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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.

Dubai, Magnet for Foreign Workers, Could Do Better by Easing Labor Mobility Restrictions

The story of Dubai is remarkable. In six decades it has grown from a small fishing village to a gleaming metropolis with a per capita GDP comparable to that of the United States. In many ways, Dubai must be seen to be believed. Even its skyline is unreal–rising straight out of the desert and dominated by the tallest building in the world—the 2625 ft., 160-story, silver-and-glass Burj Khalifa.

Is Haiti Doomed to be the Republic of NGOs?

This is a joint post with Julie Walz.

Two years ago, a 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti, plunging an already poor and unstable country into complete and utter chaos. In the days and weeks that followed, international responses and donations were overwhelming. Yet almost all of the assistance provided to Haiti has bypassed its government, leaving it even less capable than before. Humanitarian agencies, NGOs, private contractors, and other non-state service providers have received 99 percent of relief aid—less than 1 percent of aid in the immediate aftermath of the quake went to public institutions or to the government. And only 23 percent of the longer-term recovery funding was channeled through the Haitian government. Figure 1 shows the breakdown of relief aid from all donors to Haiti, by recipient.

A Bold New Idea for Infrastructure in Africa

This is a joint post with Julie Walz.

It is no secret that Africa faces an infrastructure crisis. The low-income economies of the region have fewer miles of paved roads and fewer modern freight and passenger-transport systems than any other region in the world. Electricity is also highly unreliable; businesses in many African countries suffer from power outages on more than half of the days they work per year. Inadequate infrastructure is cited by most African firms as the single biggest obstacle to doing business.

Brave New World: Emerging Donors and the Changing Nature of Foreign Assistance

This is a joint post with Julie Walz

As we approach the Fourth High Level Conference on Aid Effectiveness in Busan, South Korea, the topic of emerging donors looms large. While some policymakers hope the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China) will play a larger role, others warn they lack a collective agenda and do not have enough influence in a space dominated by members of the OECD-DAC.

G-20 Endorses World Food Programme Hedging

This post is co-authored by Vijaya Ramachandran

Last week, the G-20 agriculture ministers meeting in Paris issued a communiqué calling for the World Food Programme to develop hedging strategies to purchase food. In a little-noticed section towards the end of a 24-page document, the ministers stated:

We invite the multilateral, regional and national development banks or agencies to further explore, in connection with the private sector as appropriate:

Development of hedging strategies that could help international humanitarian agencies, in particular WFP, to optimize food procurements and maximize the purchasing power of financial resources, building upon forward purchase… (Annex 5)

What WOULD It Take for the US and Europe to Give Up Control of World Bank and IMF Leadership?

This is a joint post with David Roodman.

The Dominique Strauss-Kahn debacle has unexpectedly forced the first leadership turnover at a Bretton Woods institution since the global financial crisis—the first leadership transition in what we might call the G-20 world. The tacit deal that has long put an American atop the World Bank and a European in charge of the IMF, rooted in the geopolitics of the 1940s, looks more archaic than ever. That’s why this time around, the calls have grown even louder to make the leadership selection process of the World Bank and IMF open, transparent, and meritocratic. Owen Barder suggests on his widely read blog that transparency and merit are key to maintain the reputation and relevancy of these international institutions, and Nancy Birdsall agrees that the decision needs to be based on merit, not nationality. The Financial Times and others news media say that it is time for everyone to acknowledge that we are in the 21st century with several emerging powers that must have a larger role in the Bank, the Fund and other multilateral organizations. One of us (Vij) has made this argument too, constructing a model of global governance that factors in GDP and population as of 2011, not 1941.

Equatorial Guinea Dictator to Lead the African Union

Yesterday, the African Union chose Equatorial Guinea’s dictator of 31 years, President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, to serve as their chairman; a move that will undoubtedly undermine the AU’s attempt to bring stability to the African continent and to confront leaders who cling to power./

Obiang has been criticized for violating the basic human rights that the AU swears to uphold and is consideredone of the world’s worst dictators. Having ruled the country since 1979, Obiang claims to have won 97 percent of the vote in 2002 and 95 percent in 2009. And despite their oil wealth, the people of Equatorial Guinea have seen little benefit. Life expectancy is a mere 50 years, half of the children who live in that country do not complete primary school, and about 15 percent die before age of 5. The country ranks 118 out of 182 in the UNDP Human Development Index.

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