Is there a Brazilian model of development?

By Armando Barrientos and Edmund Amann. Originally published in Policy In Focus, a publication of the UNDP’s International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth.

As the world begins to wake up to the dire social and economic consequences of rising inequality, we must recognise that it is not an inevitable side-effect of economic growth and development. Many Latin American countries, and Brazil in particular, have demonstrated it is possible to achieve inclusive growth, which has reduced inequality and poverty.

Despite its current difficulties, Brazil offers a striking example of inclusive growth. Inequality has fallen sharply over the past decade and a half, a period which has also seen the country lift an estimated 40 million people out of poverty. Although growth rates have been modest in comparison to China or India, Brazil has implemented a raft of measures to ensure the results of such growth have been shared throughout society. While Brazilians have seen their incomes rise, the poorest have benefited most.


The growth experienced by Brazil hasn’t simply been attained through the unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. Despite serious lingering problems, deforestation rates in the Amazon have fallen remarkably since 2004. New jobs have been created, child mortality has plummeted, and schooling rates have increased.

So how have these gains been achieved, are they sustainable, what challenges remain, and what can other developing countries learn from Brazil’s experiences? These were the questions asked by a team of researchers from Brazil, Europe and the USA who formed the International Research Initiative on Brazil and Africa (IRIBA). This issue of Policy in Focus looks at the findings and insights they have produced.

The foundations of Brazilian progress can be traced back to the transition from a dictatorship to a democracy in the mid-1980s and the vision for the country which emerged. A firm consensus between citizens and politicians to address the ‘social debt’ created by soaring inequality set the country on a new path. After the economy was stabilised in the mid-1990s, the economic management pursued by successive governments enabled innovative social policies to flourish.

As a more inclusive and prosperous Brazil has developed, the public demand for further progress has also grown. The large protests surrounding the 2014 Football World Cup, worries about an economy mired in recession, and deep concern with serious corruption scandals demonstrate that the Brazilian consensus is under considerable strain. Public demand for better public services and transport infrastructure, less corruption and a more progressive tax system must be addressed by the country’s leaders. While much has improved, Brazil faces pressing challenges. It must ensure that the development gains made over the past decade and a half throughout times of economic growth are not eroded or scaled back throughout the troubling economic times it presently faces. The sustainability of those gains may well be the most important piece of any such Brazilian model of development, yet the jury is still out as to what extent this may be possible.

While the Brazilian experience is the product of a unique set of circumstances, it contains many lessons that should inspire debate and critical appraisal in other developing countries. The world is changing rapidly, and there are more opportunities than ever for genuine cooperation between countries of the Global South with recent and direct experiences of radically reducing poverty. This edition of Policy in Focus is essential reading for anyone grappling with how to reduce poverty and inequality while promoting sustainable and inclusive growth.

Download the full Policy in Focus report.


At what point will we do something about inequality?

by David Hulme, Professor, Global Development Institute

Oxfam’s annual inequality report finds that extreme polarisation – the ownership of global assets by a tiny minority of the world’s population – has increased. Now, only the 62 richest people in the world own the same value of assets as the 3.6 billion people in the bottom half of global incomes – surpassing Oxfam’s original prediction that by 2016, the wealth of the top 1% will equal the wealth of the remaining 99%.
The Oxfam figures have been challenged  but they are based on the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report , the best dataset available on present income and asset levels.
It’s not just the figures which are debatable. Contention remains over whether economic inequality is a bad or a good thing and whether governments should do something about inequality.

A graph showing number of billionaires in the world and what sort of transport they would fit on.

How many billionaires does the world need?

Those inclined to the Left will argue that inequality is bad for humanity – it is unjust – and instrumentally it leads to negative outcomes for society as a whole. It may come as surprise to some people but both the poor and the rich suffer from the wrongs of inequality. As Wilkinson and Pickett have shown in The Spirit Level, in virtually every aspect of life (physical and mental health, education, decent work and even life satisfaction) rising inequality in rich nations is associated with lower levels of social indicators.

Those inclined to the Right will refute such arguments. Economists will cite Art Okun whose book Equality and Efficiency: The Big Trade-Off persuaded many (especially in the US) that efforts to reduce inequality lead to reductions in efficiency that constrain enterprise and economic growth. Such ideas informed leaders such as Reagan and Thatcher and fed the belief that ‘greed is good’. Inequality, it was argued, spurs people to make greater efforts and fuels competition.

But it’s not just the Left declaiming inequality. IMF researchers recently concluded that: “…it would still be a mistake to focus on growth and let inequality take care of itself… because the resulting growth may be low and unstable…redistribution, and the associate reduction in inequality, is thus associated with higher and more durable growth”. The IMF identifies a “tentative consensus…that inequality can undermine progress in health and education, cause investment-reducing political and economic instability, and undercut the social consensus required to adjust in the face of shocks…it tends to reduce the pace and durability of growth”.

Warren Buffett, the world’s most successful investor, has pointed out that the share of income tax he paid the US Internal Revenue Service was lower than the clerical staff in his office: “How can this be right?…There’s class warfare, all right…but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war and we’re winning”.

Whatever your view point, it’s undeniable that inequality is rising at spectacular rates. While different measures (wealth or income), different datasets (national accounts or taxation) and different analysts disagree on the detail, they all agree that the wealthiest are getting richer faster than anyone else (except in Latin America). The real income of the global top 1% rose by more than 60% over 1988-2008.

Share of global wealth in 2015 in US dollars.

Share of global wealth in 2015: not equal

The reasons for such growth in inequality are complex but two factors stand out. First, contemporary capitalism is based on economic processes that permit those who manage to amass money by their brain power or political connections or both, to increase their wealth faster than others. As Thomas Piketty tells us – the returns to capital (owning physical and financial assets) are greater than the returns to labour (working), as is the historical record for all but a part of the 20th Century. So the rich get richer.

But, there is also a political economic reason. Those with so much wealth are able to shape national and international public policies so much that they can ensure that they get wealthier. They can ensure that national and international patent and competition laws allow them to dominate the markets in which they operate and that taxation laws allow them to avoid paying tax. By gaining control of the media plutocrats can even persuade the public that inequality is good for everyone.

What can be done? The revolutionary solution – seizing and redistributing land and assets – has few supporters. More reformist measures – taxation and fiscal redistribution through public expenditure in pro-poor education, health services and social protection – are gaining support.

One solution is effective public expenditure on domestically-financed education, health and social protection raises the prospects for sustained growth, structural transformation and welfare advances. The evidence for such policies is clear but, enacting them in the places they are most needed is very problematic. The nature of domestic business and political elites – often greedy, extractive and predatory – allied to international business elites and the social norms they transmit, means that socially beneficial policies are not effectively implemented.

The power of the “1%” may appear unassailable. Will we have to wait for a miracle? For businesses and entrepreneurs to obey regulation in ways that do not undermine domestic revenue mobilization? For governments to promote broad-based growth, prosperity for all and welfare…and for that plutocracy can be replaced by democracy? Or, will a growing tide of protest and its consequences (sometimes socially progressive and sometimes regressive, as in Egypt) persuade the 1% that they will not get the world they want for their grandchildren if they continue to promote inequality as a global social norm?

Want to debate this view point? Come along to the Global Development Institute launch on 17 February and hear Winnie Byanyima, Oxfam Executive Director deliver a keynote lecture on inequality and the future of global development.

The Fiscal Implications of Hurricane Strikes in the Caribbean

By Bazoumana Ouattara, University of Manchester; Eric Strobl, École Polytechnique; Jan Vermeiren, Kinetic Analysis Corporation and Stacia Yearwood, Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility.

Worryingly losses associated with tropical storms have risen considerably over the last few decades and are currently estimated to be about $US 26 billion a year. Moreover, some predict that the intensity of these phenomena may increase with climate change. In this regard, arguably the small disaster prone island economies in the Caribbean are particularly vulnerable, as their limited budgetary capacity prevents them from establishing sufficient financial reserves to absorb such potentially large negative shocks.

Added to this, their high level of debt restricts their ability to access credit in the aftermath of a natural disaster, while high transaction costs associated with the relatively small market restricts access to private catastrophe insurance covering potential losses. International aid also does not provide a solution since, when it comes, it is often too little and too late.

A demonstrative example of the consequences of such financial shortfalls in the Caribbean was the case of Hurricane Ivan, which struck Grenada in 2004 causing losses twice the size of the island’s GDP. In the immediate aftermath the country was no longer able to finance its public service bill, but had had no budget contingency in place or access to the private insurance given the relatively small market. It was thus was forced to introduce a number of revenue enhancing measures and delay efforts of recovery and reconstruction in order to address the fiscal shortfall, thus likely further amplifying the long term effects of the hurricane.

In fact it is in response to such fiscal vulnerability to natural disasters that in 2007 a number of Caribbean economies established the Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Facility (CCRIF), a multi-country risk pooling scheme that can provide members with almost immediate fiscal relief when a natural disaster occurs. As a matter of fact, since its inception the CCRIF has issued over US$ 23 million as a consequence of 4 tropical storm events alone.

Payouts to participating members under the CCRIF as a consequence of a tropical storm are made according to the storm’s physical characteristics, predicted losses, a country’s risk profile, and a country’s loss coverage, the latter being the only choice parameter of a country.

Ultimately the country’s chosen coverage will, however, depend on its expectations with respect to the impact of a tropical storm event on its fiscal sector. In this regard, there are only a handful of statistically based studies which can provide quantitative indication as to the actual short-term fiscal shortfalls in response to a natural disaster event, and these provide mixed evidence of an impact on the fiscal gap of countries.

However, all existing studies only look at the impact of natural disasters events in terms of annual data. One suspects in this regard that much of the true short-term fiscal reaction is likely `netted out’ in annual terms, and thus can only provide limited insight into how severe such fiscal shortages in reality are likely to be.

In a recent study we address the limitations of the current literature by explicitly examining higher frequency, i.e., monthly, fiscal reactions to natural disaster events. Additionally, and unlike previous studies, we also provide estimates of return periods of fiscal shortages in an extreme value theory framework. To these ends, we compile a data set of monthly potential hurricane losses and fiscal expenditure and revenue over the 2000-2012 period for a set of Caribbean countries. We combine these data with destruction estimates derived from actual hurricane tracks and a detailed spatial distribution of assets. Our econometric analysis on this data shows that government revenue drops immediately after a shock, while there is no discerning significant effect on total public expenditure.

More specifically, an average hurricane reduces revenue by 17.6%, while the largest observed event reduced it by more than 200%. Examining the main components of expenditure, however, we discover that current expenditure increases temporarily two months following the shock. More specifically, an average event caused a 16.8% rise in current expenditure.

Overall, we find that there is an immediate and sizable impact on Caribbean economies’ monthly budget deficit, namely 20.3% for the mean hurricane strike. Using our estimates and extreme value modelling we show that return periods of significant fiscal impacts may be considerable for many of the island economies in the Caribbean. For instance, a 100% debt increase is likely to occur within the next 57 to 174 years, depending which island one considers.

First published as a policy brief by Fondation pour les études et recherches sur le développement international 



A Climate Potluck in Paris


By Jonas Amtoft Bruun

“We have an agreement”. Those redeeming words from French foreign minister Laurent Fabius in the evening of Saturday the 12th of December unleashed a wave of standing ovations from high level UN staff, delegates and observers from business and civil society. Preceding this historic moment had been a fortnight of marathon negotiations and sleepless nights for the approximate 50.000 people that attended the 21st UN Conference Of the Parties (COP 21). The Paris meeting was a culmination of a 6-year redress effort for the UN climate regime following the catastrophic Copenhagen meeting in 2009, which collapsed into chaos and recriminations.

One point five, to stay alive

In The Paris Agreement developed and developing countries alike have agreed to limit emissions to hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C (with an aspiration of 1.5 °C) above pre-industrial levels by the end of the 21st century. They have furthermore agreed to jointly mobilize billions of dollars in so-called climate finance, to help poorer countries cut emissions and manage the adverse effects of climate change. Targets will be subject to review on a 5-year basis.

The goal of limiting global temperature increase to 1.5 °C made it into the agreement through a well concocted lobbying campaign orchestrated by the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS). This was supported by over 100 countries and a large number of civil society organizations. According to the coalition, the half a degree difference is critical to the survival of the world’s poorest countries. In fact, Desmond Tutu once wrote, “A global goal of about 2 degrees is to condemn Africa to incineration.”

Unfortunately, reduction targets in the Paris Agreement are not yet adequate to avoid the disaster of more than 1.5-2°C of warming. More than likely they will lead to a 3 °C warming, which will bring with it disastrous climate change.

The Paris Climate Potluck

The inconsistency between targets and ambition has to do with the way the Paris agreement has been put together.

While the Kyoto Protocol set quantified and legally binding targets for rich countries related to their historic responsibility for causing climate change and current economic capabilities to mitigate them, the Paris agreement is essentially a ‘potluck’ of carbon-cutting plans submitted by each country.

These plans, which in UN jargon are called ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions’, differentiate substantively in ambition and jointly they do not add up to the reductions required to stay below a 1.5 °C or even 2 °C temperature increase. Furthermore, since the Paris agreement does not have any enforcement mechanism, there will be no penalty if countries break their promises.

Developed vs. Developing

A returning schism in the UN climate negotiations is over who should pay for developing countries moving beyond fossil fuels in economic development and also helping them adapt to the adverse effects of climate change. Climate finance is supposed to be new and additional from e.g. development aid.

In Copenhagen, developed countries promised to mobilise $100 billion annually by 2020. This figure has not changed in the Paris Agreement, however new language introduces the possibility of fundraising being a global effort. This will entail developing countries chipping in as well.

Global fundraising for climate finance is highly controversial. Most developing countries find being forced to pay some of the bill for climate change, which they did not cause, very unjust. Meanwhile developed countries argue that the strongest (economic) shoulders should carry the heaviest weight and many of the richest economies today are considered developing countries in the UN climate regime. This has to do with the fact that the division between developing and developed countries was made in 1992, when the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) was established. Back then major economies such as China, India, Brazil and South Africa were a lot less developed than today.

Essentially this boils down to a debate about what should be the basis for obligations: ‘historic emissions’ or ‘current economic capabilities’.

As this question has not been definitively resolved in the Paris Agreement, developed countries will likely look to the private sector to raise capital.

Granted, no one believes that it is possible to resolve the climate problem without engaging the private sector. However, it is important to identify the areas that private sector investments will not cover. Evidence shows that there is a lack of private climate finance flowing towards adaptation, which means that public funding will need to be allocated towards countries hardest hit by climate change.

Everything but the kitchen sink

Parties should also try to avoid creative accounting, such as the newly released report by the OECD, in which developed countries claimed to already be mobilizing $62 billion in climate finance. Using the OECD methodology (which accounts for everything but the kitchen sink) to analyse new promises made in Paris could take that total to $94 billion per year.

Meanwhile an Indian finance ministry analysis of the OECD report said that the real flow of climate finance is closer to $2.2 billion.

The debate over what counts is yet another reason why a clear definition of climate finance is urgently needed if the UN system is to make greater progress in the future. Paris was an important first step, but it will take a lot more consensus building from all parties to keep us in a 1.5–2 °C trajectory.

Is universal primary education working in Uganda?

Students on the MSc International Development programme travel to Uganda each year to conduct relevant research projects:

In the final blog post in the series by students, Emily Olson examines if universal access to primary education means that more children are learning.

By Emily Olson 

As we walked into the inner courtyard, children were spilling out of the packed, dark classrooms and running towards us. One teacher walked around with a stick herding them inside to where they attempted to peer at us through small windows and doors.

The Bweyale Modern Primary School is a private school 224 kilometers north of Kampala. Located near the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, the 672 students live as boarding students with the school or with their families in nearby mud huts or small cement buildings without electricity. While speaking with the Assistant Head Teacher, he listed many of the needs of their school. “There are not enough desks or benches. We need better water. We need books.”

uganda school

Bweyale Modern. Photo Credit: Kate Hollis, 2015.

The need for more supplies was apparent. However, he believed this private school offered a higher quality education than free public schools stating, “In my opinion, the difference between a public school and a private school is that private schools have monitoring and public schools do not.” We asked the last time this school was monitored and he replied, “The director visited today for the first time in a year. He will be getting us desks and benches.” Throughout our discussion we began to see there was a stigma associated with public schools. Even this struggling private school was believed to be better.

uganda school 2.jpg

Bweyale Modern. Photo Credit: Kate Hollis, 2015.

In a country where there is a free Universal Primary Education policy, why would parents choose to pay to send their children to private schools when they are provided with free public education? Many families receive food rations from the World Food Programme, and yet the private schools with expensive tuition costs are overcrowded.

We asked this question multiple times throughout our time in Uganda and the same answer was given repeatedly. One woman said she would never place her daughter in public schooling. Referring to the UPE she said, “People are starting to realize it has been a failure.” One man said he would much rather go to sleep hungry then send his children to public school stating that the quality of public school is different. “Public school doesn’t provide enough education,” he said. Another woman said she would never put her daughter in public education. Instead, she sent her daughter to Kampala, nearly 213 kilometers away, to live with a brother-in-law because she could not afford private primary school tuition fees.

This blog examines the poor quality of UPE funded education and the resulting negative perceptions and stigma attached to public primary schools. Because of the low quality, this is leaving many poor and marginalized children without an acceptable option for their education. In my initial research, the UPE policy appeared to be well viewed and incredibly successful in providing education to poor and marginalized children. However, during this recent fieldwork trip, a different picture was painted as a majority of the poor and marginalized I spoke with believed public education would inhibit their child’s future and would continue the cycle of poverty. The most common explanation for this view was the lack of effective learning as evidenced by low test scores and high student-teacher ratios. By examining these two issues, we will see that despite the high enrollment in UPE, it simply cannot benefit its targeted students without modification of policy implementation and policy practice.

Low Pass rates

Theoretically, the reduction of tuition fees should provide all children the opportunity to receive an education, progress and hopefully continue on to receive further training for a career. Within the first seven years of UPE implementation, the Ministry of Education reported an increase in enrollment rates by 171 percent. While these rates show there was a greater access to primary education, they did not display how many students were struggling to complete and continue schooling into secondary levels. Uganda’s primary school consists of levels P1 to P7. According to a SACMEQ study concerning educational quality in Southern and Eastern Africa, P6 students in Uganda were far behind average learning levels of other countries including neighboring Kenya and Tanzania.

In order to continue on to secondary school, a compulsory exam must be taken and passed. The ODI reports that despite the number of enrolled children doubling, the passing rate has only marginally increased. Table 1.1 demonstrates this low increase in passing and completion rates. By 2007, only half of students nearing the end of their primary education were literate.

odi table

Table 1.1 Indicators of Quality in Primary Education. Source: Hedger et al. (2010).

An ODI Education Sector Budget Case Study of Uganda in 2010 noted “the primary education sub-sector has exhibited persistent weakness in the quality of education as measured by learning achievements such as literacy, numeracy and test scores”. The poor quality of education and the lack of proper resources created a direct impact upon the students’ educational value, learning and overall performance. In the results for mathematics, test scores dropped from 48% to 31% during the 1996 to 1999 period. During this same time, English test scores dropped from 92% to 56%. In 2001, over 100,000 students failed to pass the primary school test allowing them to enter secondary school. This caused what was termed the “UPE bulge”.

The low passing rates prove the students have not been taught the information they have needed in order to perform well in testing. This has led to a greater negative perception of the UPE policy. A primary school head teacher said that less than 5% of her students were likely reach university because of their inability to pass these tests. Studies show that without further education, UPE students will remain in poverty. In order for the UPE to be successful, it must more effectively prepare students to pass tests and eventually continue their education.

High student – teacher ratios

Another issue causing a negative perception of the UPE is the high student-teacher ratios. After the introduction of the UPE, the student-teacher ratio in Ugandan primary schools became among the highest in the world.

One school we attended was an exception to the extremely high ratios. Funded by both the government and NGOs, their classroom size was only an average of 31 students. There was much more time for interaction and the students we observed seemed to understand the lesson very well. As I sat at a table with some of the students towards the back of the classroom, the teacher was calling out instructions. “Write this math problem in your books. Once you have solved the problem, raise your hand so I can come by and check it. Do not move on.”

The children at my table sat for over 10 minutes with their hands raised without having a chance for the teacher to come check their work. As I thought about the average class size in Ugandan schools that do not receive similar NGO funding, it was clear why over 50% of the students were leaving primary school illiterate. If students are not getting the time and attention they need in a classroom of 31 students, it will certainly be difficult to succeed in a classroom double that size.

Interaction with a teacher is a crucial part of learning. In Uganda, with an average of over 50 students per classroom and a reported 100 students per teacher in some rural villages it becomes extremely difficult for the teacher to provide the individual attention needed. According to Deininger, the “counter-productive impact of such high ratios is illustrated by the fact that nationally only three quarters of the students who took the final primary examination in 1999 managed to pass this test.

To ensure sustainability of the accomplishments [of the UPE] improvements in education quality will be required”. The high student-teacher ratio also creates stigma attached to public education. The head teacher of public schools said this is the very reason why there was a large migration from public to private.


Primary education has clearly become more accessible with the UPE. Unfortunately, the UPE is also viewed as ineffective because of the poor quality associated with it. Dr. Yusuf Nsubuga, the Director of Basic and Secondary Education at the Ministry of Education stated, “Any loss in quality is an inevitable, but temporary consequence of expanding access. Globally, whenever there is mass education, in the first years you have to face the challenge of quality”. This poor quality has continued now for over 18 years and is reflected in multiple aspects of education. With low passing rates and high student-teacher ratios many are looking elsewhere for an education that will improve the future of their children.

In order for the UPE to effectively help children, the government must more effectively implement policy to encourage schools to properly teach subjects and provide an education with teacher interaction and smaller classroom sizes. By doing this, it will better prepare children for further education and provide a greater opportunity to leave the poverty cycle.

Oil in Uganda threatens the livelihood of women

Students on the MSc International Development programme travel to Uganda each year to conduct relevant research projects:

In the second of three posts by students, Enock Okara outlines the challenges women  face in accessing compensation for oil exploration.

By Enock Okara 

As Uganda gets closer to the commercial exploitation of its oil reserves in the Albertine-Grabene region north-west of the country, the much anticipated social pressures which the industry has caused on other African countries have started to be felt. The country’s National Oil and Gas Policy specifies the value-addition on crude oil before export and to that end, the government is planning to construct an oil refinery adjacent to the wells.

Article 244 of the Constitution of Uganda gives the government power to access and develop the natural resources of the country as well as the right to compulsorily acquire land in order to facilitate such developments. Accordingly, the government has designated 29 square kilometres of land which will result to the evacuation of people in order to pave for way for the construction of the refinery. The value-addition strategy is expected to trigger other petroleum-related industries and stimulate both local and national economies in what is referred to as a resource led development.

Therefore, to enable the land acquisition process, the government prepared a framework (called the Resettlement Action Plan or simply RAP) to guide the compensation and resettlement process of the project affected persons (PAPs). The general objective of the RAP as stated is “to lay down a framework for managing the loss of economic activities and livelihoods”. Also underlined as a guiding principle of the RAP is “the restoration of the livelihoods of the PAPs to the same or better level compared to the baseline’. Additionally, against the background that women bear the heaviest burden of various social and environmental problems which arise from the oil industry (Oxfam America, 2015), it is laudable that the RAP recognizes women as a vulnerable group “who may be limited in their ability to claim or take advantage of the resettlement assistance” by “decisions of their spouses or caregiver”. Therefore, as a step to stop such potential problems, the RAP affirms that it will “make every effort to ensure that…negative effects are minimized”.

Even so, a closer look at the livelihoods of the women after the RAP was implemented paints a bleak picture. And, if anything at all, the lives of women may have gotten worse than before the resettlement and compensation process was effected. So then, against such a consciously prepared framework, the ultimate question is-what went wrong?

To answer the question would first require the understanding of a few basic issues related to land and customs in Uganda and how they both impact on the lives of Ugandan women. In Uganda, 85 percent of the people live in rural areas most of whom depend on agriculture for their survival. Furthermore, women are noted as being particularly important to the agriculture sector as they account for 80 percent of the total food crop production and more than half of the cash crop production. Whereas that may appear important by any measure, that is just as far as their influence to their households and community goes! In Uganda, customary laws follow a patrilineal system and have it that “property should remain in the male line”.

So essentially, women till land, produce a substantial amount of food for the family but still do not own land nor have control over family assets. Moreover, in some extreme cases, women are also considered as property as is embodied in a question that echoes in most of the rural areas – “how can property own property?”

Land is an important asset in Uganda, and those who own it, make the decisions. Therefore, not only does this situation rip women off their ability to participate and influence decision making processes at the household level, but also makes them financially dependent on men. Schultz (1999) underscores that independent asset ownership can considerably improve women’s bargaining power. Therefore, right from the beginning, it already seems clear that Ugandan women would be limited in their right to fully claim or take advantage of the resettlement assistance when the RAP is implemented.

With that in mind, we can now analyze the RAP and point out some its technical failures which resulted to whole resettlement and compensation process to be an immoral on the well-being of project affected women.

First, in order to facilitate the resettlement and compensation process, the RAP set the 1st of June, 2012 as the cut-off date against which the compensation for investments made on the land would be valued and paid. The cut-off date in its simple sense works this way: any investment made on the land (structures, crops et cetera) before the set date will be valued and compensated accordingly but those made after the set date would not be compensated. Contrastingly, while the valuation of the assets took place swiftly, the compensation money was delayed! The Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) points out that the delayed compensation affected households by creating an ambiguous housing state which forced families to only plant crops which could yield a quick harvest. Similar concerns were also highlighted in a report by the Uganda Human Rights Commission (UHRC) which noted that the delayed compensation was a violation of Article 26 of the Constitution of Uganda which stipulates that citizens can only be deprived to fully use their property rights after a being promptly paid and adequately compensated.

As we noted earlier, a large percentage of households in rural Uganda survive on farming and women are the key players on this front, therefore timely and adequate compensation would be very important in order for the family to plan their next move and secure their livelihoods. Thus, the importance of a swift compensation cannot be overemphasized.

uganda oil

Valuation activity before compensation (HoimaOnline, 2012)

So, the compensation might have been delayed but then, what happens when the money comes? As pointed out earlier, customary laws in Uganda have alienated most women from owning land. This means that, by virtue of men holding the land title, they are entitled to receive the compensation money and decide the next steps on behalf of the household.

To confirm the dire situation and in an attempt to challenge this events, a proposal I made to a Local Council Chairman whom I interviewed in one of the affected villages was met with a soft but firm response, “it is a difficult issue, and we cannot change it for now!”

Levy et al. (2005) emphasizes that soft rules such as customs, operate alongside hard rules such as the constitution and also play a significant role in shaping the interactions within a society. In the Ugandan situation, Ellis and Blackden (2005; p.21) underline that “inequity in marital status and property ownership intersects with cultural attitudes and beliefs to create formidable obstacles to change”. Surprisingly however, the constitution of Uganda explicitly prohibits “laws, cultures, customs or traditions which are against the dignity, welfare or interest of women or which undermine their status’.

To add salt to injury, during a fieldwork mission to Uganda, it was mentioned on numerous occasions by women and men, civil society officials, non-governmental organizations as well as the local government officials that upon receiving the compensation money, men took off to marry other women or blew off the cash in binge drinking! It is little wonder that compensation instead of resettlement by the government was the preferred option by most of the households, and it is rather obvious by now whose decision that was to make!


Socrates, a pig and progressive taxation: A Mirrleesian morality tale

By Cathy Wilcock, Doctoral Researcher, Global Development Institute


Socrates and a pig walk into a bar. Socrates orders a fine bottle of claret and argues for hours with the bartender about Romantic poetry. Being infuriated by the bartender’s base reading of Ozymandias, Socrates attempts to stab the bartender in the heart with his pocketknife. He is so drunk on claret that he misses completely. In the meantime, the pig has ordered several pints of mud and poured them over himself. The bartender slips over in the mud, lands on the pig’s pocketknife and is stabbed in the heart. Who is morally better – Socrates or the pig? And please show your working.

For Utilitarians like Bentham and Mill, the answer lies in the felicitus calculus: the sum total of the happiness produced in the consequences of any given action or inaction. In Socrates’ encounter with the bartender, the sum total of happiness was far greater than in the bartender’s encounter with the pig. In spite of Socrates’ nefarious intentions, he is more morally virtuous in this situation than the pig. For utilitarians, only the consequences matter. Variations of this calculation can, and often are, applied to pressing social, economic and political questions. For example, as in the subject of this seminar, how much should we tax the rich?

For Utilitarians like Nobel prize winning economist James Mirrlees – and his former PhD student Ravi Kanbur, our esteemed speaker – the ‘right’ answer is that which produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Mirrlees developed a calculation for working out what tax rate would maximise the sum of utilities or, in ordinary language, which would make the most people most happy. He concluded that a progressive rate of taxation – where the rich are taxed proportionally more than the poor – would produce the greatest happiness for the greatest number. Therefore, utilitarian calculations can provide evidence for arguments for progressive taxation.

It sounds strange to think that the ‘right’ way to tax people is based on the total amount of happiness produced by taxation. What about justice? Shouldn’t taxation be about evening the playing field which has, through accident of birth, allowed some people to make more money than others? Isn’t ‘happiness’ a crude and naïve way to measure what is best for complex human beings? Can it also be used to justify some types of inequality? For example, if the ‘sum’ of happiness is the most desirable outcome, we are committed to preferring a society where 40% are desperately unhappy and 60% are deliriously happy over a society where 100% are quite happy. All of these are critiques launched at utilitarian approaches by egalitarians who, in this context, we can take to mean creatures who would like to find ways of reducing inequality.

What Kanbur is saying is that these egalitarians, while some of their critiques of utilitarianism hold water, shouldn’t be so sneering at utilitarianism. Why? For two key reasons. First, the Mirrleesian formula provides egalitarians with key evidence to support progressive taxation. In the face of those arguing ‘We shouldn’t tax the rich because if we do, we incentivise them to work less hard and our economy will become inefficient’, egalitarians have a ready-made response in Mirrlees’ calculus. By using Mirrlees they can show exactly how much you can tax the rich before they will reduce their labour supply. Mirrlees’ formula clearly demonstrates that efficiency is not compromised by a progressive tax rate. Utilitarianism therefore, according to Kanbur, gives egalitarians an anchor to argue for progressive taxation.

Secondly, Kanbur builds his case for a utilitarian approach to taxation by arguing that non-consequentialist approaches to taxation proposed by egalitarians as alternatives to utilitarianism, can actually support regressive taxation. For example, an approach based on equality of opportunity, as opposed to outcome/consequence, can paradoxically lead us down a non-egalitarian route towards a regressive tax rate. In an approach which attempts to level the playing field by adjusting for equality of opportunity, we have to demarcate between inequalities that are due to circumstance and inequalities that are due to lack of effort. In following the logic inherent within a framework such as this, Kanbur says, we would end up arguing for a regressive rate of tax. Kanbur argues, in abandoning our calculation of consequences and focusing instead on non-consequentialist approaches to taxation, egalitarians are driving themselves down a non-egalitarian cul-de-sac. This is the last thing that they want!

Therefore, Kabur is arguing that people who are interested in reducing inequality should stop sneering at utilitarianism and actually make use of it in their arguments for progressive taxation. He says, despite their apparent incompatibility, utilitarianism isn’t all that bad a doctrine for egalitarians!

I would like to ask two questions about this argument. The first is – is utilitarianism useful to egalitarians or is it really only Mirrlees who is useful?  On the one hand, utilitarianism positions the ‘right’ action as the one which produces the greatest happiness for the greatest number. On the other hand, the ‘right’ action for egalitarians is that which produces the greatest decrease in the gap between rich and poor. Mirrlees set out with a utilitarian aim of creating a taxation system which maximises the sum of happiness – it just so happened accidentally that the utilitarian outcome was a progressive rate of tax. Utilitarians would accept a regressive tax if that was proven to be the one which maximises happiness, but egalitarians would never accept this. While Mirrlees’ position on progressive tax converges with the ideal outcome for egalitarians on this occasion, it is only really an accidental quirk of Mirrlees’ findings. If another calculation were applied or if circumstances changed, the greatest happiness for the greatest number might be a taxation system which increases inequality. In this sense therefore, egalitarians are perfectly sensible to reject utilitarian frameworks. Sure, Mirrlees’ framework happens to help them out on this occasion but does utilitarianism in and of itself really do them any favours?

Secondly, do egalitarians really need the help of utilitarian approaches? Can they argue for progressive taxation without resting on a utilitarian crutch? The equality of opportunity approach is only one alternative to utilitarian consequentialism which, admittedly leads to regressive arguments. As Kanbur himself pointed out in his talk, alternatives to consequentialism ‘may, but not always, lead to non-egalitarian arguments’. Other alternatives to consequentialism – such as Rawlsian theories of justice and other deontological approaches – don’t lead to arguments for regressive taxation. So my final question is – why should egalitarians cautiously use consequentialist utilitarianism when they can confidently use non-consequentialist egalitarian arguments?

Thanks to Chris Lyon whose comments on the seminar really helped me with this blog.

‘The men are bosses here…’ What is preventing Uganda from eliminating mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS?

Students on the MSc International Development programme travel to Uganda each year to conduct relevant research projects:

In the first of three posts by students, Laura Dempsy reflects upon the difficulties Uganda is facing in its battle to eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS.


By Laura Dempsey 

The population in Uganda is booming and I was constantly reminded of this during a recent research trip out to the country. Commissioners in the Capital spoke, arguably over, enthusiastically about policies designed to target the growing number of youth and members of a small rural village told of tradition requiring them to continue birthing children until they produced a son.

Subsequently the average Ugandan woman births 6 or more children in her lifetime. Couple this with the county’s recent increase in new cases of HIV/AIDS and it becomes clear that the prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS, or as the new programme announced mid-march significantly re-terms it- the elimination of mother to child transmission of HIV/AIDS (EMTCT), remains an important issue to be tackled by Uganda.

A 10 day stay in Uganda brings me to reflect on why the nation is still tackling this form of transmission of HIV/AIDS. Why are women not utilising the EMTCT services? When facing passing a life threatening disease onto your offspring, what factors are preventing women from taking necessary action to prevent transmission? The following reflection is drawn from meetings, interviews and discussions with Ugandan’s in various national ministries, non-governmental organisations and lastly, and arguably most vitally, local, every day Ugandans. Subsequently I must disclose that the following discussion has severe research limitations and is relevant only to the specific districts and groups in which I collected the information. Before I left for Uganda I wrote a piece analysing the barriers and drivers influencing the use of EMTCT services within the country framed by the Health Belief Model and as such this reflection will also use this same lens (Janz & Becker, 1984). I previously discussed a wide range of perceived barriers and benefits but I will focus on the most noteworthy that I witnessed during the trip.

Ugandan stamp

HIV prevention message on Ugandan stamps

Tied to potential renewed stigmatisation due to the HIV and AIDS Prevention and Control Act that was signed into law in 2014 , the most prominent barrier to women making use of EMTCT services is the grave gender inequality present throughout Uganda, reconfirming what I had previously read. Rural women speak of males as ‘bosses’, whom even as early as seven years old refuse to help their mothers as they take their place in the heavily patriarchal society.

In Buliisa many men assign themselves to a life of fishing and drinking as their female counterparts farm and provide for the household, observing first-hand how schools send only female students to collect water in jerry cans, leaving their male counterparts in class. Even in urban Kampala, one university educated female, spoke of the gendered domestic expectations that society already has destined for her and the shocking rates of rapes of young girls and tales of prostitution further highlight women’s inferior status in Ugandan society.

hiv prevention.jpg

HIV prevention message at Buliisa school

Particularly in rural Uganda this over-reliance on women to provide for the household, means that many simply don’t have the time to attend antenatal care, as literature on competing demands of women had previously suggested, with some working in their fields until their labour begins. This gender inequality also prevails in concrete and traditional gender roles in Ugandan society. There is a social requirement for men to be ‘strong’, unexpected to seek medical help until it is a fatal matter, contrasting sharply and unproductively with how I found certain EMTCT clinics to operate, reducing utilisation of services.

Previously I had discussed the successes of male involvement in other African countries and concluded this could be the way to encourage women to utilise EMTCT, yet the reality that greeted me in Uganda illustrates the complexities of drawing men into the EMTCT process. Many hospitals and health clinics offer HIV/AIDS couples testing and some withhold results until partners attended clinic with the pregnant women.

Despite these good intentions, rather than reducing perceived barriers faced by pregnant women, such practice has instead created new barriers. A nurse at Buliisa’s level 5 hospital contributed the current phenomenon of women bringing in random men, in some cases paying BodaBoda (motorbike) drivers to act as their ‘husbands’ to obligatory couple testing.

hiv clinic

A couples testing sign outside a clinic in Buliisa District

The Aids Support Organisation (TASO) has recognised this bad practice and instead of enforcing tests has designed incentives to encourage couples testing. Couples are offered meals while at the clinic or are seen quicker by health workers to challenge the barriers of lack of time and the necessity to provide for their families that prevent males from accompanying their pregnant wives to clinic. Such practices though may disproportionately disadvantage women with unplanned and teenage pregnancies. These women could be further discouraged from using EMTCT services when the father of the child is unknown or unable to attend clinic, a common occurrence in rural areas with high prostitution and numbers of early pregnancies.

Another barrier to EMTCT, previously suggested by literature – the distance women had to travel to EMTCT clinics does appear apparent in rural Buliisa.  Yet what has stronger influence was the lack of perceived benefits of seeking EMTCT treatment, by the rural population. Buliisa has, off the back of Tallow Oil Company’s corporate social responsibility scheme, been built a hospital, but after visiting it the failings in health services are clear as cited in literature. There was only one Doctor on the staff list, most of the wards were barren of furniture and any equipment the hospital did have was piled up, unused. The administrator at the hospital told of a lack of drugs as they were yet to be allocated a budget for medication and instead were ‘sharing’ drugs with a clinic in the town.

uganda focus grp

Focus group: Buliisa village

Employees of TASO reconfirmed these problems as they discussed a lack of human resources, medication and equipment stock outs as major problems in EMTCT implementation for many clinics. In some regions there is one midwife

Uganda is attempting to solve its staffing problems with the Ministry of Health offering scholarships to nurses who want to specialise in midwifery, with a commitment that on qualification they will work in rural areas, such as Buliisa where human resource lacking are more prevalent, yet they must also evaluate wages to ensure these trainees aren’t poached by countries such as South Sudan and South Africa, whom offer competitive benefits to midwives. Uganda is facing a ‘brain drain’ of its trained medical staff to surrounding and higher paying countries .

Reminiscent of resource lacking’s throughout the country TASO employees informed me of one case in Jinja where a Doctor had refused to deliver a baby as the clinic had no surgical gloves, instead referring the mother to another health facility who subsequently died en route.  Such stories coupled with a widespread presence of bribing medical staff for treatment results in the perceived benefits of attending EMTCT clinics being precariously low for Ugandan women. Why go to the effort of seeking EMTCT when the treatment provided is below standard anyway from under-educated and low numbers of staff, especially when Uganda’s current policy on HIV/AIDS requires mothers to be on ARV’s for life -a difficult ask during stock outs.

It seems the government has a lot more responsibility than I had previously suggested in tackling EMTCT. Yes, structural inequalities deter women from accessing EMTCT services, but alongside challenging these, the budget for health needs to be increased to enable successful implementation of EMTCT polices. The complexities and multi-dimensional barriers to EMTCT though means that just increasing the budget would only be one part of the puzzle for successful EMTCT.

The poor in Uganda speak of hunger killing them today, with AIDS a distant threat of coming years and so through utilisation of the health belief model it is easy to see how the perceived benefits of engaging in sex-work and avoiding attending PMTCT outweigh the barriers, ensuring themselves and their families can survive the day.

Although Uganda’s and its NGO’s efforts to involve men in EMTCT services to control the spread of HIV/AIDS should be congratulated for its good intentions they need to review the effects this is having at household level. A programme designed specifically for young mothers and sex workers, if implemented correctly could also make some progress in achieving EMTCT as there doesn’t appear to be any real focus on these mothers in EMTCT services at present and they are already facing so many barriers to treatment.


Academic publishing and the (hidden) dynamics of censorship

By Dr. Tanja Müller 

I just had an article published in Africa Spectrum on Universal Rights versus Exclusionary Politics, using aspirations and despair among Eritrean refugees in Tel Aviv as the case study. This article was originally submitted to a different Journal that focuses on ‘Africa’, and the way it was rejected raises serious concerns about peer review processes and how individual hatred and vanities can impede on those – if the editors allow this to happen.

For the original submission, two referees were consulted. The verdict of one of those was that the article was a fascinating piece, constituting a timely and interesting work of scholarship, and to publish with minor suggestions. The verdict of the other reviewer was not a verdict; really, it was a rant, frequently crossing the boundaries between professional judgment and personal insults. The field of Eritrean Studies is a small field with clear fault lines, and one can usually work out easily who the reviewer has been.

The journal editors sent me both reviews, apologizing for the tone in one, with the verdict to reject the paper straight away. I was, to be frank, quite astonished. Not because of the rejection itself, I would have had no problem with that if based on sound judgment and evaluation, as this is part of the experience of life in academia. But the fact that what was a six-page long demolition, often using single sentences out of context to make rather insulting remarks, would count as the base for that verdict, left me quite speechless. I would have at least expected a third reviewer to be consulted.

I did raise the manner of feedback and decision making with the editors at the time, and got a reply along the following lines: They themselves were a bit taken aback by the tone of the review – and that there had been a discussion whether to send it to me at all. But that was not really the issue, I rather know what decisions are based on than not. They then continued to say that neither editor had any particular expertise on the topic thus had to rely on suggestions of others on adequate reviewers, and once those were chosen one needed to respect their verdicts – well, in this case the verdict of one of those, who happened to be somebody obviously not fit to write such reviews in the spirit of the game. It was also suggested that in such cases of a bitterly divided scholarly community one might point out upon submission certain people from whom one might not get a fair review – but then cautioned that such a statement might be treated with suspicion in itself.

I do not know how many papers never get published because of a personal vendetta by certain reviewers (I do know some of my colleagues working on equally divided area studies themes do not submit to certain journals because of who sits on the editorial board, but do not think this almost self-censorship should become part of academic practice) – and in fact the reviewer in question has a history of feedback that is personal rather than topical. Also, if the editors would have cared to look, I had some years back reviewed one of the books of said person quite critically, and this might, one would have wished, given some pause for thought and drawn a third reviewer in. Ironically, under the previous editorship, a third opinion was always sought in such cases. I once was that third reviewer for an article by said referee that was badly written but dealt with an important subject I found worth publishing, so I had a role to play in ‘saving’ that submission.

In the end, this editorial decision-making that to my mind amounts to a form of censorship and certainly contravenes what I would regard appropriate standards of a refereeing process did me a great favour. The paper is out now in an Open Access Journal (that even has a higher impact factor – not that I care much about that in making decisions where to publish my work) – something I think all academic publications should be. I find the fact that publishing houses make a profit from often publicly financed scholarly work that should clearly be available to everybody in the general public interested enough to read it unethical and rather appalling. But that would be the theme for another blog. And the readers of this blog may judge for themselves what they make of my article – freely available to all.


The article in question is Tanja R. Müller, “Universal rights versus exclusionary politics: Aspirations and despair among Eritrean refugees in Tel Aviv,” Afrika Spectrum 50, no.3(2015) : 3-27, available at

Ravi Kanbur asks is utilitarianism is all that bad a doctrine for egalitarians?

The first semester of the Global Development Seminar Series was brought to a close with a fascinating lecture from Professor Ravi Kanbur last week.

Professor Kanbur questioned if utilitarianism is really at odds with egalitarian ends, particularly for critical policy issues such as setting progressive rates of income tax. He argues that the “bad odour” surrounding utilitarian approaches has led to a slippery slope of in-egalitarian consequences in policy making. Listen to his full lecture here:

Listen to Seminar 4: David Hulme on the SDGs as transformation or evolution?

Listen to Seminar 3: Sandra Halperin on Re-Envisioning Global Development: A ‘Horizontal’ Approach.

Listen to Seminar 2: Dan Brockington on The Paradoxes of Celebrity Advocacy.

Listen to Seminar 1: Melissa Leach on Equality, Sustainability, Security: Towards Transformations in Global Development.