The last board meeting of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) under the Obama administration will take place on December 13, 2016. On the docket? Selecting which countries will be eligible for MCC assistance for fiscal year (FY) 2017. For the fourteenth year running, CGD’s Rethinking US Development Policy Initiative discusses the overarching issues that will impact the decisions and offers its predictions of which countries will be selected.
Internationally comparable test scores play a central role in both research and policy debates on education. However, the main international testing regimes, such as PISA, TIMSS, or PIRLS, include very few low-income countries. For instance, most countries in Southern and Eastern Africa have opted instead for a regional assessment known as SACMEQ. This paper exploits an overlap between the SACMEQ and TIMSS tests—in both country coverage, and questions asked—to assess the feasibility of constructing global learning metrics by equating regional and international scales. I ﬁnd that learning levels in this sample of African countries are consistently (a) low in absolute terms; (b) signiﬁcantly lower than predicted by African per capita GDP levels; and (c) converging slowly, if at all, to the rest of the world during the 2000s. Creating test scores which are truly internationally comparable would be a global public good, requiring more concerted effort at the design stage.
In 2015, India's system of fiscal devolution underwent a radical transformation. This paper uses the experience of Brazil, China, and Mexico to draw important lessons on how India can use the opportunity of fiscal devolution to create a better system of health financing through better policy coordination between federal and local governments.
Behind the learning crisis in much of the developing world is a huge data gap.
Children in developing countries get lots of schooling, but they are not necessarily learning. To address this, countries need new forms of feedback, experimentation, and financing that conventional aid is ill-suited to provide. This paper reviews experiences with an unconventional aid modality—paying for results—as it could apply to learning. The paper explains how such a program could be implemented and accelerate institutional changes needed to improve student learning.
What if taxpayers could decide for themselves how some of the UK’s aid budget is spent? Allocating funding would let taxpayers engage meaningfully with development issues, potentially reinforcing support for tackling poverty and deprivation overseas. Competition for funding would give international development organisations an incentive to offer an explicit value proposition. This could catalyse a race to the top in becoming transparent, measuring impact, and delivering value-for-money. AidChoice, as set out below, would be revenue neutral, would not lower the UK’s overall spending on foreign aid (or the amount scored as ODA), and might generate modest but meaningful savings, all while increasing public support for development spending and improving accountability.
The “just right” approach for the mobility of low-skill labor looks to avoid either “too hard”—expecting countries to make legally binding commitments to a global protocol—or “too soft”—no global mechanisms for reducing restrictions on labor mobility. We propose a “bundled” organization that works with existing bilateral labor agreements and partners as part of an organization capable of analysis and advocacy.
Energy is critical to human welfare, yet energy consumption in developing countries is extremely low relative to modern living standards. Conventional aid programs have invested in energy production with some success but also with many notable failures. This paper discusses how a distinctive approach to development aid—disbursing funds against improved outcomes—could make aid more effective in the energy sector. In particular, it explores the use of Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid) to resolve perennial difficulties encountered by conventional aid programs in energy sector development.
Nigeria Will Become Polio-Free: Challenges, Successes, and Lessons Learned for the Quest to Eradicate Polio
Despite no reported cases of polio in two years in Nigeria, on August 11, 2016, the WHO announced two new wild polio cases had been discovered in Northern Nigeria. While undoubtedly a setback, Nigeria has mobilized its immunization forces and will look to take heed of four key lessons learned during almost three decades of anti-polio efforts: 1) establishing and sustaining trust is critical to the success of eradication campaigns; 2) frequent, independent monitoring and evaluation are key to tracking the progress of an intervention and making modifications; 3) holding all actors accountable is essential to pushing an intervention forward; and 4) contextualized health initiatives are key in fighting polio and other diseases. These lessons will reinforce a cohesive, multilateral strategy that builds on past successes to secure a polio-free Nigeria.
The Impact of Taxes, Transfers, and Subsidies on Inequality and Poverty in Uganda - Working Paper 443
This paper uses the 2012/13 Uganda National Household Survey to analyze the redistributive effectiveness and impact on poverty and inequality of Uganda’s revenue collection instruments and social spending programs. Fiscal policy—including many of its constituent tax and spending elements—is inequality-reducing in Uganda, but the reduction of inequality due to fiscal policy in Uganda is lower than other countries with similar levels of initial inequality, a result tied to low levels of spending in Uganda generally. The impact of fiscal policy on poverty is negligible, while the combination of very sparse coverage of direct transfer programs and nearly complete coverage of indirect tax instruments means that many poor households are net payers into, rather than net recipients from, the fiscal system. As Uganda looks ahead to increased revenues from taxation and concurrent investments in productive infrastructure, it should take care to protect the poorest households from further impoverishment from the fiscal system.
Fiscal Policy, Inequality and Poverty in Iran: Assessing the Impact and Effectiveness of Taxes and Transfers the Poor in the Developing World - Working Paper 442
Using the Iranian Household Expenditure and Income Survey (HEIS) for 2011/12, we apply the marginal contribution approach to determine the impact and effectiveness of each fiscal intervention, and the fiscal system as a whole, on inequality and poverty in Iran.
Using comparable fiscal incidence analysis, this paper examines the impact of fiscal policy on inequality and poverty in twenty-five countries for around 2010. Success in fiscal redistribution is driven primarily by redistributive effort (share of social spending to GDP in each country) and the extent to which transfers/subsidies are targeted to the poor and direct taxes targeted to the rich. While fiscal policy always reduces inequality, this is not the case with poverty. While spending on pre-school and primary school is pro-poor (i.e., the per capita transfer declines with income) in almost all countries, pro-poor secondary school spending is less prevalent, and tertiary education spending tends to be progressive only in relative terms (i.e., equalizing but not pro-poor). Health spending is always equalizing except for Jordan.
We experimentally test the impact of expanding access to basic bank accounts in Uganda, Malawi, and Chile. Over two years, 17 percent, 10 percent, and 3 percent of treatment individuals made five or more deposits, respectively. Average monthly deposits for them were at the 79th, 91st, and 96th percentiles of baseline savings. Survey data show no clearly discernible intention-to-treat effects on savings or any downstream outcomes. This suggests that policies merely focused on expanding access to basic accounts are unlikely to improve welfare noticeably since impacts, even if present, are likely small and diverse.
In July 2012, world leaders gathered to reaffirm the right of women and girls to make informed and autonomous choices about their reproductive lives. To support the implementation of this right, country governments and donors committed to three actions: a new partnership to enhance accountability for progress—Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), an aspirational goal—120 million additional users of voluntary, high-quality family planning services by 2020, and $4.6 billion in additional funding, including $2.6 billion from international donors and the private sector.
In July 2012, world leaders gathered in London to support the right of women and girls to make informed and autonomous choices about whether, when, and how many children they want to have. There, low income-country governments and donors committed to a new partnership—Family Planning 2020 (FP2020). Since then, the focus countries involved in the FP2020 partnership have made significant progress. Yet as FP2020 reaches its halfway point, and new, even more ambitious goals are set as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, gains fall short of aspirations.
Revisiting What Works updates the evidence first published in the 2013 Roadmap for Promoting Women’s Economic Empowerment and, as with the Roadmap, privileges short-term interventions that the private sector can sponsor and undertake. The Roadmap used rigorous evidence from 136 evaluations to identify proven, promising, high-potential and unproven interventions to increase women’s productivity and earnings in developing countries.
Climate change threatens the world’s poorest people most. They are least protected from climate-related disasters by savings or insurance, least able to access modern health care when diseases spread, and least able to move to safer locations when storms rage. Preventing dangerous climate change is critical for promoting global development. And saving tropical forests is essential to doing both.