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A few weeks ago, the World Bank’s soft-lending arm IDA held the mid-term review of its 18th round of funding. As background for the meeting, the World Bank produced a status update of the new IDA Private Sector Window (PSW) that I have bloggedaboutbefore. The update provides valuable insight into how the $2.5 billion of PSW funding is being used at the halfway mark of its spending cycle but leaves some big unknowns.
A recent blog post by Ricardo Hausmann caught my eye because it addresses issues that I’ll be focusing on during my visiting fellowship here at the Center for Global Development. Hausmann—a former Venezuelan minister of planning—discusses the difficulty of closing the infrastructure gap in developing countries, and highlights the dilemma of whether governments should finance infrastructure projects through public-private partnerships or through their national budgets. He’s right about the dilemma, but his solution isn’t workable for fragile and low-income countries where infrastructure needs are greatest.
In his post, John Simon, a former CGD visiting fellow, politely disagreed with our suggestion that donors are mainly using the wrong instrument to support private-sector investment. John made some excellent points (which we urge you to read in full). And, as we stressed in our first post, we all agree that private investment is crucial for delivering social returns in developing countries.
In an earlier blog post, we explained why we think that donors and development finance institutions are getting it wrong by issuing guarantees and cheap loans to the private sector. We argue they should instead be increasing the returns for firms when they succeed. Today, a former CGD Visiting Fellow, John Simon, disagrees.
We are enthusiastic about the growing interest in supporting private investment in developing countries, but it matters a lot how this is done. The sorry history of failed and distortionary partnerships should tell us something about how donor countries can do a better job of working with the private sector.
CGD had the honor and privilege of hosting Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—the first elected female head of state in Africa—on June 23. At the event, President Sirleaf set a hugely ambitious goal of being aid-free within ten years. Given that aid currently accounts for more than half of GDP, this would imply serious increases in other sources of revenues, but it’s a well-calibrated message both to Congress and to audiences back home.