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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.

 

Development's Hopes and Dilemmas in the Country at the Center of the World: Papua New Guinea

In a recent trip to the center of the world, I found myself confronting the big development questions in a low-income country with reasonably propitious circumstances. Papua New Guinea (PNG) is larger, richer, and growing faster than I had thought. It will go to the polls this very month to elect a new government. It is also facing all the dilemmas faced by most low-income countries since the 1950s—political fragmentation, resource curses, income inequality, and poor health. Have we learned anything to help it meet those challenges?

The World’s Most Profitable Slow-Motion Disaster: Tobacco

In April, I attended a very hopeful event sponsored by the World Bank entitled, “Tobacco Taxation Win-Win for Public Health and Domestic Resources Mobilization.” My optimism was buoyed by seeing people from different ministries, disciplines, and perspectives all recognizing the need to raise tobacco taxes and sharing ideas on how to reduce the death toll from smoking. Then the bubble burst. I got home and saw a Wall Street Journal article about the increasing profitability of cigarette corporations in the US domestic market—a reminder that, unbelievably, we are still on the defensive against this large, growing, and completely avoidable disaster.

Insights from Experience: Practical Effects of the SDGs on Public Administration and Aid

When the UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, they were met with a mix of hopedismay, and derision. Until we see how people respond to these goals, judgments about their specificity, complexity, and usefulness are educated guesses. At a workshop last month, I got a glimpse of two ways the SDGs may be making a difference—focusing political attention and reorganizing aid relationships.

The IMF Finally Speaks on Tobacco Taxes

Last November, the IMF released a workable guide to issues that come up when a country decides to raise tobacco taxes. This is a big step. As far as I know, this is the first public statement from the IMF on tobacco taxes since 1999. Yet while it recognizes the health effects of reducing tobacco consumption, the technical note never addresses how you would make sure that tobacco taxes reduce smoking.

Can Payment for Results Repair Political Accountability Relations?

When people hear that a foreign aid program is paying for results, they can think about it in two very different ways. Some people think that paying for results is a way to control recipients, making them more strictly accountable to the people or organizations that are paying them. Others think that paying for results is a way to give recipients more autonomy and encourage them to be accountable to their beneficiaries (in the case of service providers) or their constituents (in the case of governments). It turns out that both perspectives are right—depending on just how the program that pays for results is designed.

Improving Development Policy through Impact Evaluations: Then, Now, and Next?

In 2006, CGD published a working group report that addressed the insufficient number of rigorous impact evaluations of social programs in low- and middle-income countries. Last week —marking 10 years since the report’s release—CGD and J-PAL co-hosted the event, “Improving Development Policy through Impact Evaluation,” which echoed three key messages of the 2006 report: 1) conduct more and better evaluations; 2) connect evaluators and policymakers; and 3) recognize that impact evaluations are an important global public good that requires more unconstrained funding.

Ignorance Attack! New Education Commission Report Sounds Alarm on Global Learning Crisis

If we don’t take action now, millions of children who should be learning to read and write will be illiterate; projections show that only 1 in 10 children in low-income countries will be on track to gain basic secondary-level skills by 2030. This alarm is a central feature of The Learning Generation: Investing in Education for a Changing World, a report released Sunday by the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity. The report’s 12 recommendations should make us all sit up, take note, and take action.

First (Out)come, First Served? “Dispensers for Safe Water” Tests a COD Hypothesis

I’ve been working on the idea of Cash on Delivery (COD) for some years under the hypothesis that if we could define good outcome indicators, someone would step forward to buy them. So what would happen if an organization came forward with a plan to supply a verified outcome in return for a set unit payment after delivery? In a sense, this is what Dispensers for Safe Water, an Evidence Action program, is currently doing.

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