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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Showing posts for "Americas"

Inclusive Economic Growth and Brazil’s Protests

by Isobel Coleman
Demonstrators march toward the Mineirao Stadium, where Nigeria was playing Tahiti in the Confederations Cup, during one of the many protests around Brazil's major cities in Belo Horizonte June 17, 2013 (Pedro Vilela/Courtesy Reuters). Demonstrators march toward the Mineirao Stadium, where Nigeria was playing Tahiti in the Confederations Cup, during one of the many protests around Brazil's major cities in Belo Horizonte on June 17, 2013 (Pedro Vilela/Courtesy Reuters).

Brazil’s weeklong protests, which have brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets across the country, have scored their first victory: officials in the major cities of Sao Paolo and Rio de Janeiro have agreed to rescind the 20 cent bus fare hike that sparked the protests in the first place. But this conciliatory move, far from placating the crowds, seems to have energized their demands. Large marches are planned for today with demands now focused on better education and health care and greater efforts to tackle corruption. Read more »

Pope Francis: A Cautious Break With Tradition

by Isobel Coleman
Newly elected Pope Francis appears on a large screen as he leads a mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on March 14, 2013 (Alessandro Bianchi/Courtesy Reuters). Newly elected Pope Francis appears on a large screen as he leads a mass in the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican on March 14, 2013 (Alessandro Bianchi/Courtesy Reuters).

Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio wasn’t quite the bold choice many were hoping for in a new pope. Personally, I was rooting for a younger, more out-of-the-box possibility like Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. At 76, Pope Francis is on the older side and faces not only a demanding role as global leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, but also the myriad challenges of a secretive institution that has not fully confronted the depth of its scandals. At a minimum, he will need the blessing of stamina. Read more »

Looking to the Developing World for a Pope

by Isobel Coleman
A man walks outside the Cathedral of St. Paul of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast on February 11, 2013 (Thierry Gouegnon/Courtesy Reuters). A man walks outside the Cathedral of St. Paul of Abidjan in the Ivory Coast on February 11, 2013 (Thierry Gouegnon/Courtesy Reuters).

Pope Benedict XVI’s resignation is a surprisingly bold move from someone not known as a modernizer. But his recognition that he was no longer up to the challenges of the Catholic Church was a thoroughly modern leadership move—and one that other aging leaders would do well to emulate. The fact that he’s the first pope in nearly 600 years to avail himself of retirement (the last one to resign, Pope Gregory XII, did so in 1415 to end a schism in the Church) is—to say the least—historic. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Chavez’s Legacy, Global Growth Redux, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A man walks past a mural depicting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, January 9, 2013 (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Courtesy Reuters). A man walks past a mural depicting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas, January 9, 2013 (Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Courtesy Reuters).
In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow covers stories from Latin America and the Middle East, as well as an IMF report. I hope you enjoy the selection.
  • Chavez’s Legacy: As Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez lingers in uncertain health, a New Yorker piece explores the capital city he is leaving behind. “After decades of neglect, poverty, corruption, and social upheaval,” it says, “Caracas has deteriorated beyond all measure.” Crime is rampant, trash and pollution widespread, and housing scarce. The article focuses on the government’s nebulous attitude toward property rights. Groups of squatters have invaded hundreds of buildings, including a half-finished skyscraper called the Tower of David. Some 3,000 people now live there, led by a Chavez partisan who paints himself as a benevolent manager but whom others call a thug. As the article says, many Caracas residents see the tower as “a byword for everything that is wrong with their society: a community of invaders living in their midst, controlled by armed gangsters with the tacit acquiescence of the Chavez government.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: Mexico’s Prospects, Measuring the MDGs, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Planes fly in formation over the Mexican national flag during a military parade in celebration of the 102nd anniversary of the Mexican Revolution on Zocalo Square in Mexico City, November 20, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters). Planes fly in formation over the Mexican national flag during a military parade in celebration of the 102nd anniversary of the Mexican Revolution on Zocalo Square in Mexico City, November 20, 2012 (Courtesy Reuters).

In this edition of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow features stories on Mexico, India, Africa, and the Millennium Development Goals. I hope you enjoy the selection.

Mexico’s Prospects: The Economist features a largely sanguine report on Mexico. “Many of the things the world thinks it knows about Mexico are no longer true,” it says. Economic growth is strong as higher global shipping costs and rising Chinese wages boost Mexico’s manufacturing competitiveness. Social services are expanding; as the report says, “free universal health care became more or less a reality this year.” Education spending is also up, though opaque teachers unions seem to swallow much of the money. Perhaps the darkest cloud is governance. The report says Mexico’s ban on reelection makes politicians more accountable to “party bosses” than to voters, and some of the country’s states remain hotbeds of corruption. On her blog, CFR’s Shannon O’Neil weighs the record of President Felipe Calderon, who left office on Saturday; she also wrote on Mexico last week in USA Today. 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: Slavery and Development, Mexico’s Politics and Security, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A general view of the gold mine in Marmato province, Caldas, Colombia, October 5, 2010. The Marmato mines have been exploited for more than five centuries (John Vizcaino/Courtesy Reuters). A general view of the gold mine in Marmato province, Caldas, Colombia, October 5, 2010. The Marmato mines have been exploited for more than five centuries (John Vizcaino/Courtesy Reuters).
In this installment of Missing Pieces, Charles Landow highlights popular and scholarly work on Africa and Latin America. Enjoy and have a great weekend.
  • Slavery and Development: In an illustration that development’s drivers apparently run deep, a paper from the National Bureau for Economic Research examines the effects of historical slavery on contemporary outcomes in Colombia. The study, by Daron Acemoglu, Camilo Garcia-Jimeno, and James Robinson, compares areas that contained gold mines during the colonial period with neighboring areas that did not. Gold mining was a top use for slave labor. The differences appear stark. Areas home to slavery in 1843 had poverty rates 13 percentage points higher in 1993 than areas without slaves. Child vaccination rates in 2002 were some 25 percentage points lower. Secondary school enrollment rates, averaged over 1992 to 2002, seem lower as well, though less significantly. In a measure of this legacy over time, the authors find similar, “albeit weaker,” effects of slavery in 1843 on such metrics as school enrollment and vaccination rates in 1918 and literacy in 1938. Read more »

Rio+20′s Unheralded Achievements

by Isobel Coleman
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative at the Rio+20 Conference on June 22, 2012 (Paulo Whitaker/Courtesy Reuters). U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton attends the U.S.-Africa Clean Energy Finance Initiative at the Rio+20 Conference on June 22, 2012 (Paulo Whitaker/Courtesy Reuters).

With the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (better known as Rio+20) last week, the recriminations have begun. As Reuters put it in a sentence typical of the coverage, “Global leaders on Friday wrap up a United Nations development summit with little to show but a lackluster agreement.” Read more »

Missing Pieces: Development’s Drivers, Global Growth Assessment, and More

by Isobel Coleman
A view of Nogales, Mexico is seen from Nogales, Arizona, April 28, 2010 (Courtesy Reuters). A view of Nogales, Mexico is seen from Nogales, Arizona, April 28, 2010 (Courtesy Reuters).
Charles Landow highlights two scholarly papers, a World Bank report, and events in Venezuela in this edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy the selection.
  • Development’s Drivers: With researchers looking ever further in time and scope for the ultimate drivers of development, a paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) surveys current thinking. It argues that the people who occupy a territory, rather than the physical characteristics of the territory itself, matter most for long-term prosperity. Apparently critical is “genetic distance,” or the degree of relatedness between two populations. At greater genetic distance from the group at the global technological frontier, “differences in values and norms, mistrust,” and other factors stymie the adoption of development-boosting technologies. Faced with these factors, can policy make any difference? The authors give a “cautious” yes: “long-term history, while very important, is not a deterministic straightjacket.” An interesting read on related themes is an NBER paper I reviewed last year arguing that intermediate genetic diversity within populations best propels development. Read more »

Missing Pieces: Global Growth Prospects, East Africa’s Farmers, and More

by Isobel Coleman
Trucks unload shipping containers from a cargo ship at Qingdao port in Qingdao, China, September 2, 2011 (Courtesy Reuters). Trucks unload shipping containers from a cargo ship at Qingdao port in Qingdao, China, September 2, 2011 (Courtesy Reuters).
Charles Landow reviews IMF forecasts, a study on cash transfers, and reports on East Africa and Indonesia in this edition of Missing Pieces. Enjoy the selection.
  • Global Growth Prospects: The IMF released a sanguine but sober World Economic Outlook last week. “Weak recovery” should take hold in advanced economies while developing ones “remain relatively solid,” the Fund says. But “recent improvements are very fragile.” The U.S. economy is projected to grow at 2.1 percent this year and 2.4 percent in 2013; the Eurozone is forecast to contract 0.3 percent before resuming growth of 0.9 percent. These figures are all up slightly from the IMF’s previous forecast in January. Asia is set to remain the fastest-growing developing region, with China projected to expand by 8.2 and 8.8 percent this year and next. India should grow by 6.9 and 7.3 percent, lagging the region as a whole. Sub-Saharan Africa is forecast to keep growing at just over 5 percent per year. Read more »