planning requires the support of international finance, technology transfer
and capacity building. Identifying national priorities for climate compatibledevelopment that combines adaptation and low emissions development objectives, while meeting the requirements of international support frameworks, involves balancing upward and downward accountability.
This briefing examines lessons learnt from different country-scale action planning under such dual accountability frameworks. Click here to read completet article here.

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What’s really happening to inequality?

It’s evident within-country inequality is back on the radar of some of the major international organisations including UNICEF and UNDP who are leading the wider UN body but, perhaps surprisingly, also the World Economic Forum and the International Monetary Fund.

The basic case is as follows: inequality matters because high inequality can inhibit growth, discourage institutional development towards accountable government and undermine civic and social life leading to conflict especially in multi-ethnic settings.

A number of new studies have pushed thinking forward and a new paper by Chilean Economist Gabriel Jose Gabriel Palma raises a number of questions about the middle classes in particular and their role in redistributive politics.

Five years ago the World Bank’s World Development Report on inequalities was important in that it opened a wider debate on the interaction between types of inequality and how inequality reproduces itself across generations as a result of ‘inequality traps’ or persistent differences in power, wealth and status between socio-economic groups that are sustained over time by economic, political and socio-cultural mechanisms and institutions.

Since then, the impact of inequalities on economic growth has received considerable attention. For example, Klasen and Lamanna in one paper detailed how gender inequalities have held back economic growth and Grimm in another paper that health inequalities impede growth. Recently, the IMF too published a paper by Berg and Osty outlining how high inequality impedes the sustainability of growth spells. High inequality has also been linked to fragility and conflict (see Cramer or ; Stewart et al., papers).

However, exactly what’s happening to within-country inequality isn’t immediately clear.

The new Solt database of the main measure of inequality (known as the Gini after an Italian Sociologist who developed it) was analysed by Ortiz and Cummins at UNICEF who concluded the evidence showed:

Rising inequality in Asia, 1990-2008 but falling inequality in Sub-Saharan Africa over the same time period.

And inequality in Latin America rose slightly 1990-2008 but fell between 2000-2008 and inequality was static in the Middle East and North Africa.

Ortiz and Cummins list a long set of countries where inequality significantly fell between 2000-2008. For example, inequality fell by more than 3 points in Thailand, Malaysia; Brazil, Peru, Argentina, Chile; Lesotho, Malawi, Ethiopia, Burundi, Mali, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, Uganda, Nigeria, Gabon.

However, a new paper by Chilean Economist Gabriel Jose Gabriel Palma does a detailed study of within country inequality between 1985 vs 2005 suggesting the gini hides as much as it reveals.

Instead we need to look at each 10% of the population and what they get.

He finds that there is now a surprising similar picture in most countries, noting:

1. The great majority of regions and countries have a relatively similar distribution of income inequality because countries with low inequality at the outset (1985) have got more unequal and countries with high-inequality have got slightly more equal.

2. The middle classes generally get half of the economic pie wherever you look and the middle classes are incredibly successful about protecting their half.

3. Politics is increasingly a fight for the remaining half between the richest 10% and poorest 40% meaning the other half of the distribution is increasingly ‘up for grabs’ between the very rich and the very poor and who can win over the middle classes.

This might begin to explain some of the recent declines in inequality in Latin America as suggested in a paper by Birdsall et al., who argue that ‘social democratic’ regimes (eg Brazil, Chile and Uruguay) are more likely to reduce inequality than ‘left populist’ (eg Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela) and both are more likely to reduce inequality that non-left regimes (eg Colombia, Costa Rica Mexico, Peru) and that this is largely due to more social spending and more progressive spending especially so in the social democratic regimes (eg spending on cash transfers targeted to the poorest and greater increases in spending on health and education and increases in spending on basic services – in particular in education, greater increases in spending on primary and secondary schooling rather than on public universities.

These social democrats have strong support in the middle classes and this throws up the question posed by Birdsall et al:

Might the growing middle classes in countries like Chile and Brazil help lock in leftist social democratic political regimes (whether because or despite its concentration in the top quintile of households)? There is no evidence that a large middle class is necessary let alone sufficient to these regimes. But a growing global middle class does seem likely to reinforce effective government that manages moderate redistribution while retaining investor confidence in the likelihood of continuing growth and price stability. Put another way: When is the middle class large enough to become politically salient in supporting or at least tolerating the kind of social and other distributive policies that are good for them but turn out to be good for the poor—for example universal public education?

Food for thought – the middle classes as the new revolutionaries?


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Foreign advisers raking in millions

By Steve Lewis:

Rich contract ... rural sociologist Dr. Adiel Mbabu. Source: The Daily Telegraph

THEY’RE the Australian government officials you’ve never heard of – but most of them earn more than Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

The combined salaries of a select group of AusAID-funded consultants – who offer advice to developing nations on everything from law and order to farming – totals millions of dollars a year.

Kenyan man Adiel Mbabu, who advises Papua New Guinea on farming techniques, is the recipient of one of the richest individual foreign aid contracts, worth $1.089 million.Dr Mbabu’s three-year deal – which will earn him just over $350,000 annually tax-free – was awarded after an “open international tender process”, according to an AusAID spokeswoman. The Kenyan adviser provides “expert independent support” to the PNG National Agriculture and Livestock Department.

He is just one consultant whose work in some of the world’s poorest countries has brought personal riches.

Despite Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd vowing to crack down on highly paid advisers, Geoffrey Elvy will earn $936,091 over two years to give economics advice to PNG – nearly double the salary of Treasurer Wayne Swan.

Leslie Holland will earn $924,319 to help Vanuatu build a better transport system while Philip Warren gets $897,680 to advise the PNG government on transport.

Carey Brooker will earn $808,368 to advise on education while the recipient of the biggest individual AusAID contract – former clerk of the court John Dinsdale – has just negotiated a one-year $430,264 extension to his $1.077 million “law and justice” contract in PNG. On the eve of a government review into foreign aid – which gives the green light to increasing annual spending to about $9 billion by 2015 – the amount paid to the big three private contractors has doubled to $1.8 billion.

And the fat profits earned by Coffey International, Cardno and GRM are likely to expand further. The review, chaired by former Olympics boss Sandy Hollway, gives Australia’s aid program the tick of approval and says AusAID is capable of handling a much bigger budget.

It also suggests more money be channelled into aid projects through multilateral bodies such as United Nations agencies and charities like Oxfam.

It clears the way for a big increase in aid spending in Africa, despite Australia traditionally focusing on the Asia-Pacific region.

Australian universities are also cashing in with the University of Queensland receiving $93.7 million in contracts, Australian National University $81.7 million and Melbourne University $38.5 million.

Twelve months after The Daily Telegraph first exposed the lucrative nature of AusAID contracts, the amounts earned by individuals and private firms continue to grow, triggering protests from countries such as PNG, Tonga and the Solomon Islands. But AusAID says a new adviser remuneration guideline is working.

“Since February some 52 advisers have been engaged at rates 10 to 40 per cent below that initially sought by the advisers or which would have applied previously,” the spokeswoman said.



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Aid To Pakistan: Too Much Or Too Little?


How did people come to such wildly different conclusions about American aid to Pakistan?

Some Americans seem to have concluded it’s a waste of $20 billion. Yet in Lahore, Pakistani newspaper editor Najam Sethi suggested to me that Pakistan has hardly received any help at all. “It’s peanuts,” Sethi said.

The answer lies in the incredible complexity of Pakistan, as well as the complexity of sending aid halfway around the world. Nothing about the story is as simple as it seems. Continue reading

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Why Bangladesh doesn’t want climate adaptation loans

By pushing climate loans, the UK and the World Bank are making people in poor countries pay twice for climate change – even though we played almost no part in causing the problem

Rickshaw drivers cycle through water after heavy rain in Dhaka. Photograph: Pavel Rahman/AP

This week in Cape Town, the World Bank will decide whether to approve new climate adaptation loans for five countries. In Bangladesh and around the world, campaigners are resisting these loans and urging their governments not to accept new debt for climate change. More than 50 organisations from countries due to receive the loans recently signed a statement opposing the concept of climate loans, which was initially invented by the UK.Click here to read complete article

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