USAID

Till Bruckner Responds to Critics on Meaningful Transparency

The following post was written by Till Bruckner, PhD candidate at the University of Bristol and former Transparency International Georgia aid monitoring coordinator.

Is it OK to neglect disaster in Pakistan because it’s not a tourist destination? If not, see below

The latest story on the catastrophic flooding in Pakistan is about how it hasn’t been a story.
Compared to the response to the Haitian earthquake, media coverage of the Pakistan floods has been paltry. While news coverage isn’t correlated with need, it does have a major effect on the amount of disaster relief aid given. An article in the Chronicle of Philanthropy yesterday reported that eleven US charities had so far raised only $5 million for Pakistan flood relief, compared to $560 million raised by 39 US groups in the two and a half weeks after the Haiti earthquake.

Chinatown

Many do not realize that New York’s thriving Chinatown is a suprisingly recent phenomenon.  Even during America’s open immigration years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Chinese were not welcome.  The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 formalized ugly prejudice.
New York’s Chinatown stayed very small, surrounded in the early 20th century by Italian and Jewish immigrants.

The accidental NGO and USAID transparency test

The following post was written by Till Bruckner, PhD candidate at the University of Bristol and former Transparency International Georgia aid monitoring coordinator.  An op-ed from Bill in Monday’s Wall Street Journal mentioned Till’s struggles with USAID; here Till provides the details.
The aid industry routinely pushes institutions in developing countries to become more transparent and accountable. But a slow and almost comically incomplete donor response to a request to see some specific project budgets sheds light on exactly how willing donors are to apply such “best practices” to themselves.

Why can’t leading conservative magazine understand freedom?

Found this  mysterious transmission on a robot named R2D2 Twitter from  joshuafoust: ”National Review Online endorses authoritarian capitalism. Help us, Obi Wan @bill_easterly, you’re our only hope!”

Wishful thinking on Pakistan

From last weekend’s New York Times:
As the Obama administration continues to add to the aid package for flood-stricken Pakistan — already the largest humanitarian response from any single country — officials acknowledge that they are seeking to use the efforts to burnish the United States’ dismal image there.…
American officials say they are trying to rekindle the same good will generated five years ago when the United States military played a major role in responding to an earthquake in Kashmir in 2005 that killed 75,000 people.

Rodrik on The Myth of Authoritarian Growth

I really agree with Dani’s great article on this (HT Chris Blattman).
When we look at systematic historical evidence… we find that authoritarianism buys little in terms of economic growth. For every authoritarian country that has managed to grow rapidly, there are several that have floundered. For every Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, there are many like Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo.

18th century wetbacks

Update: see end of post
Why should the Palatine Boors be suffered to swarm into our Settlements, and by herding together establish their Language and Manners to the Exclusion of ours? Why should Pennsylvania, founded by the English, become a Colony of Aliens, who will shortly be so numerous as to Germanize us instead of our Anglifying them, and will never adopt our Language or Customs, any more than they can acquire our Complexion. (Benjamin Franklin (1751)).

Manhattan’s Non-Market Economy

Tyler Cowen has a great NYT column today about the harmful distortions caused by “free” parking.
Manhattan offers plenty more ammunition to his case. Both sides of most crosstown numbered streets (17th, 18th, etc.) are devoted to “free” parking, which adds to traffic gridlock by creating one-lane streets, frequently blocked by delivery vans or by stopped taxis. Those using those “free” slots have to expend a lot of effort to keep moving their cars to comply with various random restrictions, like opposite side restrictions for street cleaning on different weekdays, or weekend vs. weekday, or work hours vs. night.

The Fall of The Southern Elite

The Greenbrier Hotel in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. was the playground of the old Planter Class in the Old South, going all the way back to Robert E. Lee. The NYT travel section describes how it has fallen on hard times, just as the Old White Elite in the South is not quite what it once was.

Wow did somebody actually read one of my obscure academic articles?

I was surprised to get the illustrated award in the mail some time ago. I didn’t know anybody actually ever read this article. Of course, I don’t know exactly what it means to be “most cited” — you mean relative to the usual average of your adviser, your mother, and your spouse reading your articles? (My co-blogger Laura Freschi reassured me that she had never heard that I had written such an article.)

Why is promising a right to food more politically appealing than delivering that food?

In India, the system that delivers subsidized food and fuel to the nation’s poor is badly broken. Many people who are supposed to receive the subsidized fuel and bags of grain do not, and “studies show that 70 percent of a roughly $12 billion budget is wasted, stolen, or absorbed by bureaucratic and transportation costs.”

Things that are now officially bad: Slum tourism; donors dissing democracy; bad workplaces

UPDATE Aug 11, 12:45pm : some comments defending slum tourism; I give a new perspective on one of the most heated debates that has kept recurring on Aid Watch (see below).
The following bad things are now officially bad because:
(1) NYT oped page gives space to eloquent former slum resident to tell us that slum tourists are indeed really, really offensive (will they get it this time?)
(2) FT Africa editor realizes aid donors not as enthusiastic about democracy as they said they were, really.

The Sacrifices of the Slain Aid Workers (NYT, and Hilary Clinton video)

The 10 civilian aid workers killed Thursday in Afghanistan, from top left: Glen D. Lapp, Tom Little, Dan Terry, Dr. Thomas L. Grams, Cheryl Beckett, Brian Carderelli, Dr. Karen Woo, Daniela Beyer, Mahram Ali and Ahmed Jawed. Source: NYT

A Lecturer answers The Big Question

Two of my favorites, Chris Blattman and Megan McArdle , recently had a great dialogue on “is aid depressing?” I don’t have anything to add–read them!
However,  their dialogue does remind me of  The Big Question that I and many others get whenever we give lectures on economic development. Inevitably, after every single lecture I have ever given, the first question is … What Can I Do to End World Poverty?
How to respond? On one hand, I want to (and usually do) salute the questioner for their willingness to give of themselves for those less fortunate. I admire their idealism and commitment.

Aid workers murdered in Afghanistan

Karen Woo and Tom Little

UPDATE: response to criticisms about mentioning humanitarian neutrality issue (see end of post)
The New York Times reports today

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