Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Publications

 

February 19, 2008

The Good News Out of Africa: Democracy, Stability, and the Renewal of Growth and Development

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who will host President Bush on Thursday in the final stop of his five-country Africa tour, has news that may surprise some people: despite the problems in some African countries, things are clearly improving in much of the continent. In a new CGD essay co-authored with senior fellow Steve Radelet, Sirleaf describes how a growing number of African countries are embracing democracy and good governance, strengthening macroeconomic policies, and benefiting from debt relief. These countries are in the midst of an economic and development rebound, with economic growth averaging 5 percent for a decade, poverty rates beginning to fall, and social indicators beginning to improve. The essay concludes with recommendations on how this progress can be sustained and consolidated.

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Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Steven Radelet
August 27, 2007

We Fall Down and Get Up: Carol Lancaster Reports on Elections in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone, where a brutal decade-long civil war finally ended in 2002, has just held remarkably fair, peaceful and well-organized elections. CGD visiting fellow Carol Lancaster, a former deputy administrator of USAID, was there as an election observer. In a new CGD Essay, she reflects on what democracy means in a country with a mere 35 percent literacy rate, a 70 percent unemployment rate, and life expectancy of only 40 years. She writes that progress will depend upon the new government's ability to tackle corruption, rebuild infrastructure and encourage investment. It will also require the emergence of a domestic constituency with the knowledge, power and commitment to hold new leaders accountable.

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Carol Lancaster
March 8, 2007

Do No Harm: Aid, Weak Institutions, and the Missing Middle in Africa - Working Paper 113

Does aid to Africa undermine the emergence of a robust African middle class? If so, what can be done about it? In this new working paper, CGD president Nancy Birdsall argues that high and unpredictable aid flows could be making life harder for Africa's small and medium-sized businesses by, for example, inflating wages and making governments less reliant on domestic revenue—and hence less accountable to taxpayers. She urges that donors systematically monitor such impacts in aid-dependent countries and suggests ways that aid could help to bolster Africa's crucial but fragile middle-income groups. Learn more

March 5, 2007

African Development: Making Sense of the Issues and Actors

Bill Easterly calls Moss's new introduction to Africa "compulsively readable and accessible" and "a masterpiece of clear thinking." Each chapter is organized around three fundamental questions: Where are we now? How did we get to this point? What are the current debates?

July 31, 2006

Development, Democracy, and Mass Killings - Working Paper 93

Do development and democracy lead to fewer massacres? By one estimate governments killed more than 170 million civilians in the 20th century – more than twice the number of soldiers killed in the century’s many wars. A new working paper co-authored by CGD non-resident fellow William Easterly using data from 1820 to 1998 finds that massacres are more likely at intermediate levels of income and less likely at very high levels of democracy. Episodes at the highest levels of democracy and income involve fewer victims. Learn more

July 20, 2005

Costs and Causes of Zimbabwe's Crisis

Zimbabwe has experienced a precipitous collapse in its economy over the past five years. The government blames its economic problems on external forces and drought. We assess these claims, but find that the economic crisis has cost the government far more in key budget resources than has the donor pullout. We show that low rainfall cannot account for the shock either. This leaves economic misrule as the only plausible cause of Zimbabwe’s economic regression, the decline in welfare, and unnecessary deaths of its children.

Cover of Overcoming Stagnation in Aid-Dependent Countries
March 31, 2005

Overcoming Stagnation in Aid-Dependent Countries

In this book, Nicolas van de Walle identifies 26 countries that are extremely poor and grew little if at all in the 1990s. His sample excludes North Korea and countries where civil war explains some of their failure to grow (Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tajikistan and others). The 26 countries have limited infrastructure and human capital and the small size of their markets deter private savings and investment. Aid was meant to help overcome these problems, and these countries received a lot. Yet they have failed to grow. What is wrong? Is foreign aid a solution or part of the problem? What changes might make aid more effective? Given these countries require the financial and technical resources of the West, why haven’t aid programs made a difference?

March 23, 2005

Overcoming Stagnation in Aid-Dependent Countries - Brief

Traditional economic theory predicts that capital mobility and international trade will push the world's national economies to one income level. As poorer nations race ahead, richer ones should slow down. Eventually, theory says, national economies would reach equilibrium. The reality of the last few decades, however, defies this notion; most of the poorest economies continue to lag far behind. For 50 years, foreign aid has been the main way the international community has promoted economic development. Yet it has not proven to be a silver bullet.

March 1, 2005

Double Standards on IDA and Debt: The Case for Reclassifying Nigeria

Although nearly all poor countries are classified by the World Bank as IDA-only, Nigeria stands out as a notable exception. Indeed, Africa’s most populous country is the poorest country in the world that is not classified as IDA-only. Under the World Bank’s own criteria, however, Nigeria has a strong case for reclassification. IDA-only status would have two potential benefits for Nigeria. First, it would expand Nigeria’s access to IDA resources and make the country eligible for grants. Second, it would strengthen Nigeria’s case for debt reduction. With a renewed economic reform effort getting under way and the emerging use of debt reduction as a tool for assisting economic and political transitions, the UK, the US, and other official creditors should support such a move as part of a broader strategy for encouraging progress in one of Africa’s most important countries.

Todd Moss and Scott Standley
February 28, 2005

On the Road to Universal Primary Education

Education is an end in itself, a human right, and a vital part of the capacity of individuals to lead lives they value. It gives people in developing countries the skills they need to improve their own lives and to help transform their societies. Women and men with better education earn more throughout their lives and participate more fully in the civic and political lives of their communities and countries. Particularly for women, education confers the skills and behaviors that lead to healthier lives. Education that reaches women, the poor, and marginalized ethnic groups not only benefits them directly; it contributes to a more equitable and just society.

February 23, 2003

The Millennium Challenge Account: How Much is Too Much, How Long is Long Enough? - Working Paper 23

The US government's proposed $5 billion Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) could provide upwards of $250-$300m or more per year per country in new development assistance to a small number of poor countries judged to have relatively "good" policies and institutions. Could this assistance be too much of a good thing and strain the absorptive capacity of recipient countries to use the funds effectively? Empirical evidence from the past 40 years of development assistance suggests that in most potential MCA countries, the sheer quantity of MCA money is unlikely to overwhelm the ability of recipients to use it well, if the funds are delivered effectively.

October 18, 2002

Asymmetric Globalization: Global Markets Require Good Global Politics - Working Paper 12

The paper sets out two views of the facts about the effects of globalization on world poverty and inequality. The bottom line: globalization is not the cause, but neither is it the solution to world poverty and inequality. The paper then explores why and how the global economy is stacked against the poor, making globalization asymmetric, at least up to now. It concludes with some ideas about a new agenda of good global politics, an agenda to shape a future global economy and society that is less poor and less unequal—not only because it is more global and competitive, but also because it is more fair and more politically representative.

September 1, 2002

Solutions when the Solution is the Problem: Arraying the Disarray in Development - Working Paper 10

The welfare of the poor turns in large measure not only on technocratic development "policies", but the effective delivery of key public services, core elements of which require thousands of face-to-face discretionary transactions ("practices") by service providers. This paper presents eight current proposals for improving service delivery, on the basis of a principal-agent model of incentives that explores how these various proposals change flows of resources, information, decision-making, delivery mechanisms, and accountability.

Michael Woolcock