Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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.

 

An aerial view of the Pentagon. Adobe Stock.

How Cost Effective Is the Department of Defense?

In global development, we spend a lot of time thinking about cost effectiveness. But what if we step back and look at the broader picture when it comes to the effectiveness of different tools of foreign policy and engagement including diplomacy and defense? What are our most effective approaches to deliver on US national security and future prosperity? My new book is an attempt to answer that question.

Mobile phone reception coverage map of Tanzania.

How Much Would It Cost to Extend Mobile Coverage to Everyone in Tanzania?

Less than 45 percent of the area of Tanzania is covered by any form of cell phone reception. Telecom providers target high-population areas first, so the percentage of the population covered by the cell phone signal is 83 percent. But the problem is that the remaining 17 percent of the population, or 9.2 million people, is spread over 55 percent of the country—meaning the density of potential users is low. Especially because rural populations tend to be poorer than city dwellers, the revenue generated per cell tower may be too low to justify rollout.

A miniature man and a miniature woman standing at different heights.

Survey Says: Few Women at the Top in US Think Tanks

At their best, experts sitting in think tanks generate rigorous research and analysis inform policies and address the world’s most pressing challenges. But who gets to be counted among these experts? Are think tanks hiring, promoting, and compensating equitably and inclusively? And who is being left out of this group of experts, and, critically, what good ideas might we be missing as a result?

Philippe Le Houérou at the WEF. Photo by World Economic Forum / Jakob Polacsek

Aid Transparency and Subsidies to Private Companies: A First Step, But a Long Road Ahead

Today the IFC announced a step forward in its transparency around the use of aid resources to finance private companies. That’s right and proper: When scarce aid, and scarce tax resources, are used to support private firms, citizens of donor countries and recipient countries alike have a right to know where the money is going to and how generous the terms. A number of us at CGD had been calling for greater transparency around subsidies to the private sector from the IFC and other development finance institutions, so this is a welcome first step. However, a few aspects have might be cause for concern.

An image showing money with relation to subsidies

Introducing Five Principles for the Use of Aid in Subsidies to the Private Sector

Development finance institutions like the International Finance Corporation and the UK’s CDC Group use public finance to support private investments in developing countries. At their best they can help create new markets and invest in the delivery of vital goods and services, creating good jobs and entrepreneurial opportunity along the way. They have been rapidly expanding over the past few years.

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