S Aufrecht

PP 5263: Global Issues and Institutions

Classroom is packed for shopping week. Ca 100 prospective students.

Taught by a visiting professor from the Brookings Institute. "This is not a course which simply conveys a body of information from me to you." Rethinking global governance; the Western-originated ideas don't work any more.

"I assume you are all here at a school of public policy because you all want to make a difference. This class will show you how."

Using only a few topics for focus: climate change, sustainable development. Approaches to dealing with problems. Global approaches instead of national or local. How to devise new solutions.

Joel's note: Once again, we are talking about climate change while sitting in a classroom at the equator, air-conditioned to 22C, with the shades drawn against the daylight and the overhead lights shining brightly.

The class will conclude with a simulated climate change negotiation. When you finish this course, you will have as much experience in climate change governance as anybody else.

Class size should be twenty or a bit bigger. (Joel's note: that was my cue to go and register. Let's hope that everybody whose phone or computer has beeped, or who is reading a paperback novel during the lecture like the woman to my left, is only here out of curiosity.)

Background: what is the state of the world? The state of the world is dominated by the fact of enormous, unprecedented population increase.

How many countries were there in 1950? About 50, since the original UN membership included almost all of the extant countries. (Research sidebar: Only four out of fifty-three African countries - Egypt, Liberia, Ethopia, and South Africa were independent countries in 1950. "By Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee ceremony in 1897—held just after the curtain went down on the monarchies of Hawaii, Tonga, Madagascar, Aceh, and Sulu—there were about 56 independent countries worldwide, which is probably an all-time low." Imperialism in the Modern World Map,1900)

Some say the course is depressing. But there are many people working on solutions. I'm teaching the course because not enough of these people are coming out of Asia.

UN Millenium Goals, the closest we have to a global agenda. One goal is the reduction of utter poverty (US$1/day) by a certain amount—this will happen, but only because of China. And Chinese statistics are suspect: China's economy is 40% smaller than previously believed.

PP5230 Strategic Management in Public Organisations

Joel's note: The professor is another (relatively speaking) rock star; after the switch there are twenty people standing at the back.

Nine months ago optimism about the world economy was at its peak. Now the situation is changed; we are facing problems nobody could have predicted six or nine months ago. (Joel's note: I hope he's not trying to say that nobody could have predicted the subprime crisis or rising oil prices.)

This professor generates a lot of great sentences for buzzword bingo: "We have to understand and manage the processes that create strategic value." (See also here.) So much so that I've never been able to discern the quality and depth of his knowledge. There's reason, not least of which his reputation/fame, to think he has a lot to offer. But statements like, "the actions you take hopefully prepare you to take the next set of actions. In real time. Not just from a plan" don't communicate much.

A great list of case studies, from Port of Singapore and Jurong Island to Southwest Airlines. If the professor has personal experience with any of these cases or their constituent companies, I would expect much of the value of the course to be in the insight and perspective he provides in smaller sessions, when there are concrete details instead of vague generalizations.

Reacting to something on a slide, I went googling for "how to create innovation" and found this gem: How to Create a Culture of Innovation in Your Church

The professor just said the class will have three or four chapters of reading per week, perhaps 100 pages, plus three or four articles, and the room gasped (and a low murmur emerged that persists minutes later while he keeps talking). I'm very happy that this school is in my native language and that I love to read.

PP5312: Public Financial Management

Joel's note: The crowd thins for this one. I'm not planning to take it—it's specialized in an area outside my interests—but the prof, who taught the micro tranche of our core economics module last semester, identified PFM as his main interest so I wanted to see a bit more of what it's about.

To understand what the class is about, let's look at some job descriptions for Public Financial Management. "... budget formulation and medium-term expenditure frameworks, budget classifications and chart of accounts, accounting, financial management ..."

"The budget should be a financial mirror of society's economic and social choices." (Managing Government Expenditure, Salvatore Schiavo-Campo and Daniel Tommasi) Micro analysis of costs and projects. Macro resource management: budget principles, cash management, etc.