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A teacher on strike in Chicago in 2012. Photo by Brad Perkins via Wikimedia

What Makes a Politician Tackle Education?

Josef Ritzen, the Netherlands’ education minister for eight years before he joined the World Bank, once told me: “The view of a prime minister is that an education minister only brings problems. There’s nothing he or she can do to improve quality that has a political upside. So, most ministers try to do nothing.” Ritzen’s recent successors have learned this lesson the hard way with public outcry over heightened math admission requirements for teacher training colleges that have led to a teacher shortage and larger classes. So far, the government has stood firm, convinced that students cannot truly master math without excellent teaching. But the education reform shoe is pinching.

A table showing tax revenue as a share of GDP in sub-Saharan Africa

Enhancing Domestic Resource Mobilization: What are the Real Obstacles?

At the Center for Global Development, we recently initiated a project to develop more effective and equitable strategies for domestic resource mobilization in low-income countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). The impetus for the project is the Addis Ababa Action Agenda for financing development, which calls on developing countries to step up their efforts to collect more taxes domestically to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

A close-up of a student taking notes while sitting at a desk in a classroom

Lessons for a New Minister of Education from People Who’ve Had the Job

To reform an education system: what a task! How does one even begin? Start by talking to those who’ve done the work. In his new book, Letters to a New Minister of Education, Fernando Reimers has assembled letters of advice from 17 education leaders representing 11 countries. Here are five lessons that I took away.

ICAI grades for spending directly evaluated (Depts reviewed and >1% UK aid)

How Effective Is UK Aid? Assessing the Last 8 Years of Spending

In our new policy paper, we take advantage of the fact that the impact of UK aid is independently assessed by the Independent Commission on Aid Impact (ICAI). Looking back over 8 years and 65 graded assessments, even with a focus on riskier projects, we find that almost 80 percent of UK aid assessed was well spent. With a spending review on the horizon, HM Treasury will be looking closely at departmental performance and should use ICAI’s findings to shape their allocations. 

Cape Town at morning rush hour

Anarchy Undelivered

Twenty-five years ago, travel writer and journalist Robert Kaplan wrote an article for The Atlantic, headlined “The Coming Anarchy.” It was an apocalyptic account of Kaplan’s visit to West Africa and his dark vision that much of the world would end up looking like war-torn Sierra Leone. Kaplan suggested recently that he thought “The Coming Anarchy” had stood the test of time. I disagree, and think the fact that Kaplan was wrong matters: global jeremiads are a force for isolationism. I discussed why with The Atlantic’s Matthew Peterson on a new podcast.  

 
Construction workers laying a road

Do the Poor Want Cash Transfers or Public Services?

Nearly 4,000 people in rural Bihar, India, answered the question, “Would you rather have the government budget spent on cash transfers or public health and nutrition services?” According to a blog post by Khemani, Habyarimana, and Nooruddin, “only 13 percent chose cash if it came at the expense of spending to improve public health and nutrition.” The pattern is similar when comparing cash to roads, with the vast majority of people preferring roads. 

Cash and coins on a blank surface

Financing Options for Low-Income Countries

The global narrative on development finance centers on enabling all countries to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. This cascades into a set of questions about how much financing is needed, how it should be mobilized, and how it will be used. While the SDGs motivate action and have a reasonable prospect of being met in middle-income developing countries, achieving the SDGs in low-income countries (LICs), which have further to travel and more binding resource and institutional constraints, will be harder. The challenge will be most acute in Africa, where pockets of absolute poverty are increasingly concentrated and environmental degradation and conflict add to state fragility.  

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