2015 is almost here. And while it looks as though we will be adding rather than crossing off items from our 2014 wish list for US development policy, we’re electing to remain optimistic about the year ahead. And check out Nancy Birdsall’s request for help updating her 2014 wish list here.
Here are a few reasons we found to celebrate in 2014 and what we hope to see in 2015:
Bipartisan support for expanding energy access in Africa – The House passed the Electrify Africa Act by a vote of 297-117 with a strong showing from members on both sides of the aisle. In the Senate, the Energize Africa Act earned committee approval and boasted bipartisan cosponsors. Congress adjourned before work on the legislation was complete, but strong coalitions are poised to resume the effort next year. Authorizing legislation would help secure the future of President Obama’s Power Africa initiative.
In addition, both bills included multi-year reauthorizations for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Senate bill provided new tools and authorities for the agency, in line with a CGD proposal to Unleash OPIC.
Increased interest in innovative approaches to aid – While US aid agencies have yet to pilot Cash on Delivery Aid, which would link payments to outcomes, USG interest in paying for performance continues to grow. The MCC committed to exploring mechanisms that more closely connect disbursements to results. And what’s not to like? COD Aid helps build capacity, increase accountability, and reduce corruption; all while paying for agreed upon results, whether in access to electricity, education, health, even maintaining forests.
Food aid reform champions remain committed – The 2014 farm bill included modest reforms to the United States’ signature international food assistance program, but reform advocates were disappointed that appropriators provided little flexibility to work around the notoriously inefficient delivery system. Undeterred, reform champions in the Senate introduced legislation that would save money and lives, all while staving off attempts to increase food aid costs through provisions in a Coast Guard reauthorization bill. This is another fight certain to resume in the next Congress. Speaking of aid reform, a top to bottom foreign assistance review would be an exciting initiative for the next Congress.
So what else are we hoping for in 2015 from the USG?
A new, improved AGOA – The African Growth and Opportunity Act, landmark legislation that extended a bevy of trade preferences along with capacity-building assistance to countries in Africa that meet eligibility requirements, is set to expire in fall 2015. There is wide support for AGOA and wide-spread acknowledgement that sooner is better when it comes to renewal. Still, the calendar of a new Congress is often a busy one, so let’s hope they get started early, and continue to look for ways to improve the legislation in the process. In the meantime, the administration could see to it that African countries have a chance to benefit from trade with the United States under existing rules.
Open government contracts – Greater transparency in contracting would improve outcomes and lower the costs of achieving them, by contributing to higher quality bids, more informed decision-making, stream-lined and transparent processes, and better monitored service delivery. The benefits would accrue to the US government, citizens, and even contractors. It’s easier than you think; in fact, other countries are already doing it. Here’s more on the why and how.
And a few others worth mentioning: Nominate (and confirm) a new USAID Administrator; support West Africa in medium and long-term recovery from Ebola; consider Bilateral Investment Treaties; and end the IMF quota reform embarrassment.
Happy New Year and stay tuned for more US development policy ideas in 2015 from CGD!