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Nancy Lee is a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development and a senior advisor at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Her work at CGD focuses on the role of development banks in mobilizing private finance and increasing development impact. Previously, she was the deputy chief executive officer of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an innovative, independent US aid agency that fights poverty through country compacts that support inclusive growth. Key MCC attributes are rigorous country selection, country ownership of compacts, data-driven resource allocation, results accountability, and transparency.
Prior to joining MCC, Dr. Lee was the general manager (CEO) of the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF) at the Inter-American Development Bank, the Bank’s laboratory for private sector-led development and a key impact investor in the region. Under Dr. Lee's leadership, the MIF launched initiatives in lending to women-owned SMEs; a public-private partnership to scale youth job training programs; a program to introduce social impact bonds to the region; innovative climate finance models; and a crowdsourcing platform for development solutions.
Previously, Dr. Lee served at the US Treasury Department, where she was deputy assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere and for Europe and Eurasia. She led Treasury’s work to put financial inclusion, SME finance, and women’s access to finance on the G20 agenda. She co-chaired the G20 SME Finance Group and led the development of the G20 SME Finance Challenge and the SME Finance Innovation Fund. She was a Treasury negotiator in the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations. Dr. Lee is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and holds a PhD and an MA in economics from Tufts University and a BA in economics from Wellesley College.
It is time to take a fresh look at the PSWs and to ask some basic questions about their role and instruments. The aim of this essay is to raise issues that need to be addressed as we think about how PSWs should evolve and adapt to meet the formidable challenges ahead. These questions and the answers gained through careful research can help chart the right course and set the right expectations for MDB PSWs, DFIs, and impact investors generally.
A consistent but perhaps unsurprising theme of CGD’s September 7 panel discussion, "Women Entrepreneurs: What Really Helps Them Start and Grow Businesses?" was that neither the challenges nor the solutions are simple. Access to finance—frequently emphasized—is not the only issue. And even within access to finance, it is important to look at both supply and demand, at both debt and equity, and at the behavior and attitudes of loan officers as well as bank managers.
Two bills just introduced in the Senate and the House, both called the Economic Growth and Development Act, take on a central challenge in US development policy and programs: lack of collaboration to mobilize private investment among the 12 departments, 26 agencies, and more than 60 federal government offices involved in delivering aid.
On April 11, the World Bank's International Development Association broke new ground by establishing a private sector window (PSW) with $2.5 billion in resources. For the first time, IDA will use public funds to catalyze private investments in poor countries, in addition to concessional lending to their governments.
Many in the development community lament that we have failed on two counts: broad audiences don’t know about unprecedented progress in poverty reduction and human development indicators in recent decades, and, if they do know, they don’t see the connection between aid programs and such progress. Despite strongs efforts on the part of development institutions to measure results, it remains hard to articulate them in a way that is compelling to nontechnical audiences—taxpayers who absolutely deserve to understand why and how development dollars are making a difference.