09 September 2013

Laggard, Diehard, Hazard and Wayward: Tales from the policy pubs

So, what's new in the policy publications this week?  Here are a few things that caught my eye:

Laggard: This is the title of an article in by Mohamed A. El-Erian in Foreign Policy.  It is about the IMF in advance of next month's Annual Meetings in Washington D.C.  The title is a play on words (the IMF's Managing Director is Christine Lagarde) and it refers to the IMF's inability to reform itself.  The article bemoans the domination of the IMF by European politicians and, as well as being unfair, it notes how this representation leads to dangerous conflicts of interest (e.g. delaying action on Greece until too late).  The article ends up saying that no-one has both the appetite for a fight and the ability to win one.  All a bit depressing really.

Diehard: This is in relation to a new book on Jeffrey Sachs by Nina Munk (OK she calls him The Idealist).  It is not clear to me what the book is meant to be.  It is clearly a story of the Millennium Villages (a story yet to be concluded) but also a portrayal of Jeff Sachs himself.  As I have said before, I admire Jeff Sachs' determination to do something other than pontificate (as most of us do), and his drive, focus and self confidence.  Time will tell if his diehard stance on the MV was the best way to spend well over $100 million. But I was left wondering why the book was written--it is neither critique nor  hagiography.  (Incidentally the book mentions the 2011 blog in Development Horizons "Jeff Sachs: the LVP of the MVP?")

Hazard:  Foreign Policy's Sin Special edition focuses, among other things, on syrup.  Specifically on high fructose corn syrup. This sweetener is produced by the US in huge quantities as a result of farm subsidies, and is used by the food industry as a cheap sweetener.  Mexico has now passed the US as the country with the highest incidence of obesity (over one third) and there is a study from the Minnesota based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy linking the spike in Mexican obesity to the passage of the 1994 NAFTA bill which allowed junk food to flood in from the USA.  As the US slowly wises up to the fast food industry (and a particularly funny episode of Parks and Recreation comes to mind) obesity will continue to be exported to lower income countries with weaker public health regulation--a really worrying trend.

Wayward:  This refers to an article in Prospect referring to the summer's protests in Brazil.  It is clear that much of Brazil's middle class feel that their political class have just lost their way.  One of my Brazilian friends told me that people in Brazil are fed up with Swedish style taxes and Nigerian style services (which might be harsh on Nigeria).  Lula's Workers Party have not escaped blame, having been tainted by a huge corruption scandal, the build up of a huge bureaucracy and an unwillingness of those in power to distribute wealth.  A lot more than the World Cup is riding on the performance of Brazilian politicians over the next 12 months--if they do not deliver on health, education and infrastructure there will be no football in Rio in 2014. 

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