Weekend round 2…a formal request
What a week it has been…
Monday I had the rather surreal honour to cancel my appointment with my dentist to ensure I would be able to go and see the Prime Minister of Kosovo, Hashim Thaci, speak to a room of about 60 people at Korbel. This was followed by an equally surreal Tuesday, during which I ate dinner with renowned economist, Dean Baker, founder of the left-leaning Centre for Economic Policy Research in DC, and the lovely Ilene Grabel, our perhaps even more renowned GFTEI program co-director, before hearing Baker speak about the subject of his book “Loser Liberalism: Making Markets Progressive”. Baker’s book is a story about how markets are structured to distribute wealth upwards and how “liberals” should be seeking to get this structure changed rather than committing to a “defeatist” type position that the key is simply in taxing the rich to provide some sort of compensation for the poor/er. Very interesting stuff – and available free on his website, CEPR.net, because he doesn’t believe in patents!
(By the way, if you’re wondering how I ended up going to dinner with Baker…. well that’s just what happens when you randomly talk to your econ professor about being interested in another econ professor’s work/writings that he happens to admire and plans to bring to the campus, apparently!).
Next, on Thursday, one of my lovely Korbel friends took me to visit a tutoring centre set up by Steve Job’s wife, Laurene Powell Jobs. My friend tutors there and I am interested in helping out come the fall. College Track caters to kids at public schools in Aurora, CO, with the aim of getting them – mostly minority kids from lower income backgrounds whose parents may never have been to college – into tertiary education. Very impressive place. All the kids have access to mac laptops and ipads to help them do their homework, not to mention just an awesome environment to actually get their work done, which so many kids lack. Colorado is a much more diverse place socioeconomically and racially than it may seem at first glance, especially to those who only stay within the “DU bubble”. It also has some major education challenges, and so this kind of place that is seeking to bridge the achievement gap between those in schools in particular zipcodes and some of those in the more well off districts is definitely much needed.
Saturday was Korbel Prom (also known as “put a couple hundred Korbel students in a room and see how quickly and how long they will dance for”…with the answer to that being “Very Quickly” and “Until You Kick Them Out”). Nuff said. Sunday a good friend from Korbel was getting ready to leave for Uganda, where she is going to be a country director for Help International overseeing a group of about 20 undergraduate interns and volunteers, and so we got together for an emotional but excited goodbye.
So a pretty busy week/weekend all in all, particularly when you add to that a midterm paper for my Capital Markets in Africa class, Statistics and four hours of Econometrics. It’s now Monday and I kind of feel like I need another weekend to get over my week/weekend!
But before we’re done, just a little special mention for the PM of Kosovo, who definitely deserves the title for being one of the more creepy heads of state I have encountered. Quite possibly this was something I projected upon him, given enduring press reports that as the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army prior to Kosovo’s independence, he allegedly committed crimes such as organ and drug trafficking (that’s right..organs!), called for contract killings and other such wartime nastiness. He was, ofcourse, questioned about this following his talk (go Korbel!) and, of course, totally obfuscated, muttering something about “truth, justice and reconciliation”. Still, an interesting experience to be in the presence of the current sitting Prime Minister of Europe’s most recent state to declare independence (still fighting for recognition in fact) who has the type of (alleged) back story which could have made him the subject of a pretty gruesome horror/war movie. OH and he has a pretty wicked and inexplicable tan which can’t help but add to things somehow.
Other than that, big GFTEI-related news this week has related to the race for the Presidency of the World Bank and further moves by asian nations to form their own “Asian Monetary Fund” in order to reduce their reliance in times of crisis on the IMF. Both are positive signs that some things are changing in the world of these multilateral institutions which have been US-leadership and Washington-consensus-centric since their inception. Disappointing however, was the fact that even though he is the first non-US born president and he does have more merit than previous purely politically-motivated appointments, Jim Yong Kim does not appear to have the qualifications for the job exhibited by others in the race, such as Nigerian Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and a former Colombian finance minister, Jose Antonio Ocampo.
(Kim currently serves as President of Dartmouth College and a Public Health expert who has headed the World Health Organisation’s HIV/AIDS department and co-founded Partners in Health).
I liked this quote from Ocampo which appeared in the press earlier this week a lot. As far as I can tell, it pretty much represents my thinking on development and I definitely believe that such an ethos should be embedded more deeply within these multilateral institutions such as the World Bank which are directing development terms to countries around the world.
Says Ocampo: Successful development “is always the result of a good combination of market, state and society. If you try to get rid of markets, that will result in severe inefficiencies and loss of dynamism. To try to move forward without the state provokes unfair or unstable results, while ignoring social actors takes away the legitimacy needed for successful policies.”
Pretty sensible, no?