Under the Shadow of Brexit: A Tipping Point for UK Aid?

by James Copestake

While attention is focused on Brexit, is the UK’s role in the field of international development also being quietly but radically redefined? The headline figures suggest some continuity. The commitment to allocating 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to Official Development Assistance (ODA) was made under Labour, but subsequent governments have held to it, despite ODA budget increases (from £7.4 billion in 2005 to £13.6 billion in 2017) coinciding with heavy cuts in other areas of public expenditure. There has also been continuity in the shift towards outsourcing management of UK ODA, leaving government more in the role of aid commissioner than direct provider of aid services.

However, looking more closely under the bonnet, there are indications of a more radical change. The 2002 International Development Act granted the Department for International Development (DFID) an unambiguous mandate to prioritize poverty elimination. This aligns DFID strongly then with Target 1.1 of the Sustainable Development Goals: to eliminate extreme poverty by 2030. (Extreme poverty being for this purpose very narrowly defined as US$1.9 per day at 2011 PPP prices). But to what extent is the growing UK ODA budget still so single-mindedly lined up behind the moral imperative to leave no-one behind? Continue reading

Celebrating Priscilla Wakefield: Financial Inclusion Heroine and Forgotten Feminist Economist

by Susan Johnson

Priscilla Wakefield – the “Mother of Microsavings” – is credited as being the founder of savings banks (Moss 2011). She was a Quaker from Tottenham, North London, and from the Barclays family of banking fame. On 22nd October I had the pleasure of joining citizens and activists to celebrate her achievements and unveil a new plaque in her honour. This was, to the day, the 220th anniversary of the founding of the Tottenham Benefit society for Women and Children, and she subsequently founded Tottenham Savings Bank in 1804. Her philanthropic initiatives also included a School for Industry for girls, a “Lying-in” charity for women (i.e. offering maternity support), and she wrote many educational books for children which were very popular.

Her journey from the Benefit Society to the Savings Bank is a micro prefiguring of the learning journey of the microfinance sector some 200 years later Continue reading

Social cost of the IMF programme

(This blog was originally posted at The Express Tribune)

By  Hari R Lohano

Pakistan is going back to the IMF, the ‘global lender of last resort’, to support the deteriorating level of its balance of payments, its declining foreign exchange reserves, and its difficulty in repaying foreign debts and meeting international financial obligations. In principle, there is nothing wrong with asking an international lender for financial support. However, in the case of the IMF, this is not straightforward.

There are a number of concerns to be addressed even before formally asking for an IMF loan. This is the reason that Imran Khan was in denial about going to the IMF, both before the election and after taking power. The main question about an IMF loan is: ‘What will be the impact of IMF policies on the poor and on the social sector?’ More specifically, what will be the cost of the IMF’s condition that the poor pay to stabilise the country’s economy? Continue reading

Work, utopia and the reproduction of life

(This blog was originally published at FUTURES OF WORK)

By Ana Cecilia Dinerstein

We are here to live. Obvious as it sounds, this simple fact is becoming progressively problematic. This is particularly so if you are a child forced to work for the São Paolo mafia; an asylum seeker travelling on a hazardous boat to Australia; a 13 year old sex worker in Malaysia; or a father of five working for a transnational company in which trade unions are forbidden. These examples are not the exception but, rather, becoming the norm. They share a common struggle to work or to find work in order to produce the means for individual or collective survival under diverse and adverse circumstances. In global capitalism, such means are synonymous with money. And, so far, the futures of work on which we depend on to earn that money appear gloomy. Continue reading

Argentina votes to legalise abortion in latest victory for global feminism

(This blog was originally published at The Conversation)

By Ana Cecilia Dinerstein and Lucía Cirmi Obón

“Nothing will stop us now!” These were the words of the excited and emotional activists when Argentina’s parliament voted narrowly (129 votes to 125) to decriminalise abortion. The National Congress in Buenos Aires was surrounded by women wearing green scarves around their necks, heads and wrists. Since 2005 this has been the symbol of their campaign. It represents life and hope and evokes memories of the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo – a group of women whose children disappeared under the dictatorship in Argentina during the 1970s and 1980s.

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Local Elections in Nepal and Sri Lanka: Empowering or Underming the Margins?

(This blog was originally published at Borderlands Asia)

By Oliver Walton

In the aftermath of civil wars, local elections are often viewed as transformative moments when voices from the margins can be heard and where new, more inclusive political settlements can be forged. Many post-war state reform packages emphasise measures to devolve power to local government as a mechanism for addressing the post-war grievances of marginalised groups.

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Which is better: a guaranteed job or a guaranteed income?

(This blog was originally published at From poverty to power)

By Eleanor Chowns

Martin Ravallion (former Chief Economist of the World Bank, now at CGD) published a useful paper this week asking exactly this question.  As he says, there’s no simple answer – which is why the question is so interesting. Continue reading

What do Kenyans really want from financial service providers?

(This blog was originally published at FSD Kenya)

By Susan Johnson

A large number of financial devices that are used by Kenyans to manage their money involve social relationships: from savings or investment groups that operate according to specific protocols and norms, to less structured arrangements like welfare associations, to the very informal, like borrowing goods on loan from your local shopkeeper or exchanging resources with a neighbour or cousin from time to time as needs arise. Such social arrangements are a natural foundation for money management where formal financial services are not available or out of reach.  However, despite the growing proximity of bank branches, cash-in cash-out agent networks and proliferation of mobile phones which offer even remote populations a growing set of choices for basic, digital financial services, these arrangements persist. So, what is it about them that make them so useful and valued by people? and what does that answer suggest about why services like M-PESA, M-Shwari and Equity accounts have had so much success with the mass market, where others have failed?

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What can financial providers learn from chamas?

(This blog was originally published at FSD Kenya)

By Susan Johnson

Informal financial groups such as merry-go-rounds or chamas are used by 41% of the Kenyan adults while traditional bank accounts are held by only 32% of the population (FinAccess 2016).  Analysts often stress the unreliability of informal groups and the risk of loss of money when members of the group default[1]. So why do so many people continue to use them? What is their enduring appeal?

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Workshop on pluri-nationality in Bolivia and Ecuador: Different perspectives and Janus-faced experiences

By Jonathan Alderman and Britta K. Matthes

On Friday, 12th of January, the ECR/PGR workshop “Pluri-national state, autonomy and ‘good living’/’living well’: Approaches to and reflections on tensions in Bolivia and Ecuador” took place at the University of Bath. The event, supported by the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), aimed at bringing together junior academics from different disciplines, who investigate the transformations taking place in Bolivia and Ecuador.

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