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.

 

UK Spending Plans Protect Development Spending

The UK coalition government yesterday announced its spending plans for the next four financial years (to 2014-15). These spending plans are subject to scrutiny and approval by Parliament, though the tradition in Britain is that the spending plans are usually approved without significant amendment.

America Cannot Win the Currency Wars Alone

This piece originally appeared in the Financial Times.

How ironic that the world’s reserve currency issuer (the US) and its long-term rival to that status (China) are competing to nearly debauch their own currencies? America’s behaviour – more effect than intent – takes the form of quantitative easing. China’s takes the form of not letting its currency strengthen (which makes the recent monetary tightening deflationary for others).

But unilateral American action against China cannot be the basis for resolving the currency wars. Effective and legitimate multilateral action to induce Chinese co-operation is necessary. Mobilising a broader coalition of the “affected but as yet unwilling” countries before the upcoming Group of 20 summit in Seoul should be America’s priority.

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.

A Victory for LDCs in the EU

Finally!! After years of debating changes to rules of origin to make it easier for developing countries, especially the least-developed among them, to export duty-free under preference programs, the European Union is finally set to act at the end of this month.

Too Big to Succeed? Why (W)Hole-of-Government Cannot Work for U.S. Development Policy

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

While talking beautifully about its development plans, the Administration is really not living up to its rhetoric of elevating development to equal status with diplomacy and defense, the so-called 3Ds. If development is really such an equal partner alongside defense and diplomacy, why is USAID increasingly a minor subcomponent of the State department? The promises of making USAID the “world’s premier development agency” are ringing embarrassingly hollow. How can an agency be influential when it doesn’t even control its own budget or set its own strategic priorities? Even in areas where USAID has traditionally been very strong—disaster relief and food security, for instance—the State Department has taken over. (The Feed-the-Future initiative is effectively directed by State and, despite early promises that USAID would lead on Haitian earthquake relief and reconstruction, it was recently leaked that a State coordinator is running the show.) And it should hardly be surprising that USAID is getting its lunch eaten in the interagency when it had no head for a year and, nearly two years in, still has less than half of its top managers on the job.

But what if the problems of the 3Ds aren’t really about the staff vacancies, the battle of Washington egos, and an empire-building State Department? What if the real problem is that the much-vaunted “whole-of-government” approach is fundamentally unworkable in the United States?

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