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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.


New Documents Reveal the Cost of “Ending Poverty” in a Millennium Village: At Least $12,000 Per Household

Documents recently made public by the UK government reveal the cost of poverty reduction in the Millennium Villages Project, a self-described "solution to extreme poverty" in African villages created by Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs. The project costs at least US$12,000 per household that it lifts from poverty—about 34 times the annual incomes of those households.

You’ve Heard of Herman Cain’s 9-9-9. Here’s Nigeria’s 20-20-20 (And This One Might Fly)

Lately I’ve been thinking Nigeria should be a little bit more like, of all places, Iran. Yes, Iran. And maybe Alaska.  Here’s how.

Africa’s most populous nation has been a massive underperformer since independence. It’s earned hundreds of billions of dollars from petroleum exports, but the average Nigerian has little to show for it. At least three decades were lost; average incomes in the mid-2000s were the same as in the mid-1970s. More recently, the economic data has been brighter. And there is always hope that the country has finally turned a corner.

The Epistle of Gates and the Gospel of Agricultural Innovation

A few days ago Bill Gates released his annual letter to the world, opening with a discussion of how Gates-funded agricultural research can help Tanzanian farmers.  Coincidentally, before coming to CGD I did some agricultural research in Tanzania myself -- funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation -- so I was eager to compare notes.  Gates’ letter is so optimistic about agricultural innovation lifting Tanzanian farmers out of poverty, it feels almost impolite to point out that the main sou

What Does It Mean to Be Low Income?

Andy Sumner and I recently wrote about the fact that the number of low income countries in the world is rapidly shrinking –which is great news because it suggests poor countries are getting richer.  But how much does graduating to ‘middle income’ mean?  Here’s how the original income classification came about, according to the World Bank’s website:

How 28 Poor Countries Escaped the Poverty Trap

This is a joint post with Charles Kenny

Zambia and Ghana are the 27th and 28th countries the World Bank has reclassified as middle-income since the year 2000

Doctors perform cataract surgery at the Lusaka Eye Hospital in Zambia. It's inexpensive and it changes people's lives instantly, so it's a good example of how just a little bit more money can make a huge difference to the world's poorest people. Photograph: Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty Images

Remember the poverty trap? Countries stuck in destitution because of weak institutions put in place by colonial overlords, or because of climates that foster disease, or geographies that limit access to global markets, or simply by the fact that poverty is overwhelmingly self-perpetuating. Apparently the trap can be escaped.

Can Aid Work? Written Testimony Submitted to the House of Lords

Living in Ethiopia for the last three years, I saw aid working every day. I saw children going to school, health workers in rural villages, and food or cash preventing hunger for the poorest people.  The academic debates about aid effectiveness seem surreal when you are surrounded by tangible, visible evidence of the huge difference aid makes to people’s lives.

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.

Good News: History Does Not Equal Destiny

Five years ago, probably the most positive you could be about global development was to argue that, despite a sluggish performance in reducing global income poverty connected to slow-changing institutions, broader quality of life in areas like education and  health had improved everywhere.  That’s pretty much the story I told in Getting Better.  But since then, what we have learned about development progress suggests su

Don’t Do Impact Evaluations Because…

Recently, I was called for advice by someone who will be running a workshop attended by people who implement and evaluate programs. She asked me to help her anticipate the main objections raised against doing impact evaluations—evaluations that measure how much of an outcome can be attributed to a specific intervention--and to suggest possible responses.