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.

 

How Can Digital Payments Strengthen State Capacity? Four Areas with High Potential

These recent developments in identification, combined with rising mobile phone ownership, broadening Internet access, and innovative payment delivery mechanisms, can be harnessed to transform the way states implement poverty-reduction programs and improve the lives of their citizens. Digital payments promise faster, more transparent, and lower-cost delivery for existing cash-based government transfers, and can also transform the way governments deliver subsidies. In a new background paper, Dan Radcliffe reviews the evidence on the gains from digital payments and pinpoints four ways in which they can improve development outcomes.

Aadhaar-Based Cash Transfers: Promising Reform, but More Data Needed

India’s shift towards direct benefit transfers (DBTs) is on the fast track. According to official statements, in the 2015-16 fiscal year the central government deposited nearly $5 billion of subsidy and welfare payments directly into the bank accounts of 300 million beneficiaries. It has also set an ambitious target to transfer all payments to the Aadhaar-based biometric DBT platform by the end of 2017. This will surely be the greatest subsidy reform in the world, but we need more data to accurately evaluate its impact.

Using Aid for Cash Transfers: What Do 10,000 People in 28 Countries Think?

Cash transfers might be the next big thing in international development. Yet our analysis of new survey data suggests that public support for cash transfers is modest and fragile. Donors—who are poised to leverage a promising new way of delivering aid to do more good for less money—must continue to make the public case for cash transfers, and continue to present the remarkably strong evidence that they are not misspent.

Small Changes, Big Impacts, and Lingering Questions: The Inaugural Birdsall House Conference Series on Women

As part of our new Gender and Development program, CGD just hosted the first annual Birdsall House Conference on Women. This year’s session, “Small Changes, Big Impact: Creating Conditions for Women and Girls to Thrive,” explored the possibility that cheap and scalable aid-funded interventions could considerably improve the lives of women and girls. Short answer: small changes do have big potential, but their limits should be acknowledged — and they require continued study and fine-tuning in order to be more effective.

The Political Paradox of Cash Transfers

Rigorous evaluations show giving poor people cash is a very effective policy. But polls show poor Tanzanians would rather have government services.

This is part II in our blog series about poll results from Tanzania on managing the country’s newfound natural gas wealth. Read part I on fuel subsidies and stay tuned for part III on transparency.

What Cash Payments Can’t Do: Lessons from #BringBackOurGirls

I have had the privilege of living and working in West Africa for the past 15 years. In 2007, I spent several months in northern Nigeria, interviewing grain traders in cross-border markets. These markets were some of my favorite places in West Africa—bustling, chaotic, open-air markets that brought together hundreds of farmers, traders and consumers, all from different villages and cultures, to exchange, talk and trade. I enjoyed walking through those markets, observing, negotiating and asking questions.

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