Ideas to Action:

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Views from the Center

CGD experts offer ideas and analysis to improve international development policy. Also check out our Global Health blog and US Development Policy blog.

 

Please, Can You Help Me Understand IDA's New Private Sector Window?

The World Bank’s soft lending arm for poorer countries, IDA, is busy rolling out a new $2.5 billion Private Sector Window. (See last year’s outline proposal for reference.) Bigger private sectors in IDA countries would be hugely welcome, so there is much to like in the broad thrust of the proposal, as suggested by Nancy Lee. But I’m left a little baffled by the details, and would love some reactions as to what I’m missing.

Can Governments Purchase Their Way to Greater Gender Equality?

The world of business is still extremely gender-unequal. Across the countries in the World Bank’s enterprise surveys, less than one in five firms are run by a woman, for example. Governments could help fix that problem by using their immense purchasing power (close on $10 trillion a year in procurements) to foster the growth of women-owned enterprises. But at the moment—at least in the US—the government is a laggard rather than a leader when it comes to awarding contracts to women owned business. It’s time for that to change.

Really, Global Poverty *Is* Falling. Honest.

Martin Kirk and Jason Hickel published a piece earlier this week on the annual Gates Letter. The core critique is that the letter is too rosy. In particular, Kirk and Hickel say of the Gates' letter: "some of their examples are just wrong." The case they provide in illustration is the idea that poverty has been cut by half since 1990. The Gates "use figures based on a $1.25 a day poverty line, but there is a strong scholarly consensus that this line is far too low." Use other poverty lines, and global poverty "hasn’t been falling. In fact, it has been increasing—dramatically.” (See related pieces by Jason here and here). I don't think this critique holds up.

It’s Time for Global Sports Bodies to Live Up to Their Rhetoric on Gender

For all the protestations about equality, there’s evidence to suggest both the International Olympic Committee and FIFA turn a blind eye to evidence of considerable discrimination against women when it comes to the opportunity to compete at the highest levels of sport. They should be ready to back their beautiful words into concrete actions that make a difference, and one tool would be banning countries that grossly discriminate from participating in events.

Refusing Visas, Refusing Income?

In 2015, there were 77,470,857 visits to the United States from other countries. These visitors brought tremendous benefit: not only did they each spend an average of $4,400 on US goods and services during their stay, but also they helped US firms engage with foreign markets, raise the quality of students here, and help with the diffusion of knowledge. We should want more of these tourists and businesspeople, and the above suggests a real cost to inaccurate visa screening mechanisms—of which blanket bans are a prime example.

Tougher Visa Policies Could Carry Heavy US Economic Cost

The Trump administration has imposed a number of entry restrictions through executive order, justifying them on national security grounds. But one additional set of concerns regards the economic costs of tightening visa restrictions, which can be considerable even when looking solely at temporary visitors. While the current bans would likely have a limited economic impact on the US through reduced tourist and business travel, the extension of restrictions could carry increasingly heavy economic costs.

Using Trade Agreements to Support Women Workers

We’ve spent the past year focusing on beyond aid approaches to promoting gender equality worldwide, through discussions on how to improve outcomes for women and girls in areas ranging from migration to UN peacekeeping forces. Next we’re looking at how trade agreements can help to ensure they benefit women and men equally, whether they participate in the economy as wage workers, farmers, or entrepreneurs. That might take both carrots and sticks—because, at the moment, women are all too likely to lose out.

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