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Ololade Rachel Oguntola
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Growing up in Nigeria, I learnt about global warming but learnt in the context of understanding the issues enough to pass my exams when a question on the definition of global warming came about. In other words, I only learnt about global warming because it was part of the syllabus not because it was something critical I had to pay attention to. It was only after coming to the US did I fully understand the magnitude of global warming or as commonly referred here as climate change. More specifically, I understood the full extent during a Geology class I took here at W&L my sophomore year. The paper does a good job of talking about the dangers of a 4°C world and its various impacts and implications. It is also very unfortunate to know that despite such glaring evidence of already rising temperatures and sea-level rises, there are those who have turned climate change into a political agenda. America’s President-Elect, Donald Trump, has stated that climate change is nothing but a Chinese hoax. It baffles me to know that there are those who will turn a blind eye to critical issues such as this all in an effort to save face and enjoy support from companies and industries that are contributing to the adverse effects of climate change. In many instances, CO2 has been declared to be the main negative contributor to global warming and this paper also does a good job of highlighting that. However, the paper ignored to mention an even more dangerous gas which is methane, CH4. I recently watched Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary on climate change, titled ‘Before the Flood’ and the documentary did an excellent job of laying all the issues and the evidence. I strongly encourage anyone who has not seen it, to see it without any hesitation. In the movie, I learnt that a molecule of CH4 contains about twenty molecules of CO2. When cows graze, they burp (and fart) and in the process, release a lot of CH4 into the atmosphere. With CH4 being more dangerous than CO2, it is thus not difficult to see that the meat industry is contributing significantly to climate change. In the movie also, I learnt that 1/2lb burger= 200hrs of 60W lightbulb use, 1/2lb burger= 24hrs window air-conditioner use, and 1/2lb burger=42miles of driving a Prius. Insane right? Unfortunately, many of the burgers that we enjoy, come from the meat/beef industry. The paper emphasizes the importance of taking action. It is one thing to turn off our lights when it’s not in use, but also, action can be taken with regard to our diet too. Towards the end of the paper, it says “A 4°C world is likely to be one in which communities, cities and countries would experience severe disruptions, damage, and dislocation, with many of these risks spread unequally. It is likely that the poor will suffer most and the global community could become more fractured, and unequal than today.” What saddens me greatly is that poor people in the developing countries and islands will have to suffer for the damage caused by the developed world. As much it is important to take action, we should be very intentional in our actions in doing all we can to avoid 4°C world because no matter our various political or social or religious or economical differences, each and everyone one of us have just one planet. It is imperative we do everything in our power to protect and save it before it's too late.
Trade is very much talked about with regards to it being beneficial to developed countries s well as developing countries. Reading Le Goff and Singh’s “Does Trade reduce Poverty? A view from Africa” really gave me statistical evidence and results that for developing economies, trade may be beneficial in some aspects but it does not necessarily reduce poverty levels. As mentioned in the article, “more openness results in a reduction in poverty when financial sector is deeper, education levels higher, or governance stronger.” This is particularly important to take note of. It is not disputed that trade aids in production efficiency with comparative advantage and specialization, but with regards to poverty, there is more to the story than just comparative advantage. In Appendix 6, looking at the three thresholds, i.e., financial development, education level and quality of institutions, countries are either above or under the threshold. What is unsurprising to me is how many of the countries studied are below the threshold with regards to quality of institutions. Looking at Nigeria in particular, I am once again reminded of the issue of corruption that is rampant in the country (and many other developing countries) and has played a huge role in suppressing the benefits of trade. Despite Nigeria being above the threshold on financial development, its poverty levels are not significantly reduced. This goes to show that financial development is not enough and higher education levels and more quality institutions are needed. It is therefore imperative that policies aimed at putting these countries above the three thresholds are created in an effort to actually tackle poverty and significantly reduce it. Countries like South Africa who are above the threshold on all three show lower poverty rates than countries like Nigeria that is above just one. This goes to show that the story does hold weight. It will be interesting however to see a comprehensive research that shows if there are countries that are above all three but have higher poverty levels than counties just above one or two. This goes to say that despite the benefits of trade openness, policies created cannot be a one-size-fit-all model because countries differ from each other and in creating such policies to ensure that trade does help reduce poverty, such differences should be duly noted and comprehensively understood.
Toggle Commented Nov 30, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
When you come from a developing country, microfinance is not far from the word on the street. It is much talked about by both the rich and poor and how this new concept can truly help in alleviating poverty. While reading Bauchet’s et al’s ‘Latest Findings from Randomized Evaluations of Microfinance”, I was particularly struck by how the results show that microcredit is not necessarily the whole answer to reducing poverty. From the study, it showed that microfinance did little to empower women or improve access to health or education. It is however important to understand that microfinance by way of providing financial services to low-income people should not be entirely dismissed. Inasmuch as the studies have shown that certain areas that are key to promoting development i.e. health, education and women empowerment are not necessarily improved by microfinance, microfinance has sure contributed to the lives of many poor families across the developing world. If it did not, there would hardly be any talk about it, over-hyped as it may be. It is therefore important to look into the design of the financial services and identify the best ways in which a case by case strategy can be designed. This way, the talk will shift from a general idea that microfinance alleviates poverty to a more specific idea of what type of microfinance can contribute significantly to development in a way that really targets health, education and women empowerment. By not exercising a one-size-fits all model, we avoid the trap that assumes that microfinance works for poor people in all developing countries. As we have learned over the weeks, all poor people are not the same. While some may be interested in business ideas, others may simply want to improve their living conditions. The onus is now on MFIs in different developing countries to really understand their customers and understand their priorities. By so doing, financial services for poor people can evolve and truly contribute in alleviating poverty and improving standards of living.
Toggle Commented Nov 16, 2016 on Readings for this week at Jolly Green General
It seems like the discussion around economic development keeps coming back to the central importance of health and women’s agency. I attended a VMI professor’s talk last week Friday in Huntley on whether an increased number of women in parliament will contribute significantly to economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. The answer was very likely. This is because if more women are in such high positions, there is a tendency to allocate financial resources towards the health sector. Personally, I had not explicitly made this connection between women and budgeting but the talk helped me understand how having women in parliament could help stimulate economic development. Schultz’s lecture also alludes to this importance of investing in health. As we have discussed in previous class sections, significant investments in health can help further people’s life expectancy, which can substantially be instrumental for economic development. I believe we saw something similar using the GapMinder tool for China. For Schultz, health contributes to population quality. His recognition of population quality and not just quantity is one I recognize as well. Nigeria is the 7th largest country in the world by population. In Chapter 6 in our textbook, it was mentioned that population distribution could also be an issue and not just population growth. I think in Nigeria’s case, it is definitely an issue of population quality and population distribution and this is where the population discussion plays a role in the country’s economic development. There are so many states in Nigeria that are sparsely populated relative to size leaving Lagos with a small size of 999kmsq as the most populated city in the country. Overall, the health care system is subpar resulting in poor population quality in addition to poor population distribution. Tying in nicely with Sachs and Malaney’s paper on Malaria, it is once again clear the issues surrounding health are of utmost importance. This paper written in 2002 gave a stat that “Africa alone accounts for 90% of malaria mortality.” I decided to look up the most recent stats and was shocked to find that ”. In 2015, there were an estimated 438, 000 malaria deaths worldwide” (WHO World Malaria Report 2015) with the same 90% statistics. Despite evidence that progress has being made over the years in the fight against malaria in Africa, I was really baffled why this malaria mortality rate did not show any decline. The prevalence of malaria in the mostly tropical regions also highlighted the issue of poverty as it relates to different demographic conditions and how demography can sometimes be forgotten in this discussion of poverty in developing countries (specifically the tropics). In the paper, we see how places like Greece and Spain were able to accelerate their economic development by suppressing malaria transmission. It can be argued that the demography in these places also helped in this suppression by reducing the habitable conditions for the malaria vectors. Now, the question is how do you significantly suppress malaria transmission in places like sub-Saharan Africa where the region is very conducive for the vectors? I believe this is where the government really needs to play a big role. Unfortunately, the government, especially in Nigeria, does not understand this importance of health and its role in economic development at least to the best of my knowledge.I believe the government rather is more concerned with economic growth and Nigeria has been doing pretty well on that front except recently due to oil prices tanking. For Nigeria perhaps (and other developing countries), if more women had leadership roles in the government, they would in fact place more emphasis to the health sector. Not only would this mean lower fertility and mortality rates but also, it would mean better population quality and significant progress in economic development.
Toggle Commented Nov 2, 2016 on Readings for Thursday at Jolly Green General
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this piece by Rodrik on growth strategies. Not only was it easy to understand unlike some other pieces we have read in class, but also I was able to draw some parallels in the context of home country. One thing that Rodrik emphasized was the need to use different models and policies for different situations and economies. This is very crucial to understand as it helps in finding ways to adapt general economic ideas to different countries in an efficient way after several factors within those countries have been accessed. By so doing, one can come up with a country-specific policy that works. Around the 80s, Nigeria implemented a policy (Structural Adjustment Program) advocated by the World Bank and IMF that sought to stimulate economic growth. Many other African nations also adopted this program and bought into the ‘one size fits all’ policy idea. Unfortunately, all this policy did, especially in Nigeria’s case, was further decline growth as the program understood little of the Nigerian economic system and the politics involved. As such, this program did not stimulate the economic growth it was theoretically supposed to stimulate. Another point that Rodrik emphasized was the difference between creating of economic growth and sustaining said growth. Many African countries have still not grasped this difference and is one reason why many of the African nations are behind on this growth story. In Nigeria’s case, government failure has attributed to the setback in understanding what needs to be done. A lot of government officials in the country have made it almost next to impossible to sustain growth after it has being created. Early in September, a rising entrepreneurial firm in Nigeria, Nuli Juice Company, was demolished by local government officials on claims of regulation breach. This is just one out of the many entrepreneurial firms that are very vulnerable under the harsh laws they are met with. Rodrik in his paper advocates against such attitudes and government-imposed barriers towards entrepreneurship as they only harm economic growth. It is only when country economists and government officials begin to work hand-in-hand to create institutional arrangements that are specific and relevant to their countries. Like Rodrik said, “the hard work needs to be done at home”. This cannot be more true especially for many African nations who believe what has worked in the west can also work for them.
Toggle Commented Oct 5, 2016 on Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
Development Economics as complex as it may seem should definitely not be seen as inferior to mainstream economics first and foremost and is one of the points Krugman emphasizes in this article. It was also mentioned that mainstream economics even began to acknowledge the usefulness of development theory and modeling techniques. Models are great ways to bring ideas to life and in the development perspective, it is important to understand that models should also not be limited to basic ideas such as constant returns as was done in the past. With the dish-pan analogy, it was easy to understand how models bring great ideas and theories to life through visual representation. While reading this, I tried to look inward to see how this whole verbal versus visual factors played a role in my own life and I recognized the need for an interaction of both and this is precisely what Krugman is hammering at. I think the decaying of high development theory historically gave room for a better and more nuanced understanding of development economics and the importance of models in policy making decisions. By looking from this perspective, it is therefore imperative to understand that despite the seemingly complexity of development economics, much can be done with the interaction between metaphors and models in a way that helps construct simple, effective, and long-term policies in the development field.
I really like Sen’s definition of development as the expanding the freedoms that people enjoy. As a result, he definitely does well in approaching development from a freedom (or what he calls unfreedoms) perspective. In my last post, I talked about how increasing incomes is critical in the fight for poverty especially in poor and extremely poor countries. I still stand by that, however, reading chapters 1 and 2 helped better clarify for me the interconnectedness between income and other forms of freedoms for instance, say access to healthcare. One thing that helped me better understand Sen’s approach was the fact about African-American males in the US and their low rates of life expectancy. While they earn richer than many poor people in certain countries, their capabilities or freedoms are limited and this stems from issues such as male incarceration and limited opportunities to climb the socio-economic ladder among others. Now, what would be interesting to see is if the earnings that were contrasted between black males in the US and poor people in say, China was adjusted for purchasing power parity. It could just be that the black male in the US is just as poor. This is definitely not to disregard the unfreedoms they face that they could be better off without. I agree with Sen that freedoms are related to one another in the race for development. For instance, of what good is income to a family if they cannot rightfully participate in the markets or what good is access to education if they cannot afford at least two square meals in a day. As much as it is important to look at the different kinds of freedoms that exist, it can be argued that in certain situations or at first glance, some freedoms are more important than other freedoms. I appreciate Sen’s approach on expanding the poverty discussion and taking it beyond the economic side of income. However, the discussion should not be done in such a way that income gets pushed to the back in advocating for other freedoms. This is why I think programs such as conditional transfers can be very instrumental in tackling poverty because such programs can be implemented in a way that addresses many of the unfreedoms that Sen mentioned with income still very much involved. To reiterate, the proverb Elizabeth brought up about teaching a man to fish is widely made in the talk on poverty. But if we do not feed a man with fish, where will he gather the strength to fish for himself? I believe on the onset, it is important for the man or woman to be fed and then he can learn.
Banerjee and Duflo do a good job of explaining why the poor seem to remain poor and why the circle of poverty seems to be unending among the poor and the extremely poor. Having taken Pickett’s class my freshman year, it was good to have another read on the “economic lives of the poor”. However, while the statistics are pretty helpful in comparing the poor among countries and making sense of the variations, I feel many of the reasons why the poor are still caught up in that circle should not seem too surprising. There is certainly more to life than food and while the poor are supposedly starving, they also understand that fact very much. It might seem contradictory that they spend their money on things such as alcohol or entertainment or even more expensive food products like sugar etc., when they could be using it to eat at least twice a day or more. Take the example of the Udaipur poor that spend a huge part of their earnings on festivals. Festivals and weddings in India are a huge part of their culture and helps them achieve a sense of belonging within the community. The mere fact that they spend on celebrating or engaging in these festivals show that they too value choice and deem self-esteem to be important to their livelihood aside from food. Coming from a developing country myself, I have witnessed what poverty is and seen poverty firsthand and as such, I’m not quick to judge how the poor decide to spend their money even though outsiders viewing from a distant lens can be quick to say the poor do not know what to do with the little they have. I believe to truly understand the poor, such surveys and immersions into the livelihoods of the poor is crucial. One other thing to point out is the health and wealth circle we talked in class that was also pointed out in this paper. In my own opinion, I still believe that wealth comes first. Although, income is not the most important factor, it still is a crucial one. Indeed, the argument has been made that once there is good health, there are healthier bodies to work more productively. However, think of a poor family living under $1 a day and health is quite possibly the last thing on their minds (and can be seen even in their consumption of less calories needed and spending a sizeable portion of earnings on commodities other than food). Now, I believe if that family starts seeing a sizeable and sustainable increase in income, it automatically makes sense that they will invest in their health (because they now have a better means of doing so) as well as other things e.g. education. This is not to say that health is not important, but it is my belief that wealth considerably influences good health first and foremost and to break that circle, we must better address the income part.
Toggle Commented Sep 14, 2016 on ECON 280 Reading for Thursday at Jolly Green General
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Sep 14, 2016