Thursday, July 15, 2010

Ignorant armies clashing by night

A computer kiosk program for the poor had failed to work because there was completely unreliable electricity and internet connectivity in the places where they were trying to set it up. Yet, the World Bank's 'empowerment sourcebook' recorded it as a successful initiative. A bank official defended the program saying that it had facilitated greater empowerment. How do silent computers lead to greater empowerment?

Empowerment, it is said, is one such word which is used when no other excuses exist. It seems the apex bank is not unduly bothered about the absurdity of its approach, as one study had noted that 'despite the billions of dollars spent on development assistance each year, there is still very little known about the actual impact of projects on the poor'. Not without reason has eminent economist Lant Pritchett phrased the phenomenon as 'ignorant armies clashing by night'.

It is widely acknowledged that a major hurdle in aid effectiveness is lack of mechanisms for efficiency and accountability. While for-profit world has markets and competition towards accountability, foreign aid has been failing and wasting much of its resources because it's not accountable and that the existing evaluations are almost entirely self-evaluations. The book is about using randomization as a technique for assessing effectiveness of developmental projects.

The book, a collection of six authoritative papers followed by two equally scholarly comments on each paper, delves deeper into the enigma called 'development'. However, the debate between thinking big and thinking small remains inconclusive because objective analysis is obstructed by the lengthening list of factors and conditions that makes either of the two types of development achieve some degree of effectiveness, but without impacting poverty significantly.

Some of the world-renowned development analysts have contributed to addressing the crises in fighting global poverty. But what unites them is larger than what divides them. Oscillating between macro development (growth, trade & fiscal policies) and micro development (education, health & social programs), the contributors offer wealth of insights on what policy is likely to work in the future. A scholarly contribution towards making development work, hopefully!....Link

What Works in Development: Thinking Big and Thinking Small
by Jessica Cohen and William Easterly
Brookings Institution Press, Washington, D.C. 245 pages, US$16.82

No comments:

Post a Comment