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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.

 

Taxing Kenya’s M-Pesa Picks the Pockets of the Poor

Kenya has instituted a new tax that affects users of M-Pesa -- a widely popular phone-based money transfer service used by more than half of Kenya’s adult population. The new 10 percent excise duty on fees charged for money transfer services applies to mobile phone providers, banks, and other money transfer agencies. Operated by Safaricom, the largest mobile network operator in Kenya, M-Pesa accounts for the largest share of users of money transfer services. Users of M-Pesa products will therefore bear most of the impact of the tax.

Finance Lessons from Emerging Markets for Europe and the United States

Last week I was one of a handful of speakers at the annual meeting of the Bretton Woods Committee, a non-partisan group that works to promote international economic cooperation and to foster strong, effective Bretton Woods institutions (i.e. the IMF and World Bank). Other speakers at the meeting, which was titled “From Vicious to Virtuous: The Cycle of Debt, Stability, and Growth” included U.S. Rep.

The Lingering Effects of the U.S. Debt Showdown: Q&A with Liliana Rojas-Suarez

The spectacle of U.S. politicians pushing the country to the brink of default is likely to have lingering effects on global financial markets and hence on development, the eleventh-hour compromise notwithstanding. In the near-term, however, the main issue is the U.S. economic slump and the increased likelihood that the world’s biggest economy will fall back into recession.

Connecting with Central America through Research

Central America experienced almost a decade of economic progress between 2003 and 2008, when GDP per capita growth averaged 3 percent per year. Yet the region’s five countries–Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua–still lag other middle income economies. Their high dependence on their primary commodities and the U.S. economy makes the growth slow and volatile. Even more worrying are high levels of poverty and inequality.  Significant structural changes are urgently needed to secure sustained and inclusive growth.

Restoring U.S. Financial Markets in a Credible Way: Comments on Feldstein and Yellen

From January 6-9, I participated in the annual ASSA (Allied Social Science Associations) conference in Denver, Colorado.  I was part of a high-level panel discussion with a number of distinguished economists including Janet Yellen, the Federal Reserve’s Vice-Chair; Martin Feldstein, of Harvard University; Andrew Brimmer, former Governor of the Federal Reserve Board; and Alan Krueger, former Assistant Secretary for Economic Policy, among others.

The Currency War: Risks for Latin America and the Role of Central Banks

During the 13th and 16th of November, the Latin American Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee (CLAAF) held their second meeting of the year in Lima with the purpose of discussing the effect of the currency wars on the Latin American region. As a result of the meeting, we presented the 23rd CLAAF statement. The statement has been extremely well received and broadly covered by the Peruvian press.

Currency Wars Are a Development Problem and the G-20 Has a Major Role to Play in the Solution

Last weekend’s communiqué from the G-20 finance ministers is a first step to bridge the divide in the ongoing currency wars. I find both hope and disappointment in the Communiqué. It is very positive that the G-20 ministers have called for the IMF to help identify countries with policies leading to large and unsustainable imbalances. This is a step in the right direction, although no specific quantitative indicators have yet been advanced.

Development and the Seoul G-20 Summit

Reports of progress last weekend notwithstanding, the so-called currency wars—the reality and threat of competitive devaluations—are likely to continue to dominate the news about the upcoming Seoul G-20 Summit.

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