Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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December 28, 2011

Forest Clearing in the Pantropics: December 2005–August 2011 - Working Paper 283

This report summarizes recent trends in large-scale tropical forest clearing identified by FORMA (Forest Monitoring for Action). FORMA produces indicators that track monthly changes in the number of 1-sq.-km. tropical forest parcels that have experienced clearing with high probability. This report and the accompanying spreadsheet databases provide monthly estimates for 27 countries, 280 primary administrative units, and 2,907 secondary administrative units.

David Wheeler , Robin Kraft and Dan Hammer
December 20, 2011

Direct Redistribution, Taxation, and Accountability in Oil-Rich Economies: A Proposal - Working Paper 281

To enhance efficiency of public spending in oil-rich economies, this paper proposes that some of the oil revenues be transferred directly to citizens, and then taxed to finance public expenditures. The argument is that spending that is financed by taxation—rather than by resource revenues accruing directly to the government—is more likely to be scrutinized by citizens and hence subject to greater efficiency.

Shantayanan Devarajan , Hélène Ehrhart , Tuan Minh Le and Gaël Raballand
December 19, 2011

Economic Dynamics and Forest Clearing: A Spatial Econometric Analysis for Indonesia - Working Paper 280

David Wheeler and co-authors use detailed monthly data from FORMA (Forest Monitoring for Action) to determine the factors that contribute to deforestation in Indonesia. Their results highlight the importance of incorporating economic dynamics into financial compensation arrangements for forest conservation while casting doubt on the efficacy of tradition protection arrangements.

David Wheeler , Dan Hammer , Robin Kraft and Susmita Dasgupta
December 10, 2011

A China Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations - Working Paper 277

Until recently, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has been an effective framework for cooperation because it has continually adapted to changing economic realities. The current Doha Agenda is an aberration because it does not reflect one of the biggest shifts in the international economic and trading system: the rise of China.

Aaditya Mattoo and Arvind Subramanian
December 7, 2011

Quid Pro Quo: Builders, Politicians, and Election Finance in India - Working Paper 276 updated

In developing countries where elections are costly and accountability mechanisms weak, politicians often turn to illicit means of financing campaigns. This paper examines one such channel of illicit campaign finance: India’s real estate sector. Politicians and builders allegedly engage in a quid proquo, whereby the former park their illicit assets with the latter, and the latter rely on the former for favorable dispensation. At election time, however, builders need to re-route funds to politicians as a form of indirect election finance. One observable implication is that the demand for cement, the indispensible raw material used in the sector, should contract during elections since builders need to inject funds into campaigns. Using a novel monthly-level data set, we demonstrate that cement consumption does exhibit a political business cycle consistent with our hypothesis. Additional tests provide confidence in the robustness and interpretation of our findings.

December 1, 2011

Economic Shocks and Conflict: The (Absence of?) Evidence from Commodity Prices - Working Paper 274

One of the most influential ideas in the study of political instability is that income shocks provoke conflict. “State prize” theories argue that higher revenues increase incentives to capture the state.“Opportunity cost” theories argue that higher prices decrease individual incen-tives to revolt. Both mechanisms are central to leading models of state development and collapse. But are they wellfounded? We examine the effects of exogenous commodity price shocks on conflict and coups, and find little evidence in favor of either theory. Evidence runs especially against the state as prize. We do find weak evidence that the intensity of fighting falls as prices rise—results more consistent with the idea that revenues augment state capacity, not prize-seeking or opportunity cost. Nevertheless,the evidence for any of these income-conflict mecha-nisms is weak at best. We argue that errors and publication bias have likely distorted the theoret-ical and empirical literature on political instability.

Samuel Bazzi and Chris Blattman
December 1, 2011

Cash On Delivery Aid for Health: What Indicators Would Work Best? - Working Paper 275

This paper assesses the challenges of applying COD Aid in the health sector. After clarifying how COD Aid differs from results-based financing approaches, the paper presents four key characteristics for designing a successful agreement. It discusses features of the health sector and foreign aid flows to health that need to be considered when designing a successful COD Aid agreement for this sector.

William Savedoff and Katie Douglas Martel
October 27, 2011

Global Health and the New Bottom Billion: What Do Shifts in Global Poverty and the Global Disease Burden Mean for GAVI and the Global Fund? - Working Paper 270

After a decade of rapid growth in average incomes, many countries have attained middle-income country (MIC) status, while poverty hasn’t fallen as much as one might expect. As a result, there are up to a billion poor people or a ‘new bottom billion’ living not in the world’s poorest countries but in MIC. Not only has the global distribution of poverty shifted to MIC, so has the global disease burden. The paper describes trends in the global distribution of poverty, preventable infectious diseases, and health aid response to date and proposes a new MIC strategy and components, concluding with recommendations.

Amanda Glassman , Denizhan Duran and Andy Sumner
September 29, 2011

Dial "A" for Agriculture: A Review of Information and Communication Technologies for Agricultural Extension in Developing Countries - Working Paper 269

Agriculture can serve as an important engine for economic growth in developing countries, yet yields in these countries have lagged far behind those in developed countries for decades. One potential mechanism for increasing yields is the use of improved agricultural technologies, such as fertilizers, seeds and cropping techniques. Public-sector programs have attempted to overcome information-related barriers to technological adoption by providing agricultural extension services. While such programs have been widely criticized for their limited scale, sustainability and impact,the rapid spread of mobile phone coverage in developing countries provides a unique opportunity to facilitate technological adoption via information and communication technology (ICT)-based extension programs.

This article outlines the potential mechanisms through which ICT could facilitate agricultural adoption and the provision of extension services in developing countries. It then reviews existing programs using ICT for agriculture, categorized by the mechanism (voice,text, internet and mobile money transfers) and the type of services provided. Finally, we identify potential constraints to such programs in terms of design and implementation, and conclude with some recommendations for implementing field-based research on the impact of these programs on farmers’ knowledge, technological adoption and welfare.

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