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Views from the Center

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The United States Can Give Better Aid to Haiti

This commentary also appeared on The Huffington Post and Global Post

Last week at a United Nations conference, donors pledged more than $10 billion to finance reconstruction and development investments in Haiti. The United States promised a hefty $1.15 billion.

But pledging money is the easy part. The United States, the lead donor and friend with the greatest interest in Haiti's future development, can do much more, in two ways: its own aid programs can be more effective; and it can take steps beyond aid that are far more critical to long-run prosperity for Haiti's people.

World Bank Chief Economist Endorses Carbon Charges at GDN Speech in Kuwait

World Bank chief economist Justin Lin endorsed charges for CO2 emissions in a keynote address at the 10th anniversary conference of the Global Development Network being held in Kuwait. Speaking in an ornate marble hall at the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development following an address by Mohammed Al-Sabah, Kuwait’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lin said that he recognized that such a call might not be politically correct in the oil-rich state.

Tiger, Tiger Burning Bright: The World Bank Undermines Own Conservation Efforts With Fossil Fuel Projects

This is a joint posting with Vijaya Ramachandran
The World Bank Group's board appears to be operating under a severe case of cognitive dissonance, supporting efforts to save tigers - threatened in India and Bangladesh by habitat loss due to climate change - while helping build coal-fired power plants that will only speed up this process.
Back in June the Bank launched a campaign to help governments develop and better manage forests inhabited by endangered tigers, including in the Sunderbans. This massive mangrove forest spans the India-Bangladesh border and is home to the Bengal tiger. While the Bank has a less-than-stellar conservation track record in Sunderbans, more important is the fact that this impoverished World Heritage site would be one of the hardest hit by climate change, whether from rising sea levels or the disappearance of the glacier that feeds the Ganges river.
But the Bank's commitment to poverty reduction and biodiversity stands in stark contrast to its bread-and-butter financing choices. As the Bank planned its save-the-tiger campaign, the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank's private sector arm, was putting together a deal to finance $450 million of the misguided $4+ billion Tata Mundra Ultra Mega coal-fired plant in India. Financing 10% of the cost of a plant being built by India's largest company will help propel India's power sector emissions to third highest in the world within a few years, behind China and the U.S. Is this a smart use of scarce international public resources?

World Bank Caucus Launched on the Hill

The U.S. Congress launched a new bipartisan Caucus for Congressional-World Bank Dialogue at a packed event on Capitol Hill July 16. The caucus, co-chaired by Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Betty McCollum (D-MN), provides a forum for members of Congress to engage the World Bank, parliamentarians and policy experts on poverty reduction, global development and trade.

World Bank Revisits the Meaning of "Absolute" Poverty

This is a joint posting with Martina Tonizzo
The World Bank has announced a new poverty line on the basis of revised estimates of Purchasing Price Parity (PPP) price levels around the world. In the working paper that explains the basis for the new line, poverty measurement guru Martin Ravallion and his co-authors make two proposals.

Another Banner Year for IFC -- NOW Is The Time for A Big Push into Renewable Energy

This is a joint posting with David Wheeler
The International Finance Corporation, the private sector investment arm of the World Bank, is set to have yet another banner year with profits in the range of $2 billion. As the IFC's equity stakes in services, telecommunications and particularly in oil and gas have grown, so have its profits. In FY07, IFC invested more than $8 billion of its own money and mobilized nearly $4 billion more. In Sub-Saharan Africa, it invested about $1.4 billion, doubling its investments from the previous year. In FY08, these numbers look to be even larger. If the IFC continues on its current path, in five years its portfolio will be larger than that of the World Bank itself.

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