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This blog post was originally published in the Business Standard.
The Greatest Depression that could so easily have happened in 2009 but did not is the tribute that the world owes to economics.
In 2008, as the global financial crisis unfolded, the reputation of economics as a discipline and economists as useful policy practitioners seemed to be irredeemably sunk. Queen Elizabeth captured the mood when she asked pointedly why no one (in particular economists) had spotted the crisis coming. And there is no doubt that, notwithstanding the few Cassandras who had correctly prophesied gloom and doom, the profession had failed colossally.
In the wake of the shambles at Copenhagen, we could do worse than contemplate Vladimir and Estragon in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. The two characters converse endlessly and anxiously, while they wait for the mysterious Godot to arrive and secure their enlightenment. But Godot never shows up, even though he keeps sending word that he will.
If you are looking for a microcosm of the U.S. struggle to fight extremism with a development face, look no further than Mali. Karin Brulliard's excellent piece in today's Washington Post (Africa on the front page!) explains the context just right: a poor country, long a crossroads of different cultures welcomed by tolerant Islam, is facing new pressures from foreign influences, including spillover from internal Algerian strife. The U.S.
Right – it’s an “agreement”… to punt down the field for some transient face-saving. Obama said he had to fly back to Washington early because of the weather (riiiight ….). These guys have signally failed us. The Americans failed on emissions reductions. The Chinese failed on transparency. Plenty of credit to go around, as it turns out. But the problem doesn’t go away, and efforts to find solutions outside of the failed negotiating framework now become more crucial and urgent than ever.
As the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen continues, negotiators face a series of unresolved questions. What emissions targets should be agreed to? How much money should be provided to finance mitigation and adaptation in developing countries, and how should these financial flows be governed? Should intellectual property rights be reformed to facilitate the diffusion of low-carbon technologies?
I am pleased to share with our readers at Owen’s request this discussion of Cash on Delivery Aid, which appeared yesterday on his blog, Owen Abroad.
Linking Aid to Results: Why Are Some Development Workers Anxious?
By Owen Barder
The Center for Global Development is working on an idea which they call Cash on Delivery aid, in which donors make a binding commitment to developing country governments to provide aid according to the outputs that the government delivers. I think this is a good idea in principle, and hope that it can be tested to see whether and how it could work in practice. The UK Conservative party have said in their Green Paper that if they are elected they will use Cash on Delivery to link aid to results.
Linking aid more closely to results is attractive from many different perspectives. My own view is that linking aid directly to results will help to change the politics of aid for donors. Many of the most egregiously ineffective behaviours in aid are a direct result of donors’ (very proper) need to show to their taxpayers how money has been used. Because traditional aid is not directly linked to results, donors end up focusing on inputs and micromanaging how aid is spent instead, with all the obvious consequences for transactions costs, poor alignment with developing countries systems and priorities and lack of harmonisation. If we could link aid more directly to results, I think donors will be freed from many of the political pressures they currently face to deliver aid badly; and it would be politically easier to defend large increases in aid budgets.
Kudos to our friends at the African Development Bank for their recent launching of a new blog, Building Africa Today. So far it is providing regular updates of African currencies, stock markets, commodities, and other data relevant to those following economic trends on the continent. Any quick scan of the blog also shows that this is not your father’s AfDB of the 1980s: the blog and the Bank are both heavily focused on private sector activity.
China recently announced it will reduce the emissions-intensity of its economy (ratio of emissions to GDP) by at least 40-45 percent by 2020. But in Copenhagen it is resisting making that promise an internationally binding commitment. That’s a big problem for the U.S. negotiators, since the Congress is adamant: the U.S. will not commit until and unless the Chinese do too.