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Foreign direct investment, financial flows, private-sector development, humanitarian assistance, Africa
Vijaya Ramachandran is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. She works on the impact of the business environment on the productivity of firms in developing countries, and is the coauthor of an essay titled "Development as Diffusion: Manufacturing Productivity and Africa's Missing Middle,” published in the Oxford Handbook on Economics and Africa. Vijaya is also studying the unintended consequences of rich countries’ anti-money laundering policies on financial inclusion in poor countries. She has published her research in journals such as World Development, Development Policy Review, Governance, Prism, and AIDS and is the author of a CGD book, Africa’s Private Sector: What’s Wrong with the Business Environment and What to Do About It. Prior to joining CGD, Vijaya worked at the World Bank and in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. She also served on the faculties of Georgetown University and Duke University. Her work has appeared in several media outlets including the Economist, Financial Times, Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, National Public Radio, and Vox.
Why should the United States care about economic growth in Africa? Because it is the right thing to do and the smart thing to do. Helping to spur economic growth in Africa promotes our values, enhances our security, and helps create economic and political opportunities for the people of the continent. Public interest in Africa is higher than ever—witness consumer movements such as Product Red—and bipartisan political
support recently renewed funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). Several new opportunities now exist for U.S. firms to compete and benefit from a win-win partnership with the region.
This is a joint posting with Vijaya Ramachandran
The World Bank Group's board appears to be operating under a severe case of cognitive dissonance, supporting efforts to save tigers - threatened in India and Bangladesh by habitat loss due to climate change - while helping build coal-fired power plants that will only speed up this process.
Back in June the Bank launched a campaign to help governments develop and better manage forests inhabited by endangered tigers, including in the Sunderbans. This massive mangrove forest spans the India-Bangladesh border and is home to the Bengal tiger. While the Bank has a less-than-stellar conservation track record in Sunderbans, more important is the fact that this impoverished World Heritage site would be one of the hardest hit by climate change, whether from rising sea levels or the disappearance of the glacier that feeds the Ganges river.
But the Bank's commitment to poverty reduction and biodiversity stands in stark contrast to its bread-and-butter financing choices. As the Bank planned its save-the-tiger campaign, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank's private sector arm, was putting together a deal to finance $450 million of the misguided $4+ billion Tata Mundra Ultra Mega coal-fired plant in India. Financing 10% of the cost of a plant being built by India's largest company will help propel India's power sector emissions to third highest in the world within a few years, behind China and the U.S. Is this a smart use of scarce international public resources?
This is a joint posting with David Wheeler
The International Finance Corporation, the private sector investment arm of the World Bank, is set to have yet another banner year with profits in the range of $2 billion. As the IFC's equity stakes in services, telecommunications and particularly in oil and gas have grown, so have its profits. In FY07, IFC invested more than $8 billion of its own money and mobilized nearly $4 billion more. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it invested about $1.4 billion, doubling its investments from the previous year. In FY08, these numbers look to be even larger. If the IFC continues on its current path, in five years its portfolio will be larger than that of the World Bank itself.
Over the past few weeks, rice consumers in Africa and other developing countries have watched anxiously as world prices have fallen steadily, at least in part due to our insistence that Japan and other countries have stocks that can be released on world markets . It is now clear that the speculative bubble has burst -- the "dynamic" in the market is bearish despite set-backs on individual policy fronts. The pressures on rice prices continue to be downward despite everything governments are doing to keep prices up.
Today, President Bush called on Congress to provide another $770 million in food aid, in addition to the $200 million already allocated through the Department of Agriculture,in order "to keep our existing food aid programs robust."
There is no doubt that these additional funds are much needed to purchase and distribute food to those who are suffering greatly from the current spike in food prices. But the U.S. can and should do more. Specifically, the U.S. must allow Japan to sell, at full cost on Japanese books, the 1.5
million metric tons of rice that it has in storage. About 600,000 tons is
Thai and Vietnamese long-grain rice (high quality) and the rest is US medium
grain (good rice). All of the rice is in Japanese warehouses because of an
agreement with the World Trade Organization, and the U.S. as "cognizant
observer" of the rice agreement, would need to approve the sale of both
US and the Thai/Vietnamese rice. Japan currently cannot release this rice
to the World Food Program (or to the world market) without permission from
the U.S., and the Bush administration is yet to move on this.
CGD senior fellow Vijaya Ramachandran argues in this essay that the next U.S. president can play a valuable role in helping Africa to overcome two crucial barriers to poverty reduction: lack of power and lack of roads. Ramachandran urges the next president to create a $1 billion Clean Energy Fund for Africa to facilitate the transfer of U.S. infrastructure technology, including renewable energy; and to encourage the World Bank and the African Development Bank to focus on cross-country regional infrastructure projects, also with a strong emphasis on clean technology. The essay is included in a forthcoming CGD volume: The White House and the World: A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President.