Mukti

Economic herstory

Posted in development, economics by jrahman on July 5, 2017

I have been trying to get back into the habit of writing.  Nothing fancy or ambitious.  Around a thousand or so words a week.  I asked a close friend on what I should be writing about.  He advised:

Rotate between three big buckets: politics/history, pop culture, and economics. When writing about the first topic, make sure it won’t sound ridiculous in six months. And avoid talking about people and focus more on theory and data.

My friend reminded me of this passage from a three-decade old paper on economic growth.

The consequences for human welfare involved in questions like these are simply staggering: Once one starts to think about them, it is hard to think about anything else.

I wonder what Nancy Stokey feels about that!  My partner will for sure not be happy if I spend all my time thinking about economics.  But when not thinking about strange stuff, it is indeed harder to come up with a bigger question than why some societies have so much higher living standards than others.

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Illiberal development

Posted in democracy, development, economics, governance, institutions, politics by jrahman on June 15, 2015

A few years ago, Vietnam was the rage among the Bangladeshi chatteratis who hobnobbed in the development circle.  Look how they have forged ahead under a strong, patriotic leadership, while we languish behind because of our corrupt, venal political class — that was the refrain.  Of course, anyone who knew anything reasonably detailed about both countries would have their eyebrows raised by that.  I have vague recollection of writing something for Zafar Sobhan on this, but can’t find any link anywhere.

In any case, who cares about facts in Bangladesh?

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Books

Some time ago, there was a facebook meme about 10 books:

List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way. Don’t take more than a few minutes and do not think too hard. They do not have to be the great works of literature, just the ones that have affected you in some way. Tag 10 friends and me so I can see your list.

Over the fold, for archival purposes, are two lists — one general, the other economics related.

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Ideas that went nowhere…..

Posted in development, economics, labour, macro, micro, political economy by jrahman on January 12, 2015

….. because life got in the way.

Okay, that’s a bit melodramatic.  Let’s start again.  It used to be the case that to have a professional career as an economist in America, you needed a PhD.  That’s changing a lot.  There’s a general glut of PhDs.  And organisations such as the IMF are now more interested in people with practical experiences than half a decade or more of often impractical academic training.  In any case, outside America, PhDs were always for those who wanted to pursue an academic career.  So, other than the vanity of being addressed as Dr Rahman, I’ve never really seen much return from doing a PhD.

And yet, every now and then, I think about the ideas over the fold and wonder what might have been.

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Madrassa attitudes

Posted in development, economics, Islamists, politics by jrahman on December 26, 2014

Like much else, Bangladeshi discourse about madrassas usually shed more heat than light, revealing the biases and attitudes of the so-called experts who see in madrassa teachers and students either footsoldiers of terror or the vanguard of the coming revolution.  Niaz Asadullah, a British-trained development economist is a rare exception.  With his longtime collaborator Nazmul Chaudhury of the World Bank, he has published a series of papers on the subject.   I’d encourage the interested reader to follow up from Dr Asadullah’s page.  Over the fold, let me hightlight this paper.

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Demographic transition in Bangladesh

Posted in development, economic history, economics, labour by jrahman on March 19, 2014

Like a match box full of sticks —that’s how the Farmgate over bridge was once described to me.  It was the early 1990s, when six or so million people lived in Dhaka, while Bangladesh’s population was around 110 million.  I can’t think of any match box that, once full, can pack in a significant rise in the number of sticks, and yet, Bangladesh has somehow found room for extra people.  In the two decades since my visiting friend saw the teeming multitudes of Farmgate, the country’s population has risen to 150 million, and depending on how one counts, Dhaka is home to 15 or more million people.

The headcount, however, does not quite capture the fact that Bangladesh is going through a demographic transition. A transition that is perhaps as remarkable as, and probably related to the Bangladesh paradox.  As Chart 1 shows, over the past three decades, population growth has slowed significantly and the fertility rate (the number of children each woman bears on average) has declined markably.  Given the fertility rate is already close to the replacement rate of around 2%, it is quite possible that population growth may well slow even further from current 1% a year.

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Missing the mark about feeling good

Posted in development, economic history, economics by jrahman on February 18, 2014

Professor MA Taslim of Dhaka University is my favourite commentator on Bangladesh economy.  I would readily recommend most of his Off the mark columns.  However, even the great have an off day once a while, and Prof Taslim definitely missed the mark with this piece about Bangladesh’s development record.

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The East African diary

Posted in development, economics, travel, Uncategorized by jrahman on December 22, 2013

Notes from a trip (with some specifics omitted).

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Decoding The Bangladesh Paradox — A Research Agenda

Posted in development, economic history, economics, institutions, labour, macro, political economy, trade by jrahman on December 2, 2013

The macroeconomic fact is, in the last decade, under all three governments, per capita GDP have grown by around 4½ per cent a year. At that rate, average real (that is, inflation-adjusted) income doubles in 16 years. …. This is impressive stuff, for which every recent government deserves some credit.

That’s the conclusion from the post on real GDP per capita growth under different governments. Of course, real GDP per capita is a means to the end, not the end in itself. What we really care more about is the standard of living that higher real GDP per capita entails —that is, it’s the development record, and not just the growth, under different governments that we want to know.

This, however, raises two questions. First, how do we attribute to any particular government the growth and development record when policies under any particular government are likely to have long term consequences? And second, how do we explain the Bangladesh Paradox:

The belief that growth brings development with it—the “Washington consensus”—is often criticised on the basis that some countries have had good growth but little poverty reduction. Bangladesh embodies the inverse of that: it has had disproportionate poverty reduction for its amount of growth.

That quote is from a November 2012 Economist article. That article, and accompanying editorial, had a go at explaining the paradox. Joseph Allchin had a crack more recently at the NY Times. The suspects are usual: garments, remittance, NGOs. But we economists are a parsimonious lot, or so we like to think. We would like to know exactly what contribution each of these factors made, what was the channel through which the factors affected growth and development, what role, if any, did government policy play, and what all that means for future.

I haven’t seen a comprehensive analysis of the Bangladesh Paradox. And no, I am not going to provide the answer in this post. Rather, over the fold is a research agenda on how to analyse the Paradox.

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Rajan and Zingales (2006) — reasons to be optimistic about Bangladesh

Posted in development, economics, political economy by jrahman on December 1, 2013

Raghuram Rajan is as close to a Bollywood star an economist is ever likely to be.  He may have saved the Indian rupee from a collapse by simply showing up to work — okay, that’s a slight embellishment, but only just (see here for a more nuanced take).  Before that, way back in 2006, he said that the global financial system was at risk of being in considerable trouble — that’s the closest to predicting the global financial crisis anyone has ever been.  Months before that celebrated paper, he wrote a paper with his Chicago colleague Luigi Zingales that may give us some reasons to be optimistic about Bangladesh.

To be sure, Bangladesh is never mentioned in The persistence of underdevelopment: institutions, human capital, or constituencies? — not even once.  But their neat little model doesn have some strong relevance for the present day Bangladesh (and no — this post has nothing to do with the current political crisis).

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