A New "Washington Consensus"?   Prof. Dani Rodik of Harvard reports on the Spence Commission.  "The Spence report reflects a broader intellectual shift within the development profession, a shift that encompasses not just growth strategies but also health, education, and other social policies. The traditional policy framework, which the new thinking is gradually replacing, is presumptive rather than diagnostic ....By contrast, the new policy mindset starts with relative agnosticism about what works. Its hypothesis is that there is a great deal of "slack" in poor countries, so simple changes can make a big difference. As a result, it is explicitly diagnostic and focuses on the most significant economic bottlenecks and constraints. Rather than comprehensive reform, it emphasises policy experimentation and relatively narrowly targeted initiatives in order to discover local solutions, and it calls for monitoring and evaluation in order to learn which experiments work.   The new approach is suspicious of universal remedies"

posted June 13, 2008 at 11:30 a.m.


The End of Food.  The New Yorker reviews Paul Roberts's book of this name.  "Roberts’s work is part of a second wave of food-politics books, which has taken the genre to a new level of apocalyptic foreboding."

posted June 13, 2008 at 9:40 a.m.


A New Law in Japan Sets Waistline Standards.  "Under a national law that came into effect two months ago, companies and local governments must now measure the waistlines of Japanese people between the ages of 40 and 74 as part of their annual checkups....Those exceeding government limits — 33.5 inches for men and 35.4 inches for women... — and having a weight-related ailment will be given dieting guidance if after three months they do not lose weight. If necessary, those people will be steered toward further re-education after six more months."  NY Times.

posted June 13, 2008 at 9:15 a.m.


A New Report on the Impact of Globalization.  Specifically -- the impact of off-shoring jobs in Britain..     "One of the main worries about offshoring is its effect on employment. Some domestic jobs have certainly been discarded as a result: in 2005 offshoring accounted for 3.5% of job losses. But companies have also been able to produce more because offshoring has made them more competitive, and the resulting job gains have more than made up for the losses. The authors reckon the surge in offshoring since the mid-1990s has created 100,000 extra jobs. Another worry about offshoring, and globalisation more generally, is that it bears down on wages in developed economies. The report finds no such impact in manufacturing but in the services sector offshoring has lowered average wages a bit. This seems to reflect the fact that service employers are dispatching more skilled and well-paid work to foreign locations."

posted June 13, 2008 at 9:10 a.m.


Famine Threatens Ethiopia.    The Economist reports:  "The land is green but hailstorms, rains that came too late, then rains that fell too heavily, as well as infestations of insects, have left Goru Gutu starving. As you head deeper into the hills, the animals get thinner, the children more listless. The food in the market is too expensive, and there are no informal sales on the roadside. No one is eating. Where wheat and maize should have been growing in the terraces that slice back and forth along the slopes, there is nothing. The average daily labouring wage, equivalent to 80 American cents, is not enough to survive on.   ...The result is that an extra 4.5m of Ethiopia's 80m people need emergency food, on top of the 5m or so who already get it, according to the UN's World Food Programme.   The government says a recovery is possible if the rains expected later in the year are good. Foreign aid specialists say that the food shortages are “going in the direction of high mortality”. The government is supposed to have 450,000 tonnes in a grain stockpile, with 100,000 tonnes in reserve to keep prices from rising too much. But it has only 65,000 tonnes left.   If Goru Gutu district is an indicator, things will get far worse; many people will starve to death. Ibsaa Sadiq, a local government official, reckons that nearly half of the 116,000 people who live here, especially women and children, need food aid to survive....Hindiya, 18 months old, is puffed up by edema, a protein deficiency. Even if she survives, she may suffer mental and physical stunting, heart disorders and a weakened immune system. Her mother, Fatima, gently peels back a dirty cloth to show how the skin along Hindiya's calves and heel has split wide open. She is in excruciating pain. Her three siblings survive on a bowl of maize-meal porridge a day, with no milk or sugar; no one in the family has ever eaten meat. ...Meteorologists say that the problem is not just the amount of rain but the climate's increasing volatility.  The government has also failed. After several good harvests since the last big famine, in 2003, Ethiopia had a chance to progress. Instead, it dithered over reforms to promote private business and overhaul the country's sclerotic banking system and mobile-phone sector. Aside from coffee, qat (a narcotic leaf chewed by Somalis), horticulture and a little tourism, Ethiopia is one of Africa's very few countries that still has virtually no serious private business—and thus few jobs—outside the state sector. Almost three-quarters of the population may be under- or unemployed."

posted June 13, 2008 9 a.m