McSchooling in Kenya

Great story in Wired about The Bridge International and its standardized cheap(ish) private schools in Kenya.

There are now 212 Bridge Academies in Kenya with around 50,000 total students.

Bridge’s CEO, a former Silicon Valley entrepreneur named Jay Kimmelman, compares his company to Starbucks and McDonald’s — organizations that offer a consistent experience no matter where in the world you encounter them. Beyond its 212 branded academies in Kenya, Bridge has set its sights on Nigeria, Uganda, and India. The founders intend to be serving half a million children in 30 countries by 2015, and 10 million by 2025. “We’ve systematized every aspect of how you run a school,” Kimmelman says. “How you manage it. How you interact with parents. How you teach. How you check on school managers, and how you support them.” 

The “catch” is that this schooling costs $5 per pupil per month.

The article touts the good results these schools achieve, but there is no rigorous evaluation presented.

Why is it so impossible to imagine that cheap standardized private schooling becomes the dominant education model in Kenya, with the Government using vouchers to get to universal enrollment for those who $5 a month is too daunting a sum?

Please do read the whole article. It’s fascinating.

Surprising Nicaraguan News

Two stories about Nicaragua caught my eye today.

First, President Daniel Ortega rushed to congratulate the newly elected President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández. This surprised me since Orlando Hernández is from a conservative party and was running against Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, wife of former president Manuel Zelaya.  When Zelaya was booted out of office by the military, Nicaragua was one of his most vigorous supporters at the time.  And lastly, the results were relatively close and Zelaya is rejecting the vote, saying that they were robbed.  Interesting that Ortega would rush to recognize the new president and promise to fortify ties between the two countries.

Second, and perhaps even more surprising, is the fact that Nicaragua has just been ranked by the UN as the second safest country in Latin America (when ranked by # of homicides and assaults).  The fact that Chile was #1 wasn’t too surprising, but Nicaragua as #2?  As one analyst points out, “Nicaragua’s ranking as the second safest country in the region has surprised analysts because the Central American nation shares a border with Honduras, which has been hit hard by drug-related violence.”

 

 

Sleep deprived lies the head that wears the crown

In a short article called “C.Africa president who led coup says power ‘too tiring’,” the new president of the Central African Republic complains candidly about the downsides to being the chief executive.  He seems to deaf to the irony of whining about a job he took by force in a “bloody coup” last March.  The article reports that:

In a public meeting with representatives from political parties, Michel Djotodia complained that the assembled group could sleep easy while he lay awake worrying about national security, sometimes even forgetting about his wife lying next to him. “Sometimes you don’t even have thoughts about your wife! Sometimes, I wake up suddenly to ask the security minister what is happening!” he said, describing how ruling a country wracked by sectarian conflict had played havoc with his nocturnal routine.

He goes on to say that he hoped things were getting better so he could cede the job and get back to some better sleep.  Given that French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius characterized the state of the CAR as “total chaos,” that day might not be too soon.

Here is our coup leader looking a bit sleep deprived:

sleepy

Political Business Cycles in Mexico

Kevin and I have long been interested in political business cycles in developing countries.  We have a 2000 JLE piece called Political Cycles in Non-Traditional Settings, Theory and Evidence for Mexico, where we find a significant postelection economic collapse but no preelection boom, and that elections create, rather than resolve, inflation uncertainty.

So it was interesting to see the WSJ yesterday remarking on the same phenomena in Mexico in an article called “Mexico’s Curse of Economic Slowdown.” Anthony Harrup puts Mexico’s weak economic growth in 2013 in political context, noting that the first year of a new presidency often brings with it disappointing economic performances.

He lists GDP growth rates in the first and last years of presidential terms.  Presidents can only serve one term in Mexico so a transition always involves a change of leadership.

1994, last year of Carlos Salinas de Gortari 4.7%
1995, first year of Ernesto Zedillo -5.8%

2000, last year of Ernesto Zedillo 5.3%
2001, first Year of Vicente Fox -0.6%

2006, last year of Vicente Fox 5.0%
2007, first year of Felipe Calderón 3.1%

2012, last year of Felipe Calderón 3.8%
2013, first year of Enrique Peña Nieto 1.2%*

* Private consensus estimate from Bank of Mexico survey
Source: Inegi, Bank of Mexico

I didn’t know there was a term for this phenomena, but apparently the economist Jonathan Heath has named it the “sexenio curse” (presidents serve a 6 year term, or sexenio).  It was curious to find such a pronounced political business cycle in a one-party system, but the Mexican political system was unique in creating the incentives for one.  It’s interesting that the phenomena lives on in a democratic Mexico.  Perhaps we should update our paper and see if this new PBC is statistically significant…

 

 

 

Nicolas Maduro: problem solver

After an awkward beginning President Maduro has really found his footing in Venezuela and produced a cogent, succinct, and effective diagnosis of all the troubles facing his beleaguered nation: Opposition Politicians!!

Yes, as it turns out it’s Henrique Capriles (who may or may not have actually won the election that put Maduro in office) who’s causing the many crises the nation faces!

Check out the airtight case Maduro offers:

“They’re stealing your electricity. They’re stealing your food. They’re stealing your peace. No more violence.” 

Apparently Mr. Capriles was found in his condo with 500,000 porterhouse steaks and running 250,000 window air conditioners full blast (plus he had 300,000,000 rolls of toilet paper stacked up in his garage!).

Here are the posters the government is putting up around Caracas:

 

Image

 

 

Cudos, Mr. President!

 

 

Take a walk on the wild side

San Diego is giving new meaning to the idea of cross-border cooperation.  After 20 years of discussion and planning, the airport in SD is now constructing a 525 foot pedestrian bridge to the Tijuana airport, allowing ticketed passengers to pay a small fee and clear customs directly in the airport rather than the usual route of hiring a taxi to take you to the usual border crossing (note: taxi drivers are not happy with this project).

The idea first came about when the South County Economic Development Council surveyed the Tijuana airport parking lot and found that many US citizens were using the Tijuana airport as a cross-border commuter lot.  The council originally proposed a terminal where planes could taxi on both sides of the border, but that apparently was too problematic. The pedestrian bridge project is being funded by private investors from both the US and Mexico, although they still need to figure out how to cover costs like paying for customs agents.

The benefits to Mexico are debatable.  The mayor is actually on record saying that travelers can now bypass Tijuana completely and go direct to San Diego (it seems the opposite argument would also be true, but perhaps that’s not what most travelers are looking for).

The director of the Tijuana airport, Guillermo Villalba, disagrees, arguing that there are numerous benefits to the plan, namely that it will send “a message that the border region is prosperous and safe, will attract more business to the border region, will put Tijuana on the world map, attracting investment, tourism and economic development that will benefit not only Tijuana but the state and the entire border region.”  

I’m not sure I agree with the director about the message this project is sending with regards to TJ, but I do agree that it will give the city a lot of publicity given the uniqueness of the plan.  It will be interesting to see how well the bridge works and what kind of effects it will have on both cities.