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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.

 

Mapping Development Trends in Google N-Grams

A few days ago, Google put online a tool designed as a time-suck for the holiday season (HT to Marginal Revolution for the link).  Google N-gram viewer allows you to type in some search terms and it spits out how often those terms appear in Google Books by year of publication.  Google books now contains 5,195,769 digitized books –or about 4% of all books ever published—so that it’s a pretty powerful tool to monitor cultural trends.

On the Hill: Moss Says Nigeria Should Try Cash Transfers (and U.S. Should Support Multilateral Development Banks)

This is a joint post with Kaci Farrell.

During a House Financial Services subcommittee hearing on the global financial crisis and Nigeria’s financial reforms, CGD vice president for programs and senior fellow Todd Moss said Nigeria’s economic and political stability are inextricably linked to each other and to U.S. national interests. He urged members to support the African Development Bank and the World Bank and proposed a new idea: Nigeria should consider using oil revenues to finance cash transfers to citizens in the Niger Delta.

Three Seoul Sleepers and a Damp Squib

Perhaps predictably, media coverage of the G-20 Seoul Summit focused on the currency wars, and assessments of impact of the meeting were decidedly mixed (though, interestingly, more negative in the United States than in the big emerging markets). But global imbalances were hardly the only item on the agenda. Three summit documents have the potential to become more important with the passage of time, especially if the development community seizes upon them as opportunities to press the big economies for pro-development policies and spreads the word.

Biometrics, Identity, and Development

I recently presented an overview of this work at one of CGD’s biweekly Research-in-Progress (RIP) staff meetings; colleagues urged me to share my thinking about this and the slides via this blog post.

Replenishing IDA’s Coffers: Time to Get Creative

This afternoon, the World Bank’s shareholders will wrap up their latest discussions about replenishing IDA’s financial coffers – which provides cheap loans and grants to the world’s poorest countries.  The largest donors seem more or less content with the new package of policy reforms.  They have agreed that IDA should focus even more on evaluating project effectiveness and have greater flexibility in dealing with the most fragile countries.  Nothing particularly earth shattering – and definitely nothing sexy (even for us propeller heads).  Then again, IDA is already one of the most

When Rigorous Impact Evaluation Is Not a Luxury: Scrutinizing the Millennium Villages

A version of this blog also appeared on the Huffington Post.

Back in 2004 a major new development project started in Bar-Sauri, Kenya. This Millennium Village Project (MVP) seeks to break individual village clusters free from poverty with an intense, combined aid package for agriculture, education, health, and infrastructure. The United Nations and Columbia University began the pilot phase in Bar-Sauri and have extended it to numerous village clusters in nine other countries. They hope to scale up the approach across much of Africa.

But wait: Before we consider blanketing a continent with any aid intervention, we have to know whether or not it works. For example, we have to know if different things have happened in Bar-Sauri than have happened in nearby Uranga, which was not touched by the project. And we have to know if those differences will last. This matters because aid money is scarce, and the tens of millions slated for the MVP are tens of millions that won’t be spent on other efforts.

Here I discuss a new research paper that I wrote with Gabriel Demombynes of the World Bank.

Zoellick Annual Meeting Speech on Research!

The most important thing about Robert Zoellick’s speech at Georgetown yesterday is that the president of the World Bank gave a speech about research – development economics research, that is --  in the run-up to the Bank’s annual meeting.

Three Early Moves for Michelle Bachelet’s UN “Start-Up” for Women

This post also appeared on the Huffington Post.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday named former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet to head UN Women (full name: UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women), a new UN entity. Congratulations to Dr. Bachelet!

While the selection process was criticized for lacking openness and transparency, I hope that those of us, like me, who have been awaiting this appointment will put that concern behind us and let her get on with the job. In many ways, Michelle Bachelet is the ideal candidate, with the right credentials to make this important new entity function effectively:

Are the MDGs Useful for Africa?

Good question as the world prepares for the September summit to assess progress. But this is a slightly odd debate here at The Africa Report. The UN Millennium Promise’s Charles Abugre Akelyira seems to think the MDGs are a rejection of economic policy reform:

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