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Views from the Center

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Local Procurement Is Key to Rebuilding the Private Sector in Haiti

This is a joint post with Julie Walz.

In a recent blog post, we discussed the phenomenon of Haiti as a “Republic of NGOs” where the government and the private sector were crowded out by large international organizations that provided most services. Just as international donors have sidestepped the Haitian government, reconstruction contracts have also bypassed Haitian firms in favor of Beltway contractors. The Center for Economic and Policy Research analyzed the 1,490 contracts (worth $194.5 million) awarded between January 2010 and April 2011. Only 23 contracts--for a total of $4.8 million or 2.5 percent of the total—were awarded to Haitian companies. In comparison, contractors based in the Washington DC area received $76 million – almost 40 percent of the total.

Connecting with Central America through Research

Central America experienced almost a decade of economic progress between 2003 and 2008, when GDP per capita growth averaged 3 percent per year. Yet the region’s five countries–Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua–still lag other middle income economies. Their high dependence on their primary commodities and the U.S. economy makes the growth slow and volatile. Even more worrying are high levels of poverty and inequality.  Significant structural changes are urgently needed to secure sustained and inclusive growth.

Six Important Lessons for Disaster Relief

The massive earthquake that struck Haiti last week has wreaked havoc on a scale that appears unprecedented. Unfortunately, there are many precedents, including several in the last five years, such as the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, which killed an estimated 220,000 people, the South Asia earthquake of 2005, which killed 86,000 people, and the Chengdu earthquake of 2008, which killed a similar number. Learning from these is critical to succeeding in minimizing the suffering in Haiti in the next few days and weeks and maximizing the opportunities for recovery over the next several years. While different people involved in the response to these disasters will draw different lessons, from my perspective at the White House during the tsunami and the South Asia earthquake, the following come most quickly to mind:

Could Ex Ante Loan Sanctions against the De Facto Honduran Regime Prevent Illegitimate Debt?

This is a joint posting with Cindy Prieto.

Since the coup ousting Honduran president Manuel Zelaya last June, the international community has responded with strong words and a mix of mostly mild actions. The Organization of American States (OAS) unanimously voted to suspend Honduras when the de facto regime ignored its demand for the immediate reinstatement of Zelaya, and the UN General Assembly has also adopted a resolution denouncing the coup. The United States and European Union have halted some forms of non-humanitarian aid. But despite some calls for action , the United States and other major trade partners have yet to adopt trade sanctions or to freeze the coup leaders' assets.

Honduras: Walks Like a Coup, Quacks Like a Coup, But Not Officially Called a Coup?

On June 28, after months of tension over Honduran President Manuel Zelaya’s plan to lift presidential term limits, armed soldiers hauled him in his pajamas out of his home and put him on a plane to Costa Rica. Looks like a coup to me. Later that day the Honduran Congress voted to remove Zelaya and swear in Roberto Micheletti, head of the Congress, as the new civilian president. Even so, it still sounds like a coup to me. So, all the news stories call it a coup.

President Lula to Head the World Bank? Process Matters, Too

Last week the Guardian reported that the Obama Administration has approached President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil about becoming the next President of the World Bank. Seems unlikely to me – for one thing it’s early, since Robert Zoellick’s term lasts another three years, and the Administration has many other fish it is frying right now.

Don't Do It, Colombia! Presidential Term Limits Are Good for Development, But Endangered

How long should presidents rule? On Tuesday, Colombia’s senate approved a national referendum to amend the constitution—again—to allow the popular president Alvaro Uribe to stand for election next year to yet another term in office.

You should care because this is representative of a big phenomenon that spans the whole developing world. For good reasons, many developing countries built presidential term limits into their constitutions—the contracts that govern how people agree to be ruled by each other.

Missed Opportunities in Port of Spain, But a Step Forward on Cuba

As President Obama was making his way to the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad and Tobago last week, many hoped for something more concrete than just a fresh start with our neighbors in Latin America, who felt neglected and ignored for the past eight years. Those of us hoping that the president might take the opportunity to announce plans to seek congressional approval for two trade agreements that have been pending for two years or more--with Panama and Colombia--were disappointed.

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