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Biometrics, foreign aid, Africa, economics of resource-rich countries, growth and development, transition economies
Alan Gelb is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. His recent research includes aid and development outcomes, the transition from planned to market economies, the development applications of biometric ID technology, and the special development challenges of resource-rich countries.
He was previously director of development policy at the World Bank and chief economist for the bank’s Africa region and staff director for the 1996 World Development Report “From Plan to Market.”
This brief outlines how to implement a results-based approach in a way consistent with the World Bank’s recent experience with results-based disbursement, including its approval of the new Program for Results (PforR) instrument.
This is a joint post with Stephanie Majerowicz. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hasn’t appeared in public since his cancer surgery last December and, given his sharply deteriorating health, it seems a safe bet that the country will be having another national election sooner rather than later. When that happens, the opposition will have a rare opportunity outflank the populist Chavistas and offer voters a share in the country’s oil wealth through direct payments of part of the revenue (see the recent WSJ article). Such a program has the twin advantages of being potentially hugely popular and of reducing corruption, strengthening accountability and curbing waste. Here at CGD we call this idea “oil-to-cash.”
The “identity gap” is large, but it’s closing. Over the past 10 years, developing countries from Afghanistan to Zambia—and the donors that support them—have begun to focus on identity systems. Some have sought to create or extend national identification to cover large populations that previously could not exercise basic rights or access services due to a lack of official documentation. Others have reformed government and NGO programs by creating robust identification to improve quality, increase accessibility and eliminate fraud.
This paper surveys 160 cases where biometric identification has been used for economic, political, and social purposes in developing countries. One primary conclusion is that identification should be considered as a component of development policy, rather than being seen as just a cost on a program-by-program basis.
With the expansion of cell coverage and mobile banking, millions of poor and rural people can now access financial services. But as financial institutions reach new populations, it is becoming clear that there are other issues keeping people from formal banking, such as the need for identification. Thankfully, there seems to be an easy solution. Just as mobile phones have helped overcome the issue of proximity for banking, biometrics could do the same for identification.