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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.

Views From The Center Blog

 

The Myth of Microfinance? Why MFIs Shouldn’t Be Freaking Out (Yet)

This is a joint post with Michael Clemens.

The headline in the Boston Globe on September 20, 2009 was catchy: "Billions of dollars and a Nobel Prize later, it looks like 'microlending' doesn’t actually do much to fight poverty." The article referred to the findings of two recent impact evaluations in microfinance in India and the Philippines conducted by researchers at MIT and Yale, respectively. The studies, which were randomized controlled trials (RCTs) of microfinance interventions, found “weak and in some cases nonexistent effects” of microfinance on profits, expenditures and well-being. Privately and publicly, donors, MFIs and practitioners are expressing concern about the impact of these studies on the future of microfinance. Are they right to be worried?

GAO Report Highlights Costs of U.S. Food Aid Restrictions

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post on June 5, 2009.

According to a testimony before congress yesterday and a new Government Accountability Office report, congressional restrictions on U.S. food aid raise the costs of delivering it by as much as a third and delay it reaching hungry people by up to 100 days. When donors purchase food locally or regionally, it not only gets to needy people faster and more cheaply, it may also better match local preferences and nutrition needs. Yet, in the midst of last year’s global food price crisis, Congress passed a farm bill that continued the long-standing practice of requiring that food aid be purchased in the United States and that 75 percent of it be delivered by U.S.-flagged ships.

Cash (or Food?) for Thought: The Debate on Cash versus Food Isn't Over (Yet)

This is a joint posting with Cindy Prieto
On February 13, 2009, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) began distributing food vouchers to 120,000 "cash-strapped residents" in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso -- representing almost 10 percent of the capital city's population. The distribution program is part of WFP's efforts to mitigate the impact of high food prices in the country, which have persisted after an abundant harvest. As the Country Director for WFP in Burkina Faso explained, "Sometimes it makes more sense to give people vouchers than bags of food."

Got a Favorite CGD Research Output in 2008? Tell Eldis!

Eldis, the online aggregator of development policy, practice and research at the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex, is conducting a survey to identify "the most significant new piece of development research of 2008." This strikes me as having roughly the same statistical validity as American Idol does for when it comes to finding new singing talent. Still, as with Idol and other talent shows, the entertainment value of a popularity contest is hard to dispute!