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  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Africa Center for Strategic Studies
  • Abstract: Militant Islamist groups in Africa set a record pace of activity in 2019, reflecting a doubling of militant Islamist activity from 2013. Expanded activity in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin underscores diversification of threat from Somalia.
  • Topic: United Nations, Violent Extremism, ISIS, Militant Islam
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Mozambique, Somalia, Sahel, Lake Chad Basin
  • Author: Alaa Tartir
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Palestinian political leadership’s obsession with the idea of statehood as a means to realise self-determination and freedom has proved to be detrimental to the struggle of decolonising Palestine. By prioritising “statehood under colonialism” instead of focusing on decolonising Palestine first and then engaging in state formation, the Palestinian leadership – under pressure from regional and international actors – disempowered the people and empowered security structures which ultimately serve the colonial condition.
  • Topic: State Formation, Colonialism, Decolonization, Repression
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Intissar Kherigi
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: An account of the Arab uprisings of the last decade would be incomplete without an understanding of regional inequalities. While each country’s protests were driven by a distinct combination of grievances, a common factor has been the marginalisation of “peripheries”. The Sidi Bouzid region of Tunisia from which the Arab Spring started is a region rich in agricultural resources yet poor in infrastructure and economic opportunities. Its connection rate to running water is half the national average. A similar story can be seen across the flashpoints of unrest in the Arab world, a story of widening urban-rural divides, uneven regional development and political and economic exclusion of entire regions. Can decentralisation address these grievances? Since the 1980s, decentralisation has been championed as a driver for both democratisation and development, promising to empower regions, granting them political representation and enabling them to create their own economic strategies. However, a key fear among many, from politicians and bureaucrats to ordinary citizens, is that decentralisation is a means for the central state to withdraw from its traditional functions and transfer responsibility for service provision to under-resourced and over-burdened local government. Yet, the demands for freedom, dignity and social justice voiced by the Arab uprisings require the central state to be more present in peripheries, not less. Can decentralisation help achieve greater local development in peripheral regions without allowing the central state to withdraw from its obligations to citizens? Is it even possible to envisage new forms of local development within the framework of highly centralised Arab states? How can Arab states reconfigure their relations with local communities in the context of severe political and economic crises? This article explores these questions in the Tunisian context, where a major decentralisation process is taking place in response to demands for inclusion and development. It argues that in order to produce new modes of local development in peripheries, central state institutions need to fundamentally reform the way they function.
  • Topic: Inequality, Arab Spring, Decentralization , Bureaucracy
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Tunisia, Tunis
  • Author: Alex Walsh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The 2011 Egyptian protests started in earnest nine years ago on National Police Day on 25 January, a holiday that Hosni Mubarak had introduced to commemorate Egyptian police officers killed and wounded by British colonial forces in 1952. Protesters upended the original meaning of the holiday to turn it into a symbol of police brutality and corruption under Mubarak. In the drama of the 18 days that followed, Egypt’s internal security apparatus fought the protesters in the streets, delivering one shocking provocation after another, galvanizing the protest movement and ultimately contributing to the removal of Mubarak. Since 2011, the police and internal security forces of many countries in the Arab world have been at the centre of the conflicts and struggles that shape the region for better and for worse. Recent and ongoing encounters between protestors and police in the streets of Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria and Sudan are a stark reminder that the police are more than just a proxy target for a protestation of the state. They are also the object of much anger both as a grouping, and in terms of the concept of policing and social control they embody. The impact of this sustained contestation of police behaviour and doctrine in the region deserves reflection. Has the police and policing changed in the Arab world? And if so, in what ways? This paper maps out some of the main modes in which the police and policing have been contested since 2011, and provides a preliminary assessment of its impact. It argues that mass mobilised contestation has only been successful in the instance where institutional reform followed. It notes that hybridisation of policing – where informal security actors cooperate and challenge formal security actors – has spread in many countries but that the concept of state security – with its emphasis on the state over citizens – continues to prevail across the region. Indeed, almost a decade after that fateful 25 January 2011, many of the aspirations of citizens protesting the police are far from realised, even while there are some promising developments.
  • Topic: Protests, Repression, Police, Police State
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Egypt, Cairo
  • Author: Carmen Geha
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Lebanese women have been leaders in the revolution that has shaken Lebanon since October 2019. This paper argues that the next stage will be critical if women want to transform their involvement into equal rights. For them to do so, they need to move beyond informal revolutionary politics to formal electoral and party politics with meaningful and substantive representation.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Human Rights, United Nations, Social Movement, Feminism, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Beirut
  • Author: Shamindra Nath Roy, Partha Mukhopadhyay
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Centre for Policy Research, India
  • Abstract: India is one of the lowest globally in terms of female labour force participation (FLFP), ranking only better than Pakistan in South Asia. While the decline in FLFP in rural areas is starkly visible, the urban FLFP has been consistently low since the 1980s despite higher economic growth and increasing level of education among females. The economic cost of such low FLFP (16.8%) is huge and if, for instance, it could be raised to the level of FLFP in China (61.5%), it has the potential to raise India’s GDP up to 27%. This paper attempts to investigate the structural deficiencies behind this consistently low urban FLFP through a variety of perspectives, ranging from measuring the complexity of women’s work to the implications of caste, location and family structure. It finds factors like presence of female-friendly industries, provision of regular salaried jobs and policies that cater to women’s needs to work near home like availability of part-time work, can improve the situation, though prejudices arising from patriarchy require to be addressed to make these measures truly transformative and not palliative.
  • Topic: Education, Gender Issues, Labor Issues, Women, Inequality, Economy
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Trevon Logan, Peter Temin
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET)
  • Abstract: This paper records the path by which African Americans were transformed from enslaved persons in the American economy to partial participants in the progress of the economy. The path was not monotonic, and we organize our tale by periods in which inclusiveness rose and fell. The history we recount demonstrates the staying power of the myth of black inferiority held by a changing white majority as the economy expanded dramatically. Slavery was outlawed after the Civil War, and blacks began to participate in American politics en masse for the first time during Reconstruction. This process met with white resistance, and black inclusion in the growing economy fell as the Gilded Age followed and white political will for black political participation faded. The Second World War also was followed by prosperity in which blacks were included more fully into the white economy, but still not completely. The Civil Rights Movement proved no more durable than Reconstruction, and blacks lost ground as the 20th century ended in the growth of a New Gilded Age. Resources that could be used to improve the welfare of whites and blacks continue to be spent on the continued repressions of blacks.
  • Topic: Economics, Race, History, Capitalism, Slavery
  • Political Geography: United States, Global Focus
  • Author: You Young Kim
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Carnegie Council
  • Abstract: Hearing my grandfather state, "I'm forever grateful to Kim Il-sung," baffled me. His words of gratitude to the first supreme leader and the eternal president of North Korea did not match his heartbreaking tale of defecting to the South during the Korean War. Recalling his stories of hiding in the mountains and his relatives trapped in the isolated dictatorial communist state, I couldn't fathom being grateful for a man who pushed my grandfather to make such a difficult choice when he was only a few years older than I am now.
  • Topic: International Affairs, Democracy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Perla Issa
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Institute for Palestine Studies
  • Abstract: This article examines the practices of humanitarian aid distribution from the perspective of aid recipients rather than providers through an immersion in the daily home life of Palestinian residents of Nahr al-Barid refugee camp (north Lebanon) in 2011. It argues that in the name of distributing aid fairly, humanitarian aid providers put in place a pervasive system of surveillance to monitor, evaluate, and compare residents’ misery levels by relying on locally recruited aid workers. This regime of visibility was designed to be one directional; NGOs never disclosed how much aid they had available, nor when or how it would be distributed. The inclusion of local aid workers in this opaque framework turned a process that relied on community and neighborhood ties into an impersonal machine that fostered doubt and suspicion and ultimately hindered the community’s ability to engage in collective political action.
  • Topic: Humanitarian Aid, International Security, International Affairs, Occupation
  • Political Geography: Palestine
  • Author: David Deming
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) jobs are a key contributor to economic growth and national competitiveness. Yet STEM workers are perceived to be in short supply. This paper shows that the “STEM shortage” phenomenon is explained by technological change, which introduces new job skills and makes old ones obsolete. We find that the initially high economic return to applied STEM degrees declines by more than 50 percent in the first decade of working life. This coincides with a rapid exit of college graduates from STEM occupations. Using detailed job vacancy data, we show that STEM jobs change especially quickly over time, leading to flatter age-earnings profiles as the skills of older cohorts became obsolete. Our findings highlight the importance of technology-specific skills in explaining life-cycle returns to education, and show that STEM jobs are the leading edge of technology diffusion in the labor market.
  • Topic: International Organization, International Political Economy, Science and Technology, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Maciej Kotowski
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper investigates the formation of production and trading networks in an economy with general interdependencies and complex property rights. The right to exclude,a core tenet of property, grants asset owners a form of monopoly power that influences granular economic interactions. Equilibrium networks reflect the distribution of these ownership claims. Inefficient production networks may endure in equilibrium as firms multi-source to mitigate hold-up risk. Short supply chains also reduce this risk, but may preclude the production of complex goods. A generalized Top Trading Cycles algorithm, applicable to a production economy, identifies equilibrium outcomes in the model. Such outcomes can be decentralized via a price system.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, International Affairs, Intellectual Property/Copyright, National & provincial initiatives
  • Political Geography: America
  • Author: John Gerard Ruggie
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: On August 19, 2019, the U.S. Business Roundtable (BR), comprising the CEOs of more than 200 of America’s largest corporations, issued a new mission statement on “the purpose of a corporation” (BR, 2019a). The press release noted that each periodic update on principles of corporate governance since 1997 had endorsed the principle of maximizing shareholder value. In contrast, the new statement commits signatory CEOs “to lead their companies for the benefit of all stakeholders – customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders” (BR, 2019b). “[Milton] Friedman must be turning in his grave,” a Fortune magazine article declared (Murray, 2019)
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Richard Zeckhauser
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper argues that historical analysis, necessarily written with hindsight, often underestimates the uncertainties of the past. We call this tendency explanation bias. This bias leads individuals – including professional historians – to imply greater certainty in causal analyses than the evidence justifies. Their analyses will treat what is plausible to be probable. We offer a few intuitions about why explanation bias exists, its relation to other well-established psychological biases, what it leads to, and how it might be combatted. Appreciating the depth of uncertainty and ignorance in our world is critical for accurately understanding, interpreting, and drawing from the past to illuminate the present and the near future
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 08-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We study the drivers of financial distress using a large-scale field experiment that offered randomly selected borrowers a combination of (i) immediate payment reductions to target short- run liquidity constraints and (ii) delayed interest write-downs to target long-run debt constraints. We identify the separate e?ects of the payment reductions and interest write-downs using both the experiment and cross-sectional variation in treatment intensity. We find that the interest write-downs significantly improved both financial and labor market outcomes, despite not taking effect for three to five years. In sharp contrast, there were no positive e?ects of the more immediate payment reductions. These results run counter to the widespread view that financial distress is largely the result of short-run constraints.
  • Topic: International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We estimate the causal effects of parental incarceration on children’s short- and long-run outcomes using administrative data from Sweden. Our empirical strategy exploits exogenous variation in parental incarceration from the random assignment of criminal defendants to judges with different incarceration tendencies. We find that the incarceration of a parent in childhood leads to a significant increase in teen crime and significant decreases in educational attainment and adult employment. The effects are concentrated among children from the most disadvantaged families, where criminal convictions increase by 10 percentage points, high school graduation decreases by 25 percentage points, and employment at age 25 decreases by 29 percentage points. In contrast, there are no detectable effects among children from more advantaged families. These results suggest that the incarceration of parents with young children may significantly increase the intergenerational persistence of poverty and criminal behavior, even in affluent countries with extensive social safety nets.
  • Topic: International Political Economy, International Affairs, Prisons/Penal Systems
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Will Dobbie
  • Publication Date: 10-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This paper tests for bias in consumer lending using administrative data from a high-cost lender in the United Kingdom. We motivate our analysis using a new principal-agent model of bias, which predicts that profits should be higher for the most illiquid loan applicants at the margin if loan examiners are biased. We identify the profitability of marginal applicants using the quasi-random assignment of loan examiners. Consistent with our model, we find significant bias against immigrant and older applicants when using the firm’s preferred measure of long-run profits, but not when using the short-run measure used to evaluate examiner performance. Keywords: Discrimination, Consumer Credit
  • Topic: Debt, International Political Economy, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Todd Rogers
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Many states mandate districts or schools notify parents when students have missed multiple unexcused days of school. We report a randomized experiment (N = 131,312) evaluating the impact of sending parents truancy notifications modified to target behavioral barriers that can hinder effective parental engagement. Modified truancy notifications that used simplified language, emphasized parental efficacy, and highlighted the negative incremental effects of missing school reduced absences by 0.07 days compared to the standard, legalistic, and punitively-worded notification—an estimated 40% improvement. This work illustrates how behavioral insights and randomized experiments can be used to improve administrative communications in education.
  • Topic: International Relations, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Ricardo Hausmann, Patricio Goldstein, Ana Grisanti, Tim O'Brien, Jorge Tapia, Miguel Ajgel Santos
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Jordan faces a number of pressing economic challenges: low growth, high unemployment, rising debt levels, and continued vulnerability to regional shocks. After a decade of fast economic growth, the economy decelerated with the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-09. From then onwards, various external shocks have thrown its economy out of balance and prolonged the slowdown for over a decade now. Conflicts in neighboring countries have led to reduced demand from key export markets and cut off important trade routes. Foreign direct investment, which averaged 12.7% of gross domestic product (GDP) between 2003-2009, fell to 5.1% of GDP over the 2010-2017. Regional conflicts have interrupted the supply of gas from Egypt – forcing Jordan to import oil at a time of record prices, had a negative impact on tourism, and also provoked a massive influx of migrants and refugees. Failure to cope with 50.4% population growth between led to nine consecutive years (2008-2017) of negative growth rates in GDP per capita, resulting in a cumulative loss of 14.0% over the past decade (2009-2018). Debt to GDP ratios, which were at 55% by the end of 2009, have skyrocketed to 94%. Over the previous five years Jordan has undertaken a significant process of fiscal consolidation. The resulting reduction in fiscal impulse is among the largest registered in the aftermath of the Financial Crises, third only to Greece and Jamaica, and above Portugal and Spain. Higher taxes, lower subsidies, and sharp reductions in public investment have in turn furthered the recession. Within a context of lower aggregate demand, more consolidation is needed to bring debt-to-GDP ratios back to normal. The only way to break that vicious cycle and restart inclusive growth is by leveraging on foreign markets, developing new exports and attracting investments aimed at increasing competitiveness and strengthening the external sector. The theory of economic complexity provides a solid base to identify opportunities with high potential for export diversification. It allows to identify the existing set of knowhow, skills and capacities as signaled by the products and services that Jordan is able to make, and to define existing and latent areas of comparative advantage that can be developed by redeploying them. Service sectors have been growing in importance within the Jordanian economy and will surely play an important role in export diversification. In order to account for that, we have developed an adjusted framework that allows to identify the most attractive export sectors including services. Based on that adjusted framework, this report identifies export themes with a high potential to drive growth in Jordan while supporting increasing wage levels and delivering positive spillovers to the non-tradable economy. The general goal is to provide a roadmap with key elements of a strategy for Jordan to return to a high economic growth path that is consistent with its emerging comparative advantages.
  • Topic: Government, International Trade and Finance, Finance, Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Jordan
  • Author: Arvind Subramanian, Josh Felman
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: We examine the pattern of growth in the 2010s. Standard explanations cannot account for the long slowdown, followed by a sharp collapse. Our explanation stresses both structural and cyclical factors, with finance as the distinctive, common element. In the immediate aftermath of the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), two key drivers of growth decelerated. Export growth slowed sharply as world trade stagnated, while investment fell victim to a homegrown Balance Sheet crisis, which came in two waves. The first wave—the Twin Balance Sheet crisis, encompassing banks and infrastructure companies—arrived when the infrastructure projects started during India’s investment boom of the mid-2000s began to go sour. The economy nonetheless continued to grow, despite temporary, adverse demonetization and GST shocks, propelled first by income gains from the large fall in international oil prices, then by government spending and a non-bank financial company (NBFC)-led credit boom. This credit boom financed unsustainable real estate inventory accumulation, inflating a bubble that finally burst in 2019. Consequently, consumption too has now sputtered, causing growth to collapse. As a result, India is now facing a Four Balance Sheet challenge—the original two sectors, plus NBFCs and real estate companies—and is trapped in an adverse interest-growth dynamic, in which risk aversion is leading to high interest rates, depressing growth, and generating more risk aversion. Standard remedies are unavailable: monetary policy is stymied by a broken transmission mechanism; large fiscal stimulus will only push up already-high interest rates, worsening the growth dynamic. The traditional structural reform agenda—land and labour market measures—are important for the medium run but will not address the current problems. Addressing the Four Balance Sheet problem decisively will be critical to durably reviving growth. Raising agricultural productivity is also high priority. And even before that, a Data Big Bang is needed to restore trust and enable better policy design.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Economy, Global Political Economy, Economic growth, Global Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: South Asia, India
  • Author: Jie Bai, Jiahua Liu
  • Publication Date: 12-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: It is well known that various forms of non-tariff trade barriers exist within a country. Empirically, it is difficult to measure these barriers as they can take many forms. We take advantage of a nationwide VAT rebate policy reform in China as a natural experiment to identify the existence of these intranational barriers due to local protectionism and study the impact on exports and exporting firms. As a result of shifting tax rebate burden, the reform leads to a greater incentive of the provincial governments to block the domestic flow of non-local goods to local export intermediaries. We develop an open-economy heterogenous firm model that incorporates multiple domestic regions and multiple exporting technologies, including the intermediary sector. Consistent with the model’s predictions, we find that rising local protectionism leads to a reduction in interprovincial trade, more “inward-looking” sourcing behavior of local intermediaries, and a reduction in manufacturing exports. Analysis using micro firm-level data further shows that private companies with greater baseline reliance on export intermediaries are more adversely affected.
  • Topic: International Trade and Finance, Political Economy, Reform, Tariffs
  • Political Geography: China, Asia