Isobel Coleman

Democracy in Development

Coleman maps the intersections between political reform, economic growth, and U.S. policy in the developing world.

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Missing Pieces: Uncertain India, Aid Transparency, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Rickshaw pullers wait for customers outside the Sahara Mall, a shopping center built by Sahara group, in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, September 20, 2012 (Mansi Thapliyal/Courtesy Reuters). Rickshaw pullers wait for customers outside the Sahara Mall, a shopping center built by Sahara group, in Gurgaon on the outskirts of New Delhi, India, September 20, 2012 (Mansi Thapliyal/Courtesy Reuters).
In this installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights news and analysis on India, Georgia, foreign assistance, and Asia’s economic growth. Enjoy!
  • Uncertain India: India, long seen as a vibrant democracy headed for prosperity, has lately become known for sagging growth and political paralysis. An Economist special report surveys the scene. Though global weakness has harmed India’s economy, it says, “the greatest pains are self-inflicted.” Troubles include a large deficit, an unfriendly investment climate, high inflation, and inadequate infrastructure. Both elected politicians and bureaucrats stymie needed reforms and efficiencies. Literacy has risen from 52 to 74 percent since 1991, and “some 97 percent of school-age children enroll.” India also has the world’s largest number of higher education institutions (26,500). However, the quality of instruction ranges from “variable” to “often wretched,” producing a shortage of skilled professionals. Meanwhile, government welfare spending to combat poverty is up, but many view it as inefficient and prone to corruption. Still, the report foresees a brighter future for India—“eventually.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: Africa’s Mobile Explosion, Competing Aid Approaches, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Used mobile telephone cards are stringed together at a roadside call centre in the district of Obalende in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, March 8, 2012 (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters). Used mobile telephone cards are stringed together at a roadside call centre in the district of Obalende in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos, March 8, 2012 (Akintunde Akinleye/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow covers items on Africa, India, foreign aid, and the world’s wealthy in this installment of Missing Pieces. I hope you enjoy the reading.

  • Africa’s Mobile Explosion: “A little over a decade ago,” a CNN piece says, “there were about 100,000 phone lines in Nigeria, mostly landlines.” Today there are almost 100 million mobile lines, a story mirrored across Africa. The article explores several impacts of mobile phones on the continent. Mobile money is a crucial service in a region where “only one in five adults own bank accounts.” Phones are promoting action against autocrats and transparency around elections. In education, phones are “gain[ing] ground as tools for delivering teaching content.” Mobile entertainment, including music, movies, social networking, and more, is booming. In disasters, mobile phones help the displaced find their relatives and bolster “emergency reporting and relief systems.” In agriculture, farmers are getting mobile information about weather, crop prices, insurance, and animal husbandry. And in health, mobile applications are identifying counterfeit medicines and distributing information and tips, among other things. Isobel Coleman has been chronicling mobile technology’s impact on development regularly, most recently last week. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Cash for the Congo, Health Shocks, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A woman carries a gardening tool on her head while heading to work in the fields at Bukima, just north of the eastern Congolese city of Goma, August 19, 2010 (Finbarr O'Reilly/Courtesy Reuters). A woman carries a gardening tool on her head while heading to work in the fields at Bukima, just north of the eastern Congolese city of Goma, August 19, 2010 (Finbarr O'Reilly/Courtesy Reuters).

In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow reviews stories on Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, and Mongolia, as well as a scholarly paper on health. Enjoy and have a great weekend.

Cash for the Congo: Starting in 2007, the Tuungane program in the Democratic Republic of the Congo “funded classrooms, clinics, and other investments in 1,250 villages,” which had to form elected committees to plan and execute projects in consultation with villagers. More recently, in what the Financial Times calls “an acid test of whether Tuungane had helped to promote effective village institutions,” an evaluation project gave cash to Tuungane and non-Tuungane villages and examined their process for spending it. Tuungane’s impact on improving governance appears minimal. In both groups, almost equal proportions of villages used elections to choose committees to spend the funds. The average amount of money that went missing was “nearly identical in treatment and control areas” as well. But even if Tuungane’s effects on governance were limited, it is heartening that the UK’s Department for International Development, which funded Tuungane, has allowed such a rigorous study of its work. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Global Poverty, Manmohan Singh’s Woes, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A slum dweller washes his clothes in stagnant water at Nonadanga in Kolkata, India, April 20, 2012 (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Courtesy Reuters). A slum dweller washes his clothes in stagnant water at Nonadanga in Kolkata, India, April 20, 2012 (Rupak De Chowdhuri/Courtesy Reuters).

In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights work on poverty, global economic trends, and aid, as well as developments in India. Enjoy!

Global Poverty: The Economist explores a debate over “the geography of poverty”—where the world’s poor are, and will be, concentrated. As the piece notes, one scholar writes that some four-fifths of people living on less than $2 per day live not in poor countries but in middle-income ones. This is because countries like China and India have achieved middle-income status while many of their people remain poor. Meanwhile, two other researchers contend that poverty’s main locus in the coming years will be “fragile states,” where birthrates are often high. These accounts can be partially “squared,” the Economist says, because some countries are both middle-income and fragile: the “MIFFS (middle-income fragile or failed states),” which include Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, and Yemen. In any case, the data point to an increasing need for donors to focus on boosting both governance in fragile countries and equity in middle-income ones. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Education and Health in Pakistan, Poverty in Haiti, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a nationwide drive against the disease in a hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan, August 8, 2007 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters). A health worker administers a polio vaccine to a child during a nationwide drive against the disease in a hospital in Islamabad, Pakistan, August 8, 2007 (Faisal Mahmood/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow reviews two scholarly works, as well as news on Haiti and a range of development innovations. Enjoy the reading and the holiday weekend.
  • Education and Health in Pakistan: While better educated parents are known to raise healthier children, the role of each parent and the exact reasons for the correlation remain unclear. A study in World Development seeks to clarify the issue. Using a survey of almost 1,200 households in two provinces of Pakistan, the authors find that a mother’s level of schooling significantly affects children’s height and weight. However, only a father’s education impacts immunization. The authors speculate that fathers may guide certain health behaviors, “particularly if they require travel to a health clinic,” while mothers govern “day-to-day decisions” that affect “longer-term measures of health such as height and weight.” But it is not parents’ “education per se” that drives better child health. Instead, the authors find that immunization responds to fathers’ health knowledge (rather than overall schooling). Mothers’ impact on height and weight, meanwhile, seems driven by their health knowledge and “empowerment within the home.” Based on these findings, the authors write that “policies aimed at achieving better health awareness and knowledge” might give Pakistan the biggest development boost. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Meles Zenawi’s Death, Development Debates, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi meets with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir during an official visit to Khartoum, August 21, 2011 (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Courtesy Reuters). Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi meets with Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir during an official visit to Khartoum, August 21, 2011 (Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah/Courtesy Reuters).

Charles Landow covers events in Africa and Asia, as well as the debate over development’s drivers, in today’s edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy!

Missing Pieces: Housing in Haiti, Democracy and Inequality, and More

by Isobel Coleman
People sit outside a house that was destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti, January 3, 2012 (Swoan Parker/Courtesy Reuters). People sit outside a house that was destroyed by the January 2010 earthquake in Port au Prince, Haiti, January 3, 2012 (Swoan Parker/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights topics ranging from Haiti to Zimbabwe, with inequality and agricultural development in between. I hope you enjoy the selection.
  • Housing in Haiti: More than two-and-a-half years have passed since Haiti’s January 12, 2010, earthquake. But according to a New York Times piece, “the most obvious, pressing need—safe, stable housing for all displaced people—remains unmet.” As the article explains, “while more than 200,000 houses were damaged or destroyed,” international efforts have produced only “an estimated 15,000 repairs and 5,700 new, permanent homes so far.” Some 390,000 Haitians languish in “abysmal” camps. Tens of thousands more have been ejected from camps and “remain homeless.” Others, ostensibly luckier, have received temporary homes built by humanitarian groups. But these are often too small and isolated from jobs and services. Finally, still other Haitians have rebuilt with their own hands. Though their comforts are modest, they seem happiest of all. As one says, “When I die, I will have something to pass on to my daughter.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: India’s Blackout, Kagame’s Fortunes, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Vegetable vendors wait for customers at their stall during a power-cut in Kolkata, India, July 31, 2012 (Rupak de Chowdhuri/Courtesy Reuters). Vegetable vendors wait for customers at their stall during a power-cut in Kolkata, India, July 31, 2012 (Rupak de Chowdhuri/Courtesy Reuters).
In this installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow covers stories from Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Enjoy the post and the weekend.
  • India’s Blackout: India’s late-July blackout, which cut power to more than 600 million, has prompted a flood of analysis. A Businessweek piece notes that “blackouts are everyday occurrences,” partly because India lacks enough coal for its new power plants. A CNN post cites artificially low electricity rates, maintained by politicians in search of votes, as a root cause of the crisis. A Washington Post article says that even when an electricity connection exists, “the poor can’t afford to enjoy it.” Power flows are spotty, bureaucracy thick, and bribe demands legion. On ForeignAffairs.com, two authors argue that a history of state—not national—control over electricity grids has much to do with the crisis. Finally, the Economist concludes that “India’s great blackout is a consequence of rotten governance. Voters need to understand that, and deliver the country’s political class a different kind of electric shock.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: Kim’s Vision, Zimbabwe’s Farmers, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Jim Yong Kim, the new President of the World Bank Group, speaks to the press as he arrives for his first day on the job at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC, July 2, 2012 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters). Jim Yong Kim, the new President of the World Bank Group, speaks to the press as he arrives for his first day on the job at the World Bank Headquarters in Washington, DC, July 2, 2012 (Jason Reed/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow covers topics ranging from global health to emerging market growth, with stops in Zimbabwe and Latin America. Enjoy!
  • Kim’s Vision: In a speech and interview this week, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim made clear that he sees deep connections between poverty and health. First, in remarks at the International AIDS Conference, Kim called for using the lessons of the AIDS movement to combat poverty, including through partnerships, openness and transparency, and “applying AIDS knowledge and resources” to broader challenges like health insurance and human capital. In an interview with the Guardian, Kim said that his past work with Partners for Health “was really always about poverty.” As he put it, “we’ve always believed that investing in health means investing in the wellbeing and development of that entire community.” CFR’s Laurie Garrett offers a sobering take on the fight against AIDS in a CFR.org interview. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Sudan’s Conflicts, Children in Development, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A SPLA-N fighter walks in Jebel Kwo village in the rebel-held territory of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, Sudan, May 2, 2012 (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters). A SPLA-N fighter walks in Jebel Kwo village in the rebel-held territory of the Nuba Mountains in South Kordofan, Sudan, May 2, 2012 (Goran Tomasevic/Courtesy Reuters).
Charles Landow ranges from Sudan to palm oil in this edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy the selection as always.
  • Sudan’s Conflicts: I have written on the blog about South Sudan’s economic crisis and other post-independence woes. Now comes a New Yorker piece on the violence that continues to plague South Sudan and Sudan, the country from which it split last year. Some contingents of the southern Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) remain in regions that went to the north; they now fight on against Khartoum. Meanwhile, South Sudan, where the SPLA governs, faces tribal conflict. “While those in power enrich themselves and their cronies,” the article says, “the tribes carry out raids and wars against one another.” Prospects all around are grim. As one scholar concludes in the piece, “The best-case scenario will see the territory on both sides of the border unstable for years to come.” Read more »