Latest Developments, October 13

In the latest news and analysis…

The instability of inequality
New York University economist Nouriel Roubini argues this year’s wave of protests, from Cairo to New York, are the result of the world’s growing economic and political inequality.
“Any economic model that does not properly address inequality will eventually face a crisis of legitimacy. Unless the relative economic roles of the market and the state are rebalanced, the protests of 2011 will become more severe, with social and political instability eventually harming long-term economic growth and welfare.”

Shifting European priorities
Agence France-Presse reports the EU, the world’s biggest donor, has announced changes to its aid program that will shift attention from major emerging nations like China and India toward agriculture and energy in the poorest countries.
“With 75 percent of the world’s poor live in middle-income countries, ActionAid called the changes an ‘alarming shift’ that moves ‘EU aid away from supporting poor people to end poverty and towards promoting economic growth.’
Laura Sullivan, EU development policy expert at ActionAid, said the reform ‘assumes money from economic growth will trickle down to the world’s poor but this has been tried before and it doesn’t work.’”

Band-aid solutions
The Tuvalu Faith Based Youth network’s Redina Auina says emergency assistance for the current water crisis is appreciated but what the Pacific island nation really needs is for rich countries to help over the long term by reducing their emission levels.
“It’s like they are applying one sticking plaster at a time, which is not going to solve the issue. While much more can be done in terms of improving Tuvalu’s water security and water conservation measures, there is not much more the island can do to increase its resilience to climate change.”

A call for humility
Howard Buffett, philanthropist and son of billionaire Warren Buffett, has called for more nuanced and humble thinking when it comes to finding solutions for improved agriculture in Africa.
“Stop thinking that what we know how to do is going to work for somebody else,” Buffett said. “We need to be intelligent enough and humble enough to admit that we don’t know everything and that we certainly don’t know some things in other parts of the world that need to happen.”

Rotten aid
Tales from the Hood’s J. gives the impression the international aid industry is almost (but not quite) completely irredeemable.
“The hardest part of this job is not seeing awful things in the field. It’s not repeatedly witnessing the suffering of others and being able to offer little as a remedy, dealing with corrupt district officials, getting sick, or spending too long away from one’s family too often (hard as those things truly can be). The hardest part of this job is simply dealing with the crushing dumbassery of a system that fundamentally lacks real incentives for getting right what it claims as its core purpose.”

Defending Millennium Villages
In the wake of a recent Guardian piece laying out some of the criticisms levelled at the Millennium Villages Project, Columbia economist Jeffrey Sachs offers a defence of his brainchild.
“Contrary to the loose talk of critics, this project is not throwing “gazillions” of dollars at poverty. The project spent $60 on each villager every year between 2006 and 2011 to build the capital of the community. That prompted further contributions from the government itself and in-kind contributions from the community. This is a replicable and scalable budget model, well within the official development assistance amounts donors have long promised. It’s nonsense to suggest otherwise, or to change the game now this amount has been shown to work so powerfully.”

Unconstitutional IP rules?
US Democratic senator Ron Wyden has challenged the Obama administration’s right to sign the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement without Congress’s approval.
“Wyden demanded that the administration either declare that ACTA does not create any international obligations for the US and therefore is ‘non-binding,’ or provide a legal rationale to the Congress and the public as to why ACTA should not be considered by Congress.”

Full and unlimited democracy
Author Dan Hind draws on history to suggest the world’s current problems, in rich and poor countries, are due primarily to a lack of democracy.
“In the late 1840s, typhus fever broke out in Upper Silesia, a Prussian province in what is now Poland. The education ministry sent a physician called Rudolf Virchow to investigate. While Virchow identified insanitary working conditions as the immediate cause of the epidemic, he traced its origins to the region’s lack of political liberty. In the absence of free institutions the inhabitants were ‘poor, ignorant and apathetic’. In order to prevent a recurrence of the disease Virchow recommended a remedy that he summarised in a few words: ‘full and unlimited democracy’.”