Sarah Chayes, ‘Thieves of State’

Thieves picAnti-corruption used to be something of a policy backwater for development agencies. When I started working at DFID’s London office in 2003 I sat next to the anti-corruption team. They were an enthusiastic lot, but there were only 3½ of them, and they were working against the spirit of the times in many ways, with increasing amounts of UK aid going directly to developing country governments in the form of budget support. Nowadays, anti-corruption is flavour of the month in UK development circles. The Prime Minister is putting a lot of emphasis on it, and will hold an anti-corruption summit in May this year. There is a cross-Government anti-corruption action plan. There have been two reports on the issue from the UK aid watchdog – the Independent Commission on Aid Impact – and Parliament’s International Development Committee is now getting in on the action. The issue also seems to be getting more attention globally, with the new UN Sustainable Development Goals putting much more emphasis on corruption than the previous Millennium Development Goals. In the midst of all this, I played my own personal role in the anti-corruption ‘surge’, becoming the first (I think) dedicated anti-corruption adviser for a DFID country office, in Tanzania from 2012-2015.

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Amartya Sen, ‘The Country of First Boys’

Sen First Boys“A novel”, writes Amartya Sen, “can point to a truth without pretending to capture it exactly in some imagined numbers and formulae” – and the same could be said for this book. If you tend to agree with the consensus that Amartya Sen is one of the most important development thinkers of our time, but find your eyes glazing over when he gets into “capability vectors” or “transcendental institutionalism”, The Country of First Boys may be for you. It is an accessible introduction to the main themes of Sen’s thought, as well as a good insight into his more personal interests and priorities.

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Steven Radelet, ‘The Great Surge’

Great Surge pic

Welcome to Development Book Review! I hope you enjoy the reviews on this site, and that they’re useful.

In this blog I’d like to review books by both development advocates and critics –those who celebrate development progress and those who take a more critical stance. The first book I’m going to review is definitely in the former camp. Steven Radelet’s The Great Surge is an account of how the past 20 years have been “a time of the greatest development progress among the global poor in the history of the world”.

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