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Biometrics, foreign aid, Africa, economics of resource-rich countries, growth and development, transition economies
Alan Gelb is a senior fellow and director of studies 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.”
Digital identification has become a focus for development policies and programs, and not a moment too soon. Identification Revolution: Can Digital ID be Harnessed for Development considers where these trends are heading.
India’s reform of household subsidies for the purchase of LPG cooking gas stands out for a several reasons. The paper provides a detailed picture of the reform through its various stages, including how the process was conceptualized, coordinated, and implemented. It analyzes how such a reform must be able to adapt to concerns as they arise and to new information, how digital technology was used and how it is possible to use a voluntary self-targeting “nudge” to defuse potential resistance to income-based targeting.
With the biometric registration of 9.2 million adults and documentation of 4.5 million children, Malawi has made a massive stride towards SDG 16.9 which requires states to “provide legal identity to all, including birth registration, by 2030”. How has Malawi achieved universal coverage in only 180 days despite lack of key infrastructure and scarce technical resources? What are the potential digital dividends of this initiative for Malawi and its people, and what can development partners and other countries learn from it? Tariq Malik, Chief Technical Advisor of UNDP, who leads this project, will walk us through this journey of success in the heart of Africa.
Originally published in October 2013 and updated January 2015
Food security has arisen again on the development agenda. High and volatile food prices took a toll in 2007–08, and in many low-income countries agricultural yields have risen little, if at all, in the last decade. Moreover, food production in these poor countries is especially vulnerable to climate change. Meeting this demand is a global challenge. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is expected to lead the way in meeting this challenge and, with the arrival in 2012 of the first new director-general in 18 years, it has an opening to restructure itself to do so.
Uganda has sought to finance its development agenda with oil since discovering the resource in its Albertine Lakes Basin in 2009. This paper considers alternative methods for distributing the rents from oil that mitigate some of the governance risks associated with natural resource revenues.
This paper discusses the evolution of India's Universal ID program, the innovative organization and pathbreaking technology behind it, how it is being rolled out, and how robust ID is beginning to be used.
To better understand the large variation in price levels between countries beyond income levels and their contribution to economies’ competitiveness in the global market, we report on a cross-country analysis of national price levels, using data on 168 economies from the most recent 2011 International Comparison Program (ICP).
India’s Universal ID program seeks to provide a unique identity to all 1.2
billion residents. Its
successes and potential failures will have far-reaching implications for other
developing countries looking to create national identity systems.
In response to our August 5 blog criticizing the World Bank’s current reorganization plans, a few readers wrote to ask us if we could come up with a better idea. This is a daunting challenge. We’ve heard that the Bank has spent millions over more than a year to generate more than 40 ideas about how to tweak the Bank’s organization and has intensively discussed three overarching ideas, for none of which we have actually seen a background paper – or even a PowerPoint. So with brains unfettered by facts, uncluttered by concept papers, bereft of briefings and emboldened by ignorance, here goes…
Why do so many businesses choose to remain informal? Vijaya Ramachandran and co-authors discover that the answer is more nuanced than often believed. In East Africa, for instance, the difference in productivity between formal and informal firms is often indistinguishable, while in Southern Africa productivity it is more differentiated. Policies to encourage formalization and increase productivity are likely to be more successful in East Africa, whereas an emphasis on job training and vocational skills might be more appropriate in Southern Africa.
This paper ties together the macroeconomic and microeconomic evidence on the competitiveness of African manufacturing sectors. The conceptual framework is based on the newer theories that see the evolution of comparative advantage as influenced by the business climate—a key public good—and by external economies between clusters of firms entering in related sectors. Macroeconomic data from purchasing power parity (PPP), though imprecisely measured, estimates confirms that Africa is high-cost relative to its levels of income and productivity. This finding is compared with firm-level evidence from surveys undertaken for Investment Climate Assessments in 2000-2004.