With rigorous economic research and practical policy solutions, we focus on the issues and institutions that are critical to global development. Explore our core themes and topics to learn more about our work.
In timely and incisive analysis, our experts parse the latest development news and devise practical solutions to new and emerging challenges. Our events convene the top thinkers and doers in global development.
This paper analyzes privatization and enterprise reform of three major countries in the transition region; Poland, Czechoslovakia (subsequently the Czech Republic), and the Soviet Union (subsequently Russia). For each, it discusses the prevailing ideologies of advisors prior to and during the transition process, the initial conditions faced by reformers and advisors, the policy frameworks that evolved, the results achieved, the mistakes made, and the opportunities missed.
The tragedy of foreign aid is not that it didn't work; it was never really tried. A group of well-meaning national and international bureaucracies dispensed foreign aid under conditions in which bureaucracy does not work well. The hostile environment under which such aid agencies functioned induced them to organize a cartel that increased inefficiency and reduced effective supply of development services, frustrating the good intentions and dedication of development professionals. The cartel of good intentions allows rich country politicians to feel that they are doing all in their power to help the world's poor, supports rich nations' foreign policy goals, preserves a panoply of large national and international institutions, and provides resources to poor country politicians with which to buy political support; in short, foreign aid works for everyone except for those whom it was intended to help.
While most technical assessments classify privatization as a success, it remains widely and increasingly unpopular, largely because of the perception that it is fundamentally unfair, both in conception and execution. We review the increasing (but still uneven) literature and conclude that most privatization programs appear to have worsened the distribution of assets and income, at least in the short run. This is more evident in transition economies than in Latin America, and less clear for utilities such as electricity and telecommunications, where the poor have tended to benefit from much greater access, than for banks, oil companies, and other natural resource producers.
This study examines the impact of the principal financial crises in emerging markets in recent years on the incidence of poverty in the countries in question. The growth impact is first identified by comparing average per capita growth in the two years prior to the crisis to that in the crisis year and the following year. The poverty impact is then measured by applying the elasticity of poverty with respect to growth. Alternative estimates consider results of surveys in the relevant periods, where available.
The IMF uses its well-known "financial programming" model to derive monetary and fiscal programs to achieve desired macroeconomic targets in countries undergoing crises or receiving debt relief. Financial programming is based on monetary, balance of payments, and fiscal accounting identities. This paper subjects the identity-based framework to a variety of tests. All of the identities contain large statistical discrepancies, which weakens the case for them as a "consistency check." In addition, the financial programming approach is flawed because it does not take into account the endogeneity of virtually all the variables in each macroeconomic identity, the instability of its simple behavioral assumptions, and the large statistical discrepancies in all the identities. Accounting identities do not a macro model make.
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.
One feature of adjustment loans that has been often overlooked in their evaluation is their frequent repetition to the same country, with such extremes as the 30 IMF and World Bank adjustment loans to Argentina over 1980-99 or the 26 adjustment loans to Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana. Repetition changes the nature of the selection problem, with the possible implication that new loans had to be given because earlier loans were not effective. This study finds that while there were relative successes and failures, none of the top 20 recipients of adjustment lending over 1980-99 were able to achieve reasonable growth and contain all policy distortions. The findings of this paper are in line with the foreign aid literature that shows that aid does not discriminate between good and bad policies. There's a big difference between structural adjustment lending and structural adjustment policies.
Shantayanan Devarajan, William R. Easterly and Howard Pack
While many analysts decry the lack of sufficient investment in Africa, we find no evidence that private and public investment are productive, either in Africa as a whole (unless Botswana is included in the sample), or in the manufacturing sector in Tanzania. In this restricted sense, inadequate investment is not the major obstacle to African economic development.