From the Editor's Desk (May 2012)

Tony Addison

Finland traditionally celebrates the start of summer on 1st May (the ‘Vappu’ holiday), and UNU-WIDER currently basks in warm sunshine. At this point in the year the daylight lasts for 18 hours, with everyone taking advantage of the long, light evenings. In winter, the shortest days see only five hours of light. So there is a premium on enjoying the sunshine while it lasts.

Sunshine of course makes us all more optimistic—and is especially good for British pessimists like myself. The global economy is certainly not sunny. Europe’s summer will be blighted by the euro crisis. While the euro is roughly where it was two years ago, it is now sliding. The Swiss talk of capital controls, not seen since the 1970s, to try and stem a stampede into the franc. The growth in China’s reserves is slowing, resulting in less support for the euro as not all of the reserves are parked in dollars. A flight from risk triggered by a banking crisis in Europe could deliver a nasty shock to the smaller and more vulnerable of the world’s economies. 

But enough of pessimism. Turning to this month’s Angle might cheer us up. The issues are serious, but the writing and commentary are lively. We lead off with Lucy Scott on what women’s empowerment means, and how it links to development. Fundamentally, development should be about enabling more choice for women in how they live their lives. This sometimes gets lost in the obsession of economists with economic growth. Take a look too at Lucy’s earlier articles in Angle on Bangladesh.

We then turn to a new venture for Angle, our upgraded slot for the views of folk from the UNU-WIDER network. This is now called GuestAngle. Andrés Solimano gets us off to a good start with a piece on the Chilean development model. He questions the sometimes zealous focus on the ‘free market’, not as an instrument to achieve growth and poverty reduction, but as an ideological end in itself. Readers interested in Latin America’s development trajectory over the last couple of decades should also check out our working  paper series, which contain many papers on the region.

This month’s Angle also continues our new series in ResearchAngle of one-page reports of UNU-WIDER working papers, written by James Stewart and based on our research output. We can’t promise summaries of every paper, although we will try to do as many as possible, with an emphasis on the ReCom project on foreign aid. Three from the ResearchAngle series are featured this month: aid and growth in Sierra Leone; taxation and public spending and their relation to aid; and aid and democracy in Mozambique. More from ResearchAngle can be found here.

Each month we aim to bring you a new video on our work. Nicolas van de Walle from Cornell University is our May video feature. Nick is one of the foremost political scientists working on Africa, and he talks about democratic developments in Africa, and the role of foreign aid. There is much to be positive about, especially comparing the state of African politics today with that of the authoritarian states of decades past. But there are worries too, not least in fragile states such as Mali where democratic reversal is still a danger. More from the governance and fragility theme of ReCom can be found here.

UNU-WIDER has a global reach. We continue to be active in presentations and launches across the world. June will see events in Accra, Budapest, Cape Town, Helsinki, London, and Washington DC. Take a look at the upcoming  events section for details of venues and times. I am looking forward to my first trip to Ghana, and meeting up with all my friends in that fine country.

Angle is back in June—when the European summer will be well and truly underway, and the storm clouds of the economy may, or may not, have dissipated.

Tony Addison is Chief Economist-Deputy Director, and Editor of WIDERAngle newsletter.

WIDERAngle newsletter
May 2012
ISSN 1238-9544