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Views from the Center


For development aficionados, here are three notes and quotes worth remembering. My last (and late) dispatch will be posted tomorrow, and will outline my main frustration at Davos this year.

On sound economic policy to deal with food security: Ernesto Zedillo, a former president of Mexico and a clear-thinking economist, cut straight to the point at a private breakfast on the food crisis. Prior speakers had so many worries (drought, volatile markets, lack of food aid, poor farming techniques, soil erosion) and so many suggestions for unlikely cooperation on what the world and developing countries need to do (seeds, technology, watershed management, more technology...) that my head was spinning. Then President Zedillo said it straight (as I imperfectly recollect it): all these problems will persist until countries get prices right. How right! Examples include distortions in agricultural markets (such as protection in industrial countries that suppresses prices and discourages production in developing countries); and biofuel mandates that recently contributed to short-run price hikes (See, for example, papers by Kim Elliott and Nora Lustig) that didn't help.
On externalities at the root of the climate change and financial crises, from the CEO of InfoSys. Nandan Nilekani: "Both these crises [financial and climate] were triggered by market failure...our failure to price natural resources into the economy...our overlooking of the 'negative externalities' in financial reporting and risk assessment...and in both these we have tried to privatize profits and socialize losses." (For more, see his Financial Times Davos blog)
On aid effectiveness via country "ownership," from a philanthropist. Melinda Gates said in an online interview from Davos that malaria is down by 60 percent in some countries "because of the way donors have aligned with the governments." Bravo. Official donor resolve to address longstanding failings has reached the top leadership at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

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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.