Archive for April 26th, 2011

State of education in Pakistan….

April 26, 2011

I am really late on this story but was too tempting not to write on it. This article from Rebecca Winthrop of Brookings leads me into many articles and findings on a failed (supposedly fraud) development project. I will come to the article later. First the backdrop.

Greg Mortenson, a mountaineer wrote a book called Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools ( i just discovered the book now). In this book he tracks his journey of a failed mission in 1993 of climbing K2 which led him to a village in Pakistan. The villagers took care of him and on his recovery he realised there were no schools there. He decided to come back and build schools. 

This book connected with people emotionally leading to it becoming NY Times bestseller. who piled on aid leading to Mortenson setting a organisation called Central Asia Institute. And since then he has been going around the world sharing his story, collecting aid and building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2009, Mortenson received Pakistan’s highest civil award, Sitara-e-Pakistan (“Star of Pakistan”) for his dedicated and humanitarian effort to promote education and literacy in rural areas for fifteen years. 

As of 2011, Mortenson has established or significantly supports 171 schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which provide education to over 68,000 children, including 54,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before. He even claims to be kidnapped by Taliban in 1996 for his efforts leading to further sympathies for his cause. Obama gave USD 100,000 from his Nobel Peace Prize money to his organisation.  

So far so good. Till this this CBS investigation showed most of his story is a lie!


Are local governments on the brink?

April 26, 2011


Richard Mattoon of Chicago Fed has this nice short article on state of local governments (municipalities etc). He says there is no doubt  that finances have worsened but they filing for bankruptcy etc are overstated.

There have been very few cases of local government bankruptcies in the past. Even in Great Depression there were just 1.8% of local governments defaulting in 1935. By 1937 most such cases had been resolved with average recovery at 97%.


Nassim Taleb on Living with Black Swans

April 26, 2011

Here is a superb interview of Nassim Taleb (interviewed by his professor at Wharton). He explains how people have misunderstood the concept of black swans.

People think they can predict black swan events which is plains false.

Most people think that they can predict the black swan, that with quantitative sophistication they can get answers. They don’t get the idea that because we can’t predict black swans, then we need to restructure institutions and rethink strategies to be more robust in the face of uncertainty.

People should instead be looking at sources of fragility and make them robust:


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