Book talk: ‘Why do some countries gamble on development, and others don’t?’ with Stefan Dercon, David Pilling, Melinda Bohannon & Ricardo Soares de Oliveira

Past Event

03 May 2022, 5:00pm - 6:30pm

Oxford Martin School & Online
34 Broad Street (corner of Holywell and Catte Streets), Oxford, OX1 3BD

Event Recording:

In the last thirty years, the developing world has undergone tremendous changes. Overall, poverty has fallen, people live longer and healthier lives, and economies have been transformed.

And yet many countries have simply missed the boat. Oxford’s Stefan Dercon’s new book, “Gambling on Development: Why some countries win and others lose”, asks why it is that some of the previously poorest countries have prospered, while others have failed.

Stefan argues that the answer lies not in a specific set of policies, but rather in a key ‘development bargain’, whereby a country’s elites shift from protecting their own positions to gambling on a growth-based future. Despite the imperfections of such bargains, China is among the most striking recent success stories, along with Indonesia and more unlikely places, such as Bangladesh, Ghana and, tentatively, Ethiopia. Gambling on Development is about these winning efforts, in contrast to countries stuck in elite bargains leading nowhere.

At the talk, he is joined by David Pilling (Financial Times), Melinda Bohannon, (Director of Strategy at FCDO) and Ricardo Soares de Oliveira (Oxford University).

The event will debate some of the themes of the book: how economics and politics are deeply connected, how naïve policy prescriptions distract, how international policies and aid can help or distort, but also the remarkable role played in some countries by leading groups and individuals to drive progress, and the failures of local elites elsewhere.

This talk is in conjunction with the Oxford Martin Programme on African Governance

Stefan Dercon

Professor Stefan Dercon
Professor of Economic Policy, Blavatnik School of Government & Department of Economics

Stefan Dercon is Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and the Economics Department, and Director of the Oxford Martin School Programme on African Governance. He is also Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies and a Fellow of Jesus College.

He combines his academic career with work as a policy advisor, providing strategic economic and development advice, and promoting the use of evidence in decision making. Between 2011 and 2017, he was Chief Economist of the Department of International Development (DFID), the government department in charge with the UK’s aid policy and spending. Since 2020, he has been the Development Policy Advisor to successive Foreign Secretaries at the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

His research interests concern what keeps some people and countries poor: the failures of markets, governments and politics, mainly in Africa, and how to achieve change.

Melinda Bohannon

Melinda Bohannon
Strategy Director, Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO)

Melinda is Strategy Director at the Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO). She was previously Strategy Director at the Department for International Development (DFID).

Melinda joined the Civil Service in 1999 as an economist and has worked in DFID, FCO and the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) since that time, as well as in the private sector and research. She has covered a range of international geographic roles including on the Middle East and North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, the former Soviet Union and China.

From 2013 to 2015 Melinda led the UK team negotiating the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, supporting the UK Envoy and Prime Minister. She was subsequently head of DFID’s Economic Growth and Resilience Department, managing economic transformation programmes around the world.

Melinda has a BA in Politics, Philosophy and Economics from Oxford University and a MSC in Development Studies with Economics from the London School of Economics.

Ricardo Soares De Oliveira

Ricardo Soares de Oliveira
Director, Oxford Martin Programme on African Governance

Ricardo Soares de Oliveira is Professor of the International Politics of Africa at the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford, Official Fellow of St Peter's College, and a Fellow with the Global Public Policy Institute, Berlin.

His research interests include African politics (particularly West and Central Africa), the geopolitics of energy and international political economy, especially in the fields of natural resource extraction, state decay and post-conflict reconstruction.

David Pilling

David Pilling
Africa Editor, Financial Times

David Pilling is the Africa editor of the Financial Times. He was previously Asia editor and also formerly Tokyo Bureau Chief for the FT from January 2002 to August 2008. His column ranges over business, investment, politics and economics.

He joined the FT in 1990. He has worked in London as an editor, in Chile and Argentina as a correspondent and covered the global pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry.