A time to throw stones, a time to reap: How long does it take for democratic reforms to improve institutional outcomes?

This post was written by Pierre-Guillaume Méon & Khalid SekkatCentre Emile Bernheim Université libre de Bruxelles (U.L.B.), on their ongoing research “A time to throw stones, a time to reap: How long does it take for democratic reforms to improve institutional outcomes?

Pierre-Guillaume Méon (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Pierre-Guillaume Méon (Université Libre de Bruxelles)

Democracy, institutions and growth
The Arab Spring by ousting authoritarian regimes raises hopes and expectations of better wealth and inclusiveness. Scientific analyses show, however, that democratization alone does not guarantee economic success. The better quality of institutions that is expected to follow democratization would improve economic performance, inclusiveness and effective accountability of rulers. While the outcome of the process started by the Arab Spring is still uncertain, studying other processes of democratization around the world may shed light on its potential impact on the quality of institutions in Arab countries.

A number of breaking path researches (e.g. Barro, 1991 and 1996 and La Porta et al., 1999) has shown that democracy does not guarantee economic success. At the same time, however, a flurry of studies established the importance of the quality of institutions for growth and development (Keefer, 1993 and Mauro, 1993). The relation is not simply a temporal or spatial correlation but reflects a causal linkage running from the quality of institutions to growth and development (Hall and Jones, 1999 and Acemoglu et al., 2001).

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Africa’s challenge: The ‘jobless growth’

Edited by Zeinab Sabet and Shahira Emara

For over 40 years, Africa has not witnessed such a rapid growth as recently. Out of the world’s 10 fastest growing economies, 6 are African! However, such growth is not always coupled with a decrease in inequality or a remarkable reduction in poverty. While some African countries have experienced growth with significant reduction in poverty, poverty rate remains high in most countries regardless of their economic performance. In the latter cases, growth has been even named by some studies ‘jobless growth’. This is where the African challenge remains.

Witness Simbanegavi, Director of Research at the African Economic Research Consortium, argues that growth is not being channelled in the right way to benefit the vulnerable people. On the other hand, and unlike the Latin American region, Africa lacks strong social protection policies. According to Simbanegavi, what Africa needs now is a pro-poor growth coupled with improved social protection policies; only this paradigm can lead to an enhancement of the welfare of the poorest.

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Promoting the importance of social policies and social protection systems

Inequality, Social Protection and Inclusive Growth”

GDN 14th Annual Conference – "Inequality, Social Protection and Inclusive Growth"

GDN 14th Annual Conference –
“Inequality, Social Protection and Inclusive Growth”

The GDN 14th Annual Global Development Conference on Inequality, Social Protection and Inclusive Growth will be held on June 19-21, 2013 at the Asian Development Bank Headquarters in Manila, Philippines. In partnership with Asian Development Bank (ADB), East Asian Development Network (EADN) and Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the conference is expected to host 400 participants from all over the world including the East Asia region and the Philippines.

In the aftermath of the global financial crisis, there is now a growing consciousness of the benefits of social protection in fighting poverty and inequality, and empowering people to adjust and seize opportunities to deal with unemployment and increase productivity. The main focus of the conference is thus to promote the importance of social policies and social protection systems that address and reduce inequality and social exclusion for long-term sustainable and inclusive growth.

Topics to be covered at the conference include (but are not limited to):

  • Global perspectives on inequality
  • Gender, inequality and social protection
  • Regional perspectives on inequality and inclusive growth
  • Mechanisms to promote social protection for inclusive growth
  • Key challenges for social protection policies
  • Inequality, social protection and inclusive growth in the context of the post-2015 development agenda

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Urbanization and development – highlights from the conference

What is the relationship between urbanization and development? how do cities as new frontier zones affect the development processes? are cities engines of growth or poverty? how are violence dynamics produced in the relationship between cities and youth? what are the inter-linkages between urbanization and poverty? How can international migration improve the situation in cities and slums? How should cities react to criminality and environmental issues?

All these questions were addressed at the GDN 13th Annual Global Conference, which took place on June 16-18 in Budapest, Hungary. According to Gerardo della Paolera – GDN President – this year’s conference was particularly important as it opens the door for the next GDN Global Research Project.

Watch highlights from the Conference:

Gerardo della Paolera – GDN President

Ramona Angelescu Naqvi- Sr. Political Scientist/Director, Program Management

Read and watch more about the conference

How much do we really know about the relationship between urbanization and poverty?

In the fourth plenary session of the 2012 GDN Annual Conference, focusing on urbanization and poverty, we took one step closer to seeing the inter-linkages between the two. It quickly became obvious that it is very hard to get a handle on urbanization without addressing poverty.

Plenary session 4 'Urbanization and poverty' - Photo credits http://www.vegeldaniel.com

Plenary session 4 ‘Urbanization and poverty’ – Photo credits http://www.vegeldaniel.com

Chaired by Gabor Kezdi, Professor and Head of Department of Economics, with the Central European University, the session discussed the interplay between these two notions, to better understand how to create maximum impact for the developing and undeveloped worlds.

Robert Buckley (New School of Research, USA) was the first speaker. He magnified themes related to urbanization and development and pondered whether cities were becoming Malthusian. Still optimistic about the market, Buckley argued that it is mainly a public policy issue, characterized by speculation.

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Urbanization: Making sense of its various externalities

On Day 2 of the GDN’s 13th Annual Conference, the third plenary session on “urban externalities, contagious disease, congestion, and crime,” discussed that very issue of the ramifications of urbanization, which is expressed very differently in various parts of the world.

George Mavrotas, Chief Economist with the Global Development Network and chair of the session, began by discussing the urban phenomenon, and its externalities, with an emphasis on what can go wrong, and how to ameliorate it. The speakers soon followed suit, starting with Teresa Caldeira, Professor of City and Regional Planning, at the University of California, Berkeley.

An anthropologist by training, Caldeira has conducted extensive research on changes in urban culture in Sao Paolo, Brazil, and how patterns of urban violence change frequently, producing new dynamics of violence, evident in the relationship between youth and city.

Leaving your mark on the city

A series of new urban practices in Sao Poalo began taking shape, protesting profound social inequality, where young frustrated males are the agents of that change, seeking visibility and expression in the city through what is referred to as imprinting, or graffiti, and through the rise of motor boys, largely lower-income courier boys, that crisscross the metropolis.

Also referred to as “Pixacao” in the local language, this new form of expression is seen as a mode of intervention by young men occupying and recreating the public space.

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Are cities engines of growth or poverty?

Isher J. Ahluwalia (GDN Board of Directors), J. Vernon Henderson (Brown University) and Matthew Kahn (University of California) were the speakers of the second plenary of the GDN’s 13th Annual Conference which focused on “Cities as engines of growth”. Optimist and pessimist insights emerged about cities and whether they are engines for growth or poverty increase.

In this video, Pierre Jacquet, Chief Economist of the French Development Agency (FDA) summarizes the emerging key messages from the session. There is a significant potential in cities for both poverty and growth. While bad interactions and inequalities lead to poverty increase, other factors such as economies of scale, agglomeration and innovation are considered to be engines of growth. One should not be Manichean; interaction between all factors should not be overlooked. “The future is what we are going to do with it” said Jacquet.

The emphasis was placed throughout the session on the importance of experimentation and the non-negligible need for knowledge towards better urban policies; not to mention the critical dissemination of research. As Jacquet underlined “Cities should be for the people”; the concept of cities for the future that are only made of technologies is an illusion. An urgent need to look at how people can find good quality of life in cities has occurred.

City as catalyst: The city as both a mean and an end

The first plenary session of GDN’s 13th Annual Conference took a closer look at the nexus between urbanization and development, to more clearly understand the interplay between the two. Saskia Sassen, Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, who authored Cities: New Frontier Zones in Development Processes was the keynote speaker.

The city: Delving deeper into its intricacies

The role of the city as catalyst in the developmental process was cited; where cities are seen as places of many good things and many bad things. They overwhelmingly get a bad rap, however, where the real challenge today becomes how to change these negative articulations into positive ones; for a more sustainable, equitable development process.

The role of finance as an engine that provides security, and stability, was brought up, in addition to its role in ultimately leading to growth. The city, in this scenario, becomes the space for the making of the social, political and economic; a lens to understand larger processes, according to Sassen.

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Urbanization and development: Understanding the why behind the big delve

The opening ceremony of the GDN’s 13th Annual Conference addressed this very question: the why behind a conference on urbanization and development. Chaired by  Alan Winters, Chairman of the GDN Board of Directors and professor at the University of Sussex, UK, the session discussed the urbanization phenomenon and its intimate relationship with development. The role of GDN was also brought up, and how it as an international organization plays a seminal role in linking the developing with the developed, a marriage between North and South.

H.E. Dr. János Hóvári, Hungarian Deputy State Secretary for Global Affairs, John Shattuck, Rector and President of Central European University, and Gerardo della Paolera, President of the Global Development Network, also provided some valuable insights on the phenomenon from their own perspective, and why urbanization now warrants more attention than ever.

H.E. Dr. János Hóvári began by discussing the sheer growth of cities, evident all over the world today, and stressed the importance of replicating successful city models, for more people to benefit. Hóvári also made the interesting observation that cities are both the problem and the solution, and that our “global future lies in urban innovation and policy actions.”

John Shattuck drew parallels between CEU, Budapest, and urbanization as an engine of growth. He further argued that the ultimate flowering of urbanization and development can be seen right here in the Hungarian capital. The role of GDN as an important research network was also emphasized. One that advocates for network science and, in doing so, demonstrates how the world is, and can be, transformed by civil society networks.

Finally, the opening ceremony was concluded by the GDN President Gerardo della Paolera, shedding light on the role of both CEU and GDN in making this conference a possibility. He ended with the statement that the 21st Century will not be dominated by any one superpower, or a BRICS nation, but rather by the city. And we completely agree.

ABCDE 2011: A critical perspective on African growth and economic development

Infrastructures, technological development and economic growth at large are commonly considered as key indicators of development. A parallel session at the ABCDE 2011 event focussed specifically on Africa successes and their reasons.

After the session, we had the opportunity to catch up with a participant with a rather critical perspective on the session and on African development at large.  According to Dr. John Akude from the German Development Institute one thing is to read statistics about Africa growth and economic successes. Rhetoric and reality are different, and in fact it is a very different thing to travel to Africa and talk to people from Africa: you don’t see all these successes and, more important, people don’t really feel them.

The ABCDE session discussed the penetration of mobile phones in several African countries and how this is considered a successful example of provision of infrastructures. However, when you travel to Nigeria, Mr. Akude own country of origin, you sure see that mobiles are more and more common. However, the other side of the coin of this success story is that the government has started to neglect landlines maintenance. The same is happening for post, which appears to be not function anymore in Nigeria.

So “what is development?” asks Mr. Akude. “Why should you throw away something old, get something new, and call it development? Look at the western world, landlines are still functioning.”

Maybe development should be something different.

Mr. Akude further elaborates and underlines how people don’t “feel” the growth we read about in books and journals. The government should really find ways to make sure the benefits of the economic growth reach the people. Yet, the issue of redistribution is not well tackled in conferences such as the ABCDE.

Moreover, according to Mr. Akude “we get too satisfied with too little.” Instead, economists should talk about success from the point of view of what is possible in terms of growth. “If Africans politicians do their work, Africa should record a minimum growth of 8% per year.

In conclusion, from Mr. Akude “we shouldn’t just be swallowing the statistics” but we need to make sure that when we talk about Africa successes these are felt by the people. “Any economic success that is not felt by the people is useless.”