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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.
In recent years, regulators have raised their expectations for what counts as adequate AML/CFT compliance. At the same time, they have cracked down on institutions that have fallen short. While arguably necessary, this more stringent enforcement has produced some unintended side effects. In particular, it has put pressure on banks’ ability and willingness to deliver certain types of services, notably correspondent banking services.
We are inundated by bad news about Syria and the heartbreaking stories of refugees fleeing this war-torn country. But there is another side to the story. A groundbreaking study by the NGO Building Markets indicates that there are over 10,000 Syrian-owned businesses in Turkey. Since 2011, Syrians have invested nearly $334 million into 6,033 new companies.
The Financial Stability Board's long-awaited report finds that the number of active CBRs has declined by 6 percent since 2011 and has continued through 2016, affecting all regions and major international currencies. The analysis suggests that small economies are among the most affected by CBR withdrawal. The bottom line: the decline of correspondent banking relationships, especially with smaller and poorer countries, remains an important policy issue.
The informal sector is a major source of economic activity and job opportunities in poor countries as well as emerging economies. In sub-Saharan Africa, the size of the informal sector is estimated to employ over 70 percent of the population. Why do businesses remain informal? What gains in productivity or profitability do they forego by as a result of that choice?
This work analyzes fresh data made available by updated, more comprehensive Enterprise Surveys of formal firms of various sizes and, importantly, of informal firms. It concentrates on five countries (the DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Myanmar, and Rwanda) to provide more fine-grained insights into differences in characteristics and productivity levels between formal and informal firms or different sizes in different developing countries.
Photo: EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection / cc
As we approach the third anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, reconstruction and recovery efforts continue—as does the debate within the development community: Why aren’t recovery efforts moving faster? Are international donors and NGOs helping or hurting recovery? Can traditional aid work amidst Haiti's weak government institutions? Are there alternative approaches that would be better?
CGD’s efforts on Haiti’s challenges continue. Here are our recent suggestions for alternative approaches in Haiti, as well as previous innovative ideas that remain relevant:
1) Cash Transfers for Haitians
Vijaja Ramachandran, Senior Fellow
Hurricane Sandy has exacerbated the food crisis in Haiti, as well as increased the incidence of water-based diseases, like cholera. Donors have responded accordingly, but donors must also take steps to improve the quality of their assistance to Haiti. Cash transfers are often the best way to empower disaster victims to rebuild their lives, while also generating demand that fuels the local economy. I recommend the World Food Programme’s Cash for Assets program as an effective model to be implemented for Haitians to purchase much-needed goods and services, in addition to coordinated humanitarian relief.
2) Improve Transparency and Accountability
Vijaya Ramachandran, Senior Fellow, and Julie Walz, Policy Analyst
Since the 2010 earthquake, over $6 billion has been disbursed in official aid to help the people of Haiti. Almost 90 percent of aid has gone to international NGOs and private contractors (9.5 percent has gone to the Government of Haiti and .4 percent to Haitian NGOs and businesses). Yet, there’s very little transparency about how this money is spent. Funders should require more evaluations of NGO and contractor activities, and also report their activities in the IATI format. Further, the Government of Haiti should be encouraged to procure services through competitive bidding. This would not only increase accountability of NGOs and contractors providing the services but also enable the Haitian government to build control over the process.
3) Increase Local Procurement
Vijaya Ramachandran, Senior Fellow, and Julie Walz, Policy Analyst
Out of every $100 spent by the US Government for reconstruction following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, only $1.35 went directly to Haitian companies. The current US development strategy focuses on stimulating economic activity and pledges support to Micro, Small, and Medium Enterprises along with the development of Caracol Industrial Park. Yet, a key tool is missing in the strategy to build economic security and jobs in Haiti – buying from local businesses.
4) Better Haiti Aid: MigrationMichael Clemens, Senior Fellow
“The U.S. government added Haiti to the list of more than 50 countries eligible to participate in the H-2 visa program for temporary and seasonal workers, ending a longstanding policy of excluding Haitians from America’s largest temporary employment-based visa program. This is wonderful news for Haitians and Americans. It has the potential to unlock hundreds of millions of dollars in new economic opportunity for Haitian workers and their families—at no cost to the U.S. or Haitian governments, and with no increase in overall U.S. immigration. This seemingly tiny change has vast economic potential. Given the huge wage differences (an estimated $19,000 in additional annual income per Haitian worker), if just 2,000 Haitians are permitted to work as H-2 workers in the United States each year, over the course of 10 years, that’s $400 million in additional, new income for Haitian families. That’s equal in size to the entire U.S. post-earthquake budget for reconstruction in Haiti. Building on this great work, the US should consider a Haitian Family Reunification Parole Program. Haitians who have been approved for US permanent residency must sometimes wait as much as 11 years in Haiti to receive their green cards. A parole program would permit some of them to wait for their green cards in the United Stated instead.”
5) Cholera in Haiti: The Blame GameVictoria Fan, Research Fellow, and Richard Cash, Senior Lecturer on Global Health, Harvard School of Public Health
“Since October 2010, Haiti has struggled to control a deadly cholera outbreak—on top of ongoing recovery efforts from the devastating earthquake in January 2010. In December 2011, a group of lawyers in Haiti, on behalf of some 15,000 victims of cholera, sued the United Nations for $50,000 for each victim and double that for families of those who died. Focusing on these immediate objects of blame are of epidemiologic interest, but deflect attention away from the country experiencing the disease, and in this case, unable to control the spread. In a country where aid agencies and NGOs play major roles relative to the government, this outbreak should draw attention not only to immediate causes but more importantly to the long-term failure by every involved party and to the urgency of improving Haiti’s water and sanitation as soon as possible.”
Click here and here to see earlier lists of alternative development ideas for Haiti, featuring more ideas and commentary on post-quake development efforts.
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.
Africa receives only a tiny fraction of global investments in emerging markets. But the problem is not that fund managers are scared away by a seemingly steady stream of bad news out of Africa, nor is a general marketing of Africa to global investors the solution. Instead the authors of this new CGD working paper find that the small size of African markets and low levels of liquidity are a binding deterrent for foreign institutional investors. Drawing on firm surveys to explore why African firms remain small, the authors offer practical recommendations for increasing portfolio investment in Africa. Learn more
The Brexit vote illustrates what can happen when people feel their job opportunities are suffering due to liberalized trade policies. If we want open migration and trade policies, we need to focus on domestic job losses.