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Momentum seems to be building on Capitol Hill for some kind of West African travel ban as an anti-Ebola measure. It sounds like a simple solution. But here’s why a travel ban is pointless—or could even make us less safe.
On Monday, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel, aka the Nobel Prize for Economics, to Professor Jean Tirole of the Toulouse School of Economics.
This morning (Thursday) came the news that Arvind Subramanian, a joint fellow at CGD and at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, is being appointed Chief Economic Advisor to the government of India. This appointment (for our American readers), is more or less equivalent to being the head of the US President’s Council of Economic Advisors. The current Chief Economist of the World Bank, Kaushik Basu, is a former CEA in India, and the current head of India’s Reserve Bank, Raghuram Rajan is a former CEA. (In Arvind’s case, I dearly hope he will be back at CGD—and yes PIIE—here in Washington within a few years.)
Unilaterally seek to push Asia’s largest economy out of the Asian Development Bank’s club of borrowers. Never mind that China’s “graduation” from the ADB would weaken the institution financially and sever an important channel of influence and dialogue with Chinese officials.
Imagine a heavy rainstorm, typical in the wet tropics, falling on an intact hillside forest. The forest’s many levels of leaves and branches act like stacked umbrellas, softening the impact of the intense rain. Trees, shrubs, vines, mosses, and litter shield the soil from the direct impact of the rainfall, while roots act like underground nets holding the soil in place. After the storm has ended, roots and animal burrows transport the fallen water into the earth. At the same time trees pump water back into the sky as clouds, cooling the air and sending moisture downwind. Water also runs off overland feeding streams and rivers.
The priority for policymakers concerned about the Ebola epidemic in West Africa should be to respond to the existing outbreak, treat the victims, and contain its spread. But the longer term lesson is that we need to be willing to spend more on global health.