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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 is a joint post with Caroline Decker and originally appeared on The Hill's Congress Blog.
Pakistan clearly has an urgent need for swift, effective aid in the wake of its catastrophic summer of floods. Infrastructure has suffered unprecedented damage, and as many as 1.6 million households, mostly rural, have lost their homes and possessions. Beyond relief efforts to provide urgent needs—food, water, medical care, and temporary shelter—the priority of the Pakistani government and its international partners will be helping those directly affected get back on their feet and rebuild their lives. What is the best way to help? Even before the floods, spending aid money well in Pakistan was not going to be easy. In 2009, Congress pledged $7.5 billion in non-military aid over five years, but only a tiny fraction of that money has been disbursed. Finding channels (either inside or outside the Pakistani government) where the United States could be confident that dysfunction and corruption would not siphon away too much of the aid has been a challenge. That challenge is still present in the context of the flood reconstruction effort.
However, a new approach has the ability to leapfrog over these impediments.
This paper offers a proposal to improve performance-based allocation systems of International Development Association (IDA) donors and others to better address the needs of fragile states and better link development allocations with performance.
This paper argues for approaches that increase public understanding of the need for prudent spending of oil revenues in booms, and for comprehensive consideration of a range of options for using rents. Drawing on the experience of a few successful countries, it points to a number of common factors that seem to be important in enabling countries to obtain a positive payoff from resource wealth. These include a strong concern for social stability and growth, a capable and engaged technocracy, and interests in the non-oil sectors able to act as agents of restraint.
The U.S. financial reform bill passed by the Senate today and now headed to President Obama for his signature will have far reaching impact on poor people in the developing world if it succeeds in reducing the severity of future financial crises. But even if it fails in this regard, a provision requiring oil, gas and mining companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to publicly disclose their tax and revenue payments to governments around the world could be a big boost for increased transparency in countries afflicted with what has come to be called “the resource curse.”
According to its website, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has stopped accepting nominations for its UNESCO-Obiang Nguema Mbasogo International Prize for Research in the Life Sciences. But we are guessing that the applicant pool remains quite small. Frankly, who would want his or her name affiliated with one of Africa’s worst dictators? Besides UNESCO, that is.