Victor Steenbergen

MPA International Development

Class of 2013

All my political science classes have been so useful in allowing me to better understand public bureaucracies - and sometimes even push for reform!

Victor is an Economist at World Bank.

Victor Steenbergen, MPA

Before joining the MPA programme at LSE I had recently finished my degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Durham University in the UK, specializing in development economics. I then wanted to gain a bit of practical experience, so I joined a Dutch think tank for a year and worked with a broad consortium of NGOs in Africa on issues of public finance and social policy.

I had long doubted whether to do an MSc in development economics or the MPA in international development. In the end, I decided to go for the MPA for three main reasons. The first reason was that it offered an interdisciplinary focus that combined both economics and politics. I was (and still am!) strongly convinced that the biggest bottlenecks to economic development combine both technical and political challenges. Studying both helps to you look at these issues more clearly, and potentially spot challenges and opportunities in ways that other people do not. I also liked how the programme provided more practical tools and experience: the course in applied econometrics, for example, has been extremely valuable to me professionally, as has the “capstone” project in the second year.

Finally, I really liked how the two-year curriculum allows you to take more modules and focus on a wider range of topics. The program also seems very well put-together: aiming to provide a broad theoretical base in the first year, and then focus more on applications in the second year (which worked very well).

The MPA has been a huge asset for me. This is partly because of the people you meet, and partly because of the analytical skills you pick up along the way. Between my first and second year of the MPA, another LSE-MPA alumni selected me for an internship where I led the data gathering, cleaning, and analysis of a randomized control trial of performance-based incentives in secondary education in rural Mexico. After my MPA, I then got selected for the ODI fellowship program (for recently graduated development economists), and I worked for two years in the budget office of the National Ministry of Education in Malawi. Here, all my political science classes have been so useful in allowing me to better understand public bureaucracies - and sometimes even push for reform!

After this role I took on a range of different positions in Africa: as education/public finance consultant in Nigeria, and as Rwanda Country Economist for the International Growth Centre (IGC), leading the trade & industry and the public finance & tax policy research agendas. This, finally, led me to work more with the World Bank, where I have now been working as economist for the last three years in their Global Investment Climate Unit. To this day, I think my MPA has helped me in numerous cases - by shaping my professional view of the world, by inundating me with practical skills (like learning STATA!), and by connecting me to a wide set of smart, dedicated and hardworking professionals around the world.