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Views from the Center

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Universal Basic Income: What Would Mahatma Gandhi Do?

Should India go for Universal Basic Income or not? This year's Economic Survey includes a thoughtful, cogent, and thorough discussion of the potential to replace India’s vast complex of subsidies and targeted in-kind benefits to the poor with a guaranteed cash transfer to all citizens.

A Cash Bailout for Zimbabweans that Deserves Support

For once, some good economic news out of Zimbabwe: a recent humanitarian cash transfer pilot is showing promising results. While I’ve adamantly opposed a bailout for the Mugabe regime, a bailout for the population—if the cash is delivered directly to citizens—is something all friends of Zimbabwe should get behind.

How to Turn Citizens into Owners of National Wealth

This post, co-authored with Alan Gelb, was originally published in Financial Times: This is Africa

On November 28 Anadarko Petroleum doubled the estimate of its massive Mozambique gas discovery. If this proves correct, Mozambique will become a major gas exporter and can expect a hefty windfall.

Mozambique is not alone. Per square mile, proven sub-soil assets in poor countries — notably in Africa — are only about one quarter of those in better-explored, rich countries. Not surprisingly, high prices and new technologies are driving new oil, gas, and mineral discoveries across the developing world. Billions of dollars will be pumped into countries like Uganda, Liberia, Papua New Guinea, Mongolia and Bolivia. While this should be good news, it also raises concerns.

Shortcut to Accountability? A World Bank Call to Try Cash Transfers

This is a joint post with Stephanie Majerowicz

The World Bank’s Shanta Devarajan and Marcelo Giugale in yesterday’s Guardian Poverty Matters blog write:

Except for Botswana, the track record of Africa's mineral and hydrocarbon exporters is sobering. While Africa's central banks are today better equipped to deal with currency appreciation, and its civil society more alert to environmental hazards, the institutions that control graft are not strong. They must be improved. However, this will take time. Is there a shortcut to better accountability in the management of natural resources? Yes, there is: direct transfers of resource dividends to citizens.

If There Was Ever a Case for Oil2Cash, It’s Post-Qaddafi Libya

The idea of cash transfers—or just giving money to the poor—is gaining ground quickly. The use of conditional cash transfers as a way to assist the poor have shown pretty impressive results in Mexico and Brazil, leading to lots of other copycat programs in dozens of countries. Iran, and now India, are replacing inefficient and costly subsidies of basic goods with cash payments.

Oil to Cash: An Idea to Fight the Resource Curse

Tina Rosenberg has a terrific piece in the New York Times on cash transfer programs in Brazil. She concludes:

For skeptics who believe that social programs never work in poor countries and that most of what’s spent on them gets stolen, conditional cash transfer programs offer a convincing rebuttal.  Here are programs that help the people who most need help, and do so with very little waste, corruption or political interference.