From the Editor’s Desk (August 2014)

27 August 2014

Tony Addison

Some of you in the northern hemisphere may still be on your well-earned summer breaks. Here at UNU-WIDER we had a pause in July—for a very warm Finnish summer—after our very successful June conference in Hanoi. It is now full speed ahead for our conference on ‘Inequality: Measurement, Trends, Impacts and Policies’, 5-6 September. We expect a record turnout: over 300 will gather in Helsinki to debate all aspects of social inequality—and its causes and consequences.

In this issue, Jukka Pirttilä and myself discuss the latest update to the World Income Inequality Database (WIID). This is one of our most comprehensive and detailed revisions to the WIID so far. Long-standing Widerians will know that the WIID has now been going for many years, and is available for download here. It began as an initiative of our former director Andrea Cornea, and Andrea still has a continuing interest in the issue: see his latest book for UNU-WIDER on Latin America, for instance. Work on inequality accelerated when Tony Shorrocks was director, especially on its measurement. We’ll be welcoming Andrea and Tony back to UNU-WIDER for the September conference, as well as many other old friends.  

GUESTAngle has a fascinating piece by Vladimir Popov, emerging from his new book Mixed Fortunes: An Economic History of China, Russia and the West (Oxford University Press). Vladimir is an ex UNU-WIDER research fellow, and was on our Board as well for many years. Vladimir takes a long view on how countries do, or do not, get ahead on growth and development.

This issue also contains a report on our June conference in Hanoi in collaboration with Vietnam’s Central Institute for Economic Management. The theme was ‘Institutional Reforms for Transformation, Inclusion and Sustainability’. Over 200 attended. We had many researchers and policy makers from Asia. And we mobilized a large contingent from Africa. Vietnam is a fascinating case of what Africa might achieve in structural transformation—a key theme under UNU-WIDER’s 2014-18 research programme. As we said then: good ideas need to travel.

In RESEARCHAngle, this week we focus on UNU-WIDER research on education. Sam Jones’ paper on education in East Africa finds that it is not just a lack of resources which hampers performance, but also peer effects caused by classes filled with overage-for-grade pupils. Adult education takes centre-stage in the second article, with Steven Finkel’s paper finding that civic education can have a positive effect on democratic participation.

Our VideoAngle has an interview on new structural economics with Justin Yifu Lin, Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at UNU-WIDER, and former Chief Economist of the World Bank. He also presented at the June conference in the plenary titled "Avoiding the middle-income trap: A new structural economics perspective"  . You can watch that video here.

We have now published over 100 working papers so far in 2014. They include: Saugato Datta and Sendhil Mullainathan on behavioural design as an approach to development policy; Michael Woolcock on engaging with fragile states; Hippolyte Fofack on ideological biases in Africa’s development; Naoko Otobe on promoting women’s economic empowerment; and Samuel Wangwe, Donald Mmari, Jehovanes Aikaeli, Neema Rutatina, Thadeus Mboghoina, and Abel Kinyondo on Tanzanian manufacturing.

Meanwhile, I got off my perch and started to tweet (@TonysAngle). At least I make a softer sound than the noisy seagulls that inhabit our harbour. Angle will be back in September, to report on our inequality conference, amongst other news and views. 

Tony Addison is Chief Economist-Deputy Director, UNU-WIDER. Follow him on twitter at @TonysAngle.

WIDERAngle newsletter
August 2014
ISSN 1238-9544