Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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.

 

An image of a Chinese city

Fiscal Policy and Income Distribution in China

Since China introduced far-reaching economic reforms in 1978, it has experienced rapid economic growth and social development that has significantly improved the overall well-being of the Chinese population and lifted an enormous number of people out of poverty. But at the same time, income inequality in China has increased dramatically over the past three decades, and there is a significant divide between urban and rural areas as well as between regions.

Construction workers laying a road

Do the Poor Want Cash Transfers or Public Services?

Nearly 4,000 people in rural Bihar, India, answered the question, “Would you rather have the government budget spent on cash transfers or public health and nutrition services?” According to a blog post by Khemani, Habyarimana, and Nooruddin, “only 13 percent chose cash if it came at the expense of spending to improve public health and nutrition.” The pattern is similar when comparing cash to roads, with the vast majority of people preferring roads. 

student in India

Want to Build a Better Society? Make Rich Schools Accept Poor Kids

Education policymakers care about more than just test scores. They probably care a lot about making policies that will help them get re-elected. They might care about particular people or places that have been historically disadvantaged. And perhaps they care about building a more integrated society: breaking down social barriers by putting children from different socioeconomic backgrounds in the same classrooms and positively influencing interracial or interclass attitudes and social behaviour.

bridge

Rethinking the Infrastructure Gap in the Poorest Countries

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.

On the Equity-Friendly Property Tax: Time for Developing Countries to Invest?

A large proportion of revenue gains over the last two decades has come from countries’ efforts to improve the design and compliance of consumption and other indirect taxes, particularly the VAT (value-added tax); in doing so, the objective has been to  minimize VAT’s regressive effects by exempting sales of small businesses below a threshold (where the poor typically tend to buy) as well as imposing zero tax on certain food and other products which take up a large proportion of consumption of poor households. Less attention has gone to expanding the coverage of potentially more progressive taxes, such as personal income and property taxes.

Will the UK Labour Party’s Big Idea of an Inequality Target Help or Hinder Development?

The UK Labour Party recently set out its ideas on international development in a paper titled “A World for the Many, Not the Few.” There is much to like in the policy paper, including pledges to put in place an effective whole-of-government development approach, to advance DFID’s monitoring of whether aid reaches the most vulnerable and excluded, and to communicate more honestly with UK taxpayers about the successes, challenges, and complexities of development. 

On Labor Mobility, Economic Growth, and Targeted Programs

For at least a couple of decades NGOs and others in developing countries have been designing, evaluating, tinkering, and trying to improve projects and programs that deliver specific in-kind “interventions” to targeted individuals/households in ways that raised their incomes in a sustained way.

Strugglers: The New Poor of the 21st Century

Mohamed Bouazizi is the man whose protest sparked the Arab Spring in December 2010. Bouazizi was a typical “struggler,” as in the title of my keynote speech at the Australasian Aid conference several weeks ago: “Strugglers: This Century’s New Development Challenge.” Below is a rough summary of my talk.

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