From The Editor's Desk (October 2012)

Tony Addison

UNU-WIDER is having a very active and successful autumn. Our climate change and development policy conference at the end of September attracted over 150 researchers and policy makers from across the world. Videos of this can be found online, as well as the papers, at

WIDER Angle October 2012
16th WIDER Annual Lecture, this year given by Lant Pritchett of Harvard University, demonstrating a point.

Also in late September we had the 16th WIDER Annual Lecture, this year given by Lant Pritchett of Harvard University. The public event attracted an audience of 160 with an additional 300 registered to join us online live. Lant took a good hard look at why so much of the reform we believe is happening in state institutions is too often a mirage. He discussed what we should do about it—follow the ‘folk rather than the formula’ was the lesson to take away. If you didn’t catch the lecture, or you want to watch it again, go here.

Finally, with jobs on everyone’s mind, the topic of ‘Jobs–Aid at Work’ was our theme for the ReCom results meeting held in Copenhagen on 8th October. This attracted an audience of some 220 in the impressive Black Diamond library, and about 200 registered online participants who followed the discussions live. We rolled out some rather innovative communication tools at the meeting; for more on the event (video, papers, etc., see A new working paper on aid, growth, and jobs by Gary Fields, who was a panelist at the event, is now out.

We continue to reach out to you via the Angle newsletter, and on my travels this month (which have taken me from Reykjavik to New York, and other places in between) it has been great to meet some of our readers. Comments and suggestions are always welcome.

This month’s GUESTAngle is penned by M.G. Quibria, a visiting scholar at UNU-WIDER over the summer. His topic is microcredit and poverty alleviation. There is something of a pushback on microfinance as a tool for poverty reduction, and whether you are a strong supporter or a sceptic you should read his recent WIDER working paper.

RESEARCHAngle gives you a further taste of some recent work. The summaries are prepared by James Stewart, and two are featured this month. The first entitled ‘The Working Poor’ is on Gary Fields’ working paper mentioned earlier. The second is on ‘Opening the Black Box’, a working paper by Channing Arndt, Sam Jones, and Finn Tarp on the impact of aid. Both of these papers come out of our ReCom project.  

Some 90 working papers have been published so far this year (go here for the latest). Recent papers include Sarah Repucci on civil service reform; Robert Cameron on the politics of urban service delivery in South Africa; Augustin Fosu on development success and a number of papers on climate change in Vietnam. Other topics of recent working papers range from Ethiopia’s enterprises to the impact of food prices on child malnutrition in Mozambique to aid and fiscal policy.

We have a new book just published by Oxford University Press entitled The Role of Elites in Economic Development edited by Alice Amsden, Alisa DiCaprio, and James Robinson. Elites have a disproportionate impact on development outcomes. But what factors affect whether elites use their influence for individual gain or national welfare? And are their actions today constrained by institutions and norms established in the past? The research looks at case studies from South Africa to China to seek a better understanding of the dynamics behind how elites decide to engage with economic development. The book is fondly dedicated to the late Alice Amsden who passed away before seeing it in print.

The latest VideoAngle consists of interviews from the climate change conference. In these interviews Carl-Gustav asks why research does not always turn into policy.

I would be remiss if I did not leave you with our weather report: zero temperatures increasingly feature, and the first snow has arrived. The fall was one of the most beautiful I’ve known here, and we still have a few trees with leaves in brilliant red, gold, and yellow. Angle returns in November.

Tony Addison is Chief Economist-Deputy Director, UNU-WIDER. 

WIDERAngle newsletter
October 2012
ISSN 1238-9544