10 (Almost) No-New-Money Ideas for the Presidential Transition Teams on Development

October 26, 2016

In no particular order, a suggested list of things to do—and things not to do:

  1. Launch the US Development Finance Corporation – Aid alone cannot provide the capital required for development. Countries need (and want) private investment and finance. If we want countries to “graduate” from aid, the public sector will need help to nudge the private sector where it might otherwise be reluctant to go. An expanded OPIC needs modernized authorities to mobilize the private sector effectively and efficiently. And the best part, budget hawk friends: the USDFC can be self-sustaining.
  2. Nominate the USAID Administrator within the first wave of nominees – Don’t leave the agency rudderless. There’s a lot to do and a lot of it requires working with Congress. Mosul, the Syrian refugee crisis, and more…you want a strong leader in place right away.
  3. Appoint a Global Health Senior Director to the NSC, along with a directorate – It’s true, the NSC is sprawling. But on global health, where authorities and funds are also sprawling, it might be just what the doctor ordered to prepare for and respond to looming global health threats requiring a cohesive US (and international) policy agenda—from pandemics to antimicrobial resistance.
  4. Launch Effectiveness Pilots – Between congressional directives and presidential initiatives, some USAID country missions have almost no flexible dollars, including to address country priorities. In a small set of countries, USAID should be allowed to significantly reduce or remove these constraints in return for strict adherence to development effectiveness principles.
  5. Try the Development Impact Fund – While we’re on pilots, why not launch a Development Impact Fund pilot? Taking a small percentage of existing programmatic funds and allocating them to a dedicated pot for piloting outcome-based approaches like Cash-on-Delivery Aid and Development Impact Bonds is the kind of push for country-owned results that makes our limited aid dollars more effective.
  6. Don’t go crazy with new initiatives – You want a legacy on development (or at least I hope you do). But see above on initiatives and earmarks constraining a lot of the flexibility necessary for real development impact! If you’re going to launch big initiatives, I hope you’ll do so in a way that is thoughtful about how it will align with development effectiveness principles—particularly results and local ownership. And please, think about using tools beyond aid (see #1 above as one example).
  7. Don’t do a big bureaucratic overhaul – It’s tempting. It’s really tempting. Our agencies and authorities have their issues and inefficiencies. But it would just take so much time away from the business of actually getting development done. Even as you escape the morass that would be an overhaul, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t change how business gets done. Keep on pushing our aid to be more than service delivery—like the catalytic potential of Power Africa or for creating global goods, like good data.
  8. Work with Congress – This is going to require good, politically smart leadership in your development agencies, but also time from the White House. Development remains a good place to get things done on the Hill in a genuinely bipartisan fashion. And hey, maybe that will have some spillover effects on other issues…nah… It’s not just about new authorities; you’re really going to need Congress to be on board with the importance of development for American interests and willing to maintain the less than one percent of the federal budget for foreign assistance, especially as overseas contingency operations (OCO) dollars decline.
  9. Use the multilateral development banks – The MDBs are one of US development policy’s biggest assets and a real leveraging opportunity for US dollars. Treasury estimates that every dollar of US paid-in capital leads to $25 in lending. Let’s not forget to take advantage of that. Here are some smart ideas from my colleague Scott Morris on how to be more effective in our leadership at the multilateral institutions—and why it matters for the United States’ role in the world (ok, some of this would involve new money but it’s so cheap for what we get!).
  10. Be smart about unintended consequences – Policy coherence might be a hobgoblin but the US government can do better in taking into account the impact its policies might have on developing countries without harming other critical goals, like Anti-Money Laundering policies.

For more ideas, check out CGD’s White House and the World and related content, including the Rethinking US Development Policy team’s memo to the transition teams.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.