The rise of the informal sector and why it should be taxed

April 28, 2009
I’ve been reading a couple of interesting things on the informal economy recently. The OECD has a new book out with the engaging title ‘Is Informal Normal?’ which gives a pretty decent overview. Informal employment refers to jobs or activities that are not registered or protected by the state. Informal workers are excluded from social security benefits and the protection

Natural disasters will hurt 50% more people by 2015. Why? Climate Change + Inequality

April 21, 2009
There has been some striking progress in reducing the death toll from natural disasters in recent decades. While Cyclone Sidr killed around 3,000 people in Bangladesh in 2007, similar or weaker storms killed 100 times that number in 1972 and 45 times more people in 1991, largely because governments and local communities have since taken action to reduce risk.

What the IMF will be discussing this weekend

April 20, 2009
The global diplomatic circus that so recently met at the G20 summit in London is reconvening in Washington for the IMF and World Bank spring meetings this weekend. These are usually the lesser of the Bretton Woods Institutions’ (BWIs) two yearly jamborees (the Annual Meetings are held in September) but the momentum provided by both the G20 and the unfolding global

Getting women into paid employment has more impact on poverty than formalizing women’s work or equalizing wage rates – findings from Latin America

April 17, 2009
The International Poverty Centre (IPC) in Brazil churns out some interesting analysis and summarizes them in reader-friendly ‘one pagers’. One recent study looks at the role of gender inequality in explaining income growth, poverty and inequality. Here’s a summary of the one pager. The full paper is here.

Cash for Coffins? What happened when Oxfam gave poor Vietnamese a lump sum

April 16, 2009
I’ve just been reading the latest evaluation of an Oxfam project I’ve started to call ‘cash for coffins’ in Viet Nam. From mid-2006 Oxfam GB directly disbursed non-emergency cash grants to 550 poor and near poor households in An Loc commune, a poor rice-growing community on the Central coast of Viet Nam. Not only is this one-off cash transfer (aka ‘just

Oxfam campaigns in Britain too – the latest on poverty and the UK recession

April 15, 2009
For many years, Oxfam has been running a programme in the UK (Oxfam America and Oxfam Australia, among others, also run domestic programmes). The UK work focuses on the rights of vulnerable workers, living standards, women’s poverty, influencing public attitudes to poverty and building strong and diverse communities.

How the global crisis is hitting Zambia (and the mining companies are taking advantage)

March 31, 2009
As part of Oxfam’s flurry of studies of the development impact of the global crisis (for an overview click here), here’s a summary of a new paper of mine on the impact of the global crisis on Zambia. The main story is perhaps how the mining lobby has used the crisis to reverse some progress on taxing copper revenues.

Viet Nam: how the crisis is hitting migrant workers in globalization’s poster child economy

March 26, 2009
As we approach the London Summit on 2 April, I’ll be putting up some findings from research Oxfam has been doing on the impact of the crisis in a range of developing countries. First up, some early results from our hyperactive Viet Nam team on the impact of the global crisis on what has been one of the world’s most successful

Is British aid bad? Owen Barder locks antlers with Bill Easterly

March 25, 2009
Time for a little attention to the rising aid sceptic tide. A number of books (Dambisa Moyo, Jonathan Glennie, Michela Wrong), blogs etc have been trashing aid with both good and bad consequences. Good in that, as From Poverty to Power argues, there is lots wrong with the aid system that urgently needs fixing (and some deeper questions on the

Food prices for poor people are not coming down – new data from the FAO

March 24, 2009
It’s been bugging me for months that we are still talking about a ‘food price crisis’ even though world commodity prices, including food, have come down a long way since their peak in mid 2008. Should we still be talking about 150m people being pushed below the poverty line by high food prices? Won’t they have reemerged from poverty as

Want to reduce inequality? Look at Latin America!

March 19, 2009
I was at DFID again this week (I should be on a retainer) , presenting a paper on the impact of the global crisis on Latin America (it should be on the Oxfam website by the middle of next week). One interesting glass-half-full v glass-half-empty discussion was over income inequality: I said the region was doing well in reducing the gulf between

‘Moving Out of Poverty’: Outstanding new mega-study from the World Bank

March 18, 2009
One of the best books I have ever read on development was ‘Crying out for Change’, a summary of a massive late 1990s study by the World Bank called ‘Voices of the Poor’. So it was a delight to pick up the summary of its new and epic successor ‘The Moving Out of Poverty Study’ (I’ve got the book on