Saturday, April 30

Four great photo essays on India

I stumbled across these photo essays here, here, here and here. Beautiful shots of Kolkata, Kalimpong, Darjeleeng and places around there. Absolutely brilliant stuff.

Best and Worst Practises in Foreign Aid

This was shocking. The authors measured best practises of an aid firm measured thusly.

 Perhaps the foremost best practice is transparency, since without transparency, all other evaluations of best practice are impossible. We then consider four dimensions of best practice: Specialization measures the degree to which aid is not fragmented among too many donors, too many countries, and too many sectors for each donor. Selectivity measures the extent to which aid avoids corrupt autocrats and goes to the poorest countries. Ineffective aid channels measures the extent to which aid is tied to political objectives or consists of food aid or technical assistance. Overhead costs measures an agency’s administrative costs relative to the amount of aid it gives

Pretty fair points, no? What worries me is that we are saying that 0.7% of GDP should be spent on aid. In the UK, the foreign aid budget was not slashed (along with the NHS) while all other sectors of government spending including education, security, police, you name it were slashed. So its very crucial that the aid sector be effective and efficient. The authors come up with the following list of aid agencies to be analysed.

Bilateral agencies
ADA Austrian Development Agency
AECI Spanish Agency for International Cooperation
AFD French Development Agency
AUSAID The Australian government’s overseas aid program
BTC Belgian Technical Cooperation
BMZ German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development
CIDA Canadian International Development Agency
DANIDA Development Cooperation Agency of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
DFID UK Department for International Development
DgCiD French Directorate General for International Development Cooperation
DGDC Belgian Directorate General for Development Cooperation
EC Co-operation Office for International Aid of the European Commission
Global.Finland Development Cooperation Agency of the Finish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
GTZ German Agency for Technical Cooperation
Hellenic Aid Development Cooperation Agency of the Greece Ministry of Foreign Affairs
IPAD Portuguese Institute for Development Aid
Irish Aid Irish Development Agency
JBIC Japanese Bank for International Cooperation
JICA Japan International Cooperation Agency
KfW German Development Bank
Luxemburg Development Agency
MCC Millennium Challenge Cooperation
MOFA Italy Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
MOFA Japan Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
NORAD Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation
NZAid New Zealand’s development agency
SDC Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation
SECO Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs
SIDA Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
USAID U.S. Agency for International Development

Multilateral agencies
African Dev. Bank African Development Bank
Asian Dev. Bank Asian Development Bank
CariBank Caribbean Development Bank
EBRD European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
GEF Global Environment Facility
IMF International Monetary Fund
IBRD (World
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank)
IDA (World Bank) International Development Association (World Bank)
IDB Inter-American Development Bank
IFAD (UN) International Fund for Agricultural Development (UN)
Nordic DF Nordic Development Fund
UNDP United Nations Development Program
UNFPA United National Population Fund
UNHCR United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
UNICEF United Nations Children’s Fund
UNRWA United Nations Relief and Work Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East
WFP (UN) World Food Program (UN)

The researchers find that they are not transparent, they are fragmented, money is spent unwisely with money going to corrupt buggers and spent through ineffective channels. These people will be spending literally billions and billions of dollars each year and its frankly useless. So what is the ranking of these aid agencies?


I am gratified to note that the UK is doing quite well on all counts. Leads me to have faith. Secondly, what really pisses me off is the last agency, the UNHCR. Or even the WEP. Two of the biggest baddest institutions who are supposed to be helping millions of people around the world, who are the refugees and the hungry. Both are the worst. Absolutely horrible. Let me quote their conclusion:

Our findings on aid best practice tend to confirm a number of long-standing complaints about foreign aid, notwithstanding the aid agencies’ perpetual claims that they are fixing past problems. The aid effort is remarkably splintered into many small efforts across all dimensions—number of donors giving aid, number of countries receiving aid from each donor, and number of sectors in which each donor operates. A lot of aid still goes to corrupt and autocratic countries and to countries other than those with the lowest incomes. Aid tying, the use of food
aid-in-kind, and the heavy use of technical assistance persist in many aid agencies, despite decades of complaints about these channels being ineffective. In addition, some agencies have remarkably high overhead costs. The broad pattern that emerges from our evidence is that development banks tend to be closest to best
practices for aid, the UN agencies perform worst along each dimension, and the bilaterals are spread out all along in between. Explaining why each of these patterns persists over time raises an interesting agenda for research in political economy.

The aid business now spends $100 billion dollars a year of money each year, seeking to help the world’s poorest people. It is a sad reflection on the aid establishment that knowing where the money goes is still so difficult and that the picture available from partial knowledge remains so disturbing

This is indeed shocking and one has to look at this with a deeply jaundiced eye. The bigger problem is with the multilaterals. You and I, as the tax payer, have just no say in how they are run. At all. They are twice removed and three times as useless. Who are you going to complain to if the UNHCR is working like a dog? Nobody, the responsibility is fragmented and nobody owns the problem. So billions of your tax monies go to waste. And then these buggers want more money from a Robin Hood Tax. Bah. Blood sucking parasites. These are a bunch of muppets.

Friday, April 29

Some angels for the charity

London Marathon 014

These are three of the sponsors who ran the London Marathon and raised some desperately needed funds for the charity. You can see Floyd on the running vests.

Here is a blogpost from one of the runners. Excellent Stuff. THANK YOU!

Nudity for Charity

I have been researching on how to raise funds with photography, sort of killing 2 birds with one stone. And guess what I bumped across? This site. (Warning, NSFW)

Not sure if anybody will pay to watch me nude now, would they? (answers on a very small postcard)

Redistribute GPA scores

Heh, very snarky indeed. For those who like redistributive taxation and think its fair, this was their reaction when asked about redistributing their GPA scores for students who are not able to study or whatever ending with low GPA scores. Watch the reaction. Its very interesting.

Thursday, April 28

Support for Suicide Terrorism

So what is the relationship between the support for terrorism in public opinion and the relationship with terrorist attacks? Guess what these researchers found?

We find that justification in public opinion for suicide terrorism increases terror attacks on people in countries that are unfavorably regarded. There is a robust positive relationship between the share of the population in a country that at the same time justifies suicide bombings and has an unfavorable opinion of another country, and terrorism originating from the former country.

In other words, there is statistically significant evidence that public opinion does encourage terrorism. In a way, this is a d’oh statement. Terrorism thrives on the oxygen of publicity and then there are various assorted morons and idiots who will support terror as a way to punish other countries. What they do not understand (well, not surprising because its usually religious nutters and other ideologically screwed up people who do this) is that terrorism usually devours them.

So what do people from s Bangladesh, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Morocco, Senegal, Tanzania, Mali, Jordan, Lebanon, Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Palestine and Nigeria respond to the PEW survey question?

Some people think that suicide bombing and other forms of violence against civilian targets
are justified in order to defend Islam from its enemies. Other people believe that, no matter
what the reason, this kind of violence is never justified. Do you personally feel that this kind
of violence is often justified to defend Islam, sometimes justified, rarely justified, or never

On average 23% justified suicide terrorism, with a minimum of 8% support and an astonishingly high 70% maximum support. Highest was in Palestine, Nigeria and Mali, Lowest up was in Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia. Surprising eh? Palestine I can understand, but Nigeria, Mali, Egypt, Pakistan and Indonesia? The last 3 countries are like factories for terrorists. Some other facets, Nigerian Women were showing more support for suicide bombing compared to men. Here’s the graph


There was another question which was asked, about which countries are most unfavourable to the respondents. Some of the results for the most unfavourable and least unfavourable are amazing and bewildering.


So Bangladesh actually has the lowest unfavourable opinion towards India! and highest towards USA. And what on earth is happening in Ethiopia with least Japan and high Iran? USA seems to be the most hated country across these muslim nations. Extraordinary but what is worrying is the extraordinarily high level of support for suicide bombing and terrorism in all these countries. The next time somebody says that terrorist support in Muslim countries relate only to a very small minority, do ask about the definition of a very small minority because a minority which ranges from 8-70% with an average of 23% aint such a small minority by any stretch of imagination.

Wednesday, April 27


First the story:

PARIS: The longer a man’s fourth or ring finger is compared to his index finger, the more likely he is to be judged attractive by women, according to a study released Wednesday.

The results, published in the British Royal Society’s journal Biological Sciences, unveil intricate links between foetal exposure of males to hormones, the development of certain physical traits, and what turns on the opposite sex.

It also adds to a growing body of research — conducted under the banner of evolutionary psychology — suggesting that the drivers of human behaviour are found, more than previously suspected, in “nature” rather than “nurture.” Earlier studies had already shown that the size ratio between the fourth and second fingers, especially of the right hand, is a reliable indicator of the extent a man was exposed to testosterone while still in the womb.

The bigger the gap between a longer ring finger and a shorter index, the greater the likely impact of the hormone.

For the new study, scientists led by Camille Ferdenzi of the University of Geneva designed an experiment to find out if women are drawn to the telltale signs of high testosterone levels in men — a symmetrical face, a deeper voice, a particular body odour — who have this more “masculine” finger configuration.

More than 80 women university students between 18 and 34 looked at pictures of 49 similarly aged men, and were asked to evaluate them for masculinity and attractiveness.

Smaller groups of women listened to recordings of the male voices, and smelled samples of their body odour, taken from cotton pads worn under the arm for 24 hours.

“The aim was to understand what makes a man attractive,” and whether at least some of those qualities “were in part conditioned by the foetal environment,” Ferdenzi said in an interview.

For the visual test, the results were unambiguous. “The longer the ring finger compared to the index — that is, the greater the exposure to testosterone — the more attractive the face was rated,” she said by phone.

“We also found that attractiveness and symmetry in the face are highly correlated.” Such a preference might have evolved to boost a female’s chances of reproductive success through mating with a more virile partner, she said.

Surprisingly, however, women did not consistently tag the same men as “masculine”.

Nor did their preferences for voice or odours correspond to the longer ring-finger males.

“There wasn’t any relation between the 2D-4D” — 2nd digit, 4th digit — “ratio and the reactions of the women to odour,” Ferdenzi said.

One reason, she speculated, may be that voice and body odour are more dependent on fluctuating levels of adult testosterone than on pre-natal testosterone.

The ring-index finger ratio has also proven to be a useful indicator for gauging the risk of prostate cancer, likewise tied to high levels of testosterone.

Research published in December showed that the chances of developing the disease drop by a third in men whose index finger is longer than their ring finger.

Other studies have also found a link between exposure to hormones before birth and the development of other diseases, including breast cancer and osteoarthritis.

My father in law nearly told me to buzz off when he saw my fingers. Note that my second and third fingers are of the same length. Apparently that tells one that one is a great risk taker. Now that i am a dad as well, i can see why he was nervous, who wants his lovely princess to be joined to a risky bugger, eh?


btw, on the length basis of this article, given the relative sizes of my index and ring finger, I am plug ugly.

The Welfare Impact of Microcredit on Rural Households in China

So? does it? Read the abstract.

Microcredit has gained worldwide acceptance in recent years as a flexible mechanism to expand individuals’ (especially the poor's) access to financial services, which is considered as an efficient way to achieve poverty reduction and other social development. A large number of empirical studies have been done to examine the welfare effects of microcredit on the borrowers and such effects are well documented in many other countries such as Bangladesh. However, the impacts of microcredit on China rural households’ livelihood are not well documented. This paper attempts to empirically evaluate the impact of microcredit on household welfare outcomes such as income and consumption in rural China. The estimation is based on the difference-in-difference approach which is an increasingly popular method of tackling the selection bias issue in assessing the impacts of microcredit. The study uses a two-year panel dataset, including both primary and secondary data collected through a household survey in rural China. Our empirical results favour the wide belief in the literature that joining microcredit programme helps improve households’ welfare such as income and consumption. Despite the optimistic findings on how microcredit has changed the rural households’ living conditions, our results show that the vast majority of the programme participants are non-poor, which casts some doubts on the social potential (such as poverty reduction) of China's microcredit programmes.

So the results are, it helps in improving welfare, but its usually aimed at the non poor. So sort of half way house, that little bit of credit helps but not the absolute poor. Perhaps Bolsa Familia?

Tuesday, April 26

Tweet, tweet, tweet: A content analysis of nonprofit organizations’ Twitter updates

Well, this research seems to say that the NGO’s are actually just pushing out messages, rather than engaging in a two way conversation. The research highlights are:

► Nonprofit organizations predominantly use Twitter to convey one-way messages to their followers.

► Of the traditional public relations models, public information was most often used by nonprofits followed by press agentry, two-way asymmetry, and two-way symmetry.

► The lack of conversation continues the line of public relations scholarship showing that the majority of organizations (nonprofit, corporate, government) continue to lack interactivity and engagement on the Internet.

Now the tendency of NGO’s to be shrill and one track mind in their ideology is part of their characteristics. After all, why would anybody in their right mind get into a debate about their message? Its my message and I will stick to it. But then my question is, is this issue more of a twitter issue (you really cannot have a debate in 140 characters messages) or is this a more fundamental problem with the NGO’s? My suspicion is that its both.

Monday, April 25

The unconsidered impacts of Jatropha biodiesel

Fairly typical situation here. People are getting all excited about biodiesel and thinking its the next thing to sliced bread. Let me quote the abstract.

Governments around the world see biofuels as a common solution to the multiple policy challenges posed by energy insecurity, climate change and falling farmer incomes. The Indian government has enthusiastically adopted a second-generation feedstock – the oilseed-bearing shrub, Jatropha curcas – for an ambitious national biodiesel program. Studies estimating the production capacity and potential land use implications of this program have typically assumed that the ‘waste land’ slated for Jatropha production has no economic value and that no activities of note will be displaced by plantation development. Here we examine the specific local impacts of rapid Jatropha plantation development on rural livelihoods and land use in Rajasthan, India. We find that in Jhadol Tehsil, Jatropha is planted on both government and private land, and has typically displaced grazing and forage collection. For those at the socioeconomic margins, these unconsidered impacts counteract the very benefits that the biofuel programs aim to create. The Rajasthan case demonstrates that local land-use impacts need to be integrated into decision-making for national targets and global biofuel promotion efforts.

So they have conveniently given some research highlights

► Hardy biofuel crops like Jatropha replace edible feedstocks that use arable land.

► In Rajasthan, Jatropha displaces grazing and forage on both public and private land.

► As Jatropha plantations mature, the loss of grass becomes more pronounced.

► Unconsidered impacts negate the benefits that the biodiesel program aims to create.

► Local land-use impacts need to be integrated into decision-making.

The authors further state

the science of Jatropha is seriously lacking. Although many university, government and industry researchers are working to refine planting materials and management techniques, the plant's five-year maturation period has so far impeded quick progress. The formal, peer-reviewed publication of scientific research has also been slow, which may result, in part, from concerns about intellectual property rights in an industry that has garnered substantial interest from investors. Without refined management techniques and planting materials, rapid plantation development may limit benefits for decades. Since the plants can live for 50 years, the impact of poor planting materials and early pruning mistakes will be magnified in the long term. Overall, it is unlikely that Jatropha will become a successful cash crop within the current scientific and policy climate, given the poor state of knowledge of the plant's agronomy and the disappointing seed yields in block plantations.

More work required before thinking this is a panacea for India and the world’s fuel issues.

Sunday, April 24

Worries and troubles galore

I am racking my brains on how to raise more money for Home Start. Sustainable money, not something that we are taking off the public purse. I will be approaching the firm to see if some kind of regular funding can be arranged, but something more sustainable has to be established. I have also volunteered to be the photographer for various events where we can raise some dosh. Perhaps a calendar? lol, that should be interesting, but if we are not able to raise some serious thousands of pounds by end of the year, we will be in trouble.

On the other hand, as I had mentioned before. HSBC donated 1000 pieces of kit to the IT4CH charity. That put us in a tizzy. Usually we get smaller quantities of kit so we can turn it around in time and dispatch to various hospitals, but this is really nice of them. We can give some good surprises to quite a lot of hospitals around the country. But we have found some space and its now well settled down.

Incidentally, I finally managed to find the link to the competition submission that I had done for the Whittington Hospital. Here’s the link to the competition website. I like the idea, it links photography with philanthropy. Maybe I can do something like this for Home Start.

Other news, doing a fair bit of mentoring with some students and also trying to get some alumni work going with an old alma mater. God, its painful, like pushing jelly uphill. But we shall overcome and all that nice guff. I also went to Swansea Business School for an advisory board meeting. I will write more about some points which popped up there about the future of business education, but will blog it on my dailysalty site, not here, don't want to bore you guys.

I am also thinking about resigning from WCIT. I am not really sure that I am adding any value there, all the events take place during day time in the city and I just cannot get there.

Bribe people and they will vote. In USA

This was amazing to read besides the funny description of how Political Science Conferences work. I quote:

Damon M. Cann of Utah State University detailed how he knocked on doors in River Heights, Utah, and to one group made a distinctly rhetorical plea to vote in an upcoming election, for the sake of democracy. To another group, he randomly offered discount coupons for fried chicken, French fries, a Mexican meal and rock climbing if they went to the polls. If later inspection of the rolls confirmed you had indeed voted, you'd got a coupon for, in the case of the fried chicken, two buckets worth at KFC.

Cann's initial numbers crunching determined that oral persuasion hiked turnout by four percent but blatant economic lures jacked it up a further nine percent. As panel moderator Brian Gaines of the University of Illinois suggested to me later, Cann's gambit would probably be illegal if offered as a swap for backing a specific candidate. But the yet-to-be-published work may prove a provocative addition to an explosion of studies on voting, Gaines said, especially given what tend to be dismal U.S turnouts compared to other industrialized nations.

These Americans should take a leaf out of the world’s largest democracy, India, where economic incentives are quite common. Money, Sari’s, TV’s, you name it, they get it. So any country which is moaning about lack of voter participation, just hand out KFC vouchers and they will turn out in droves.