A piece for the Economist's Democracy in America blog.
The next US administration should allocate at least $1 billion in additional resources—equal to a little over two percent of current US overseas assistance—exclusively dedicated to advancing gender equality in developing countries, with a specific focus on improving women’s and girls’ economic opportunities and outcomes. A CGD brief with Megan O'Donnell Mayra Buvinic and Cindy Huang.
A CGD Working Paper with Ben Crisman. Governments buy about $9 trillion worth of goods and services a year, and their procurement policies are increasingly subject to international standards and institutional regulation including the WTO Plurilateral Agreement on Government Procurement, Open Government Partnership commitments and International Financial Institution procurement rules. These standards focus on transparency and open competition as key tools to improve outcomes. While there is some evidence on the impact of competition on prices in government procurement, there is less on the impact of specific procurement rules including transparency on competition or procurement outcomes. Using a database of World Bank financed contracts, we explore the impact of a relatively minor procurement rule governing advertising on competition using regression discontinuity design and matching methods. The rule does appear to have a small, positive impact on bidding levels, suggesting the potential for more significant and strongly enforced transparency initiatives to have a sizeable effect on procurement outcomes.
A CGD paper, with Ben Crisman, Sarah Dykstra and Megan O'Donnell. In 1996, Burkina Faso enacted legislation banning the practice of female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C). Much of the qualitative literature surrounding FGM/C discounts the impact of legal change on what is considered a social/cultural issue. We use data from the Demographic and Health Surveys DHS(VI) in Burkina Faso to test for a discontinuous change in the likelihood of being cut in the year the law was passed. We ﬁnd robust evidence for a substantial drop in hazard rates in 1996 and investigate the heterogeneous impact of the law by region, religion, and ethnicity. Overall, we roughly estimate that over a ten year period the law averted the genital mutilation/cutting of approximately 237,591 women and girls. We qualify our ﬁndings recognizing that Burkina Faso is a special case with a long history of bottom-up and top-down approaches to eliminating the practice.
It has been a hard week for those of us who believe in closer global integration. The US Supreme Court deadlocked on immigration reform, meaning four million people will remain in legal limbo, fearing deportation and the split-up of their families. And the leader of the UK Leave coalition crowed that Britain was exiting Europe without a shot being fired only days after Jo Cox, a campaigner for remain and the rights of the dispossessed worldwide, had been gunned down in cold blood.
It could get worse: the most significant legacy of the UK Independence Party may be the breakup of the UK itself, as Scottish parties demand the right to vote on remaining in Europe by leaving Britain. Felix Salmon outlines the dominoes that could fall in the rest of Europe, potentially unwinding the whole enterprise. He also suggests it may be a portent for November’s election in the United States.
He may be right if we don’t learn the lesson of this referendum –that the rise of nativism isn’t about the rise of immigration, it is about the rise of fear. For all the Brexit vote turned into a question of “how much do you hate Johnny Foreigner,” the places with the most migrants opted overwhelmingly to remain. That’s not a one-off: in the US, the relationship between migrant share of the population and anti-migrant feeling is weak. And in Austria, the far right vote share actually declined in places where more migrants were sent. Joel Fetzer has shown that across countries recessions and depressions increase nativism, while levels and changes in overall migrant populations do not.
Many people in the UK and US are worried, not least by the idea that the good jobs have gone and aren’t coming back. That fear, especially when harnessed by politicians willing to spout opinions they would have condemned only a few years before, is a powerful force for xenophobia. The UK Remain camp’s attempt to stoke even more fear --about the consequences of exit-- may have been positively counter-productive in that environment. Scared people vote nativist.
Of course it is hard for a group of people who have spent much of the last twenty years celebrating EU opt-outs and ridiculing Brussels bureaucrats to make a strong positive case for Europe. But they might have tried –or perhaps better, they might have shut up and let others lead the campaign. And for those of us who believe in the goal of ever closer ties between nations, the events of the last few days should be a call to the fight. If we want to reverse the unraveling in Europe and the US, we have to lay out a vision of integration alongside the domestic policies required to ensure it is a force for shared prosperity, peace and wellbeing. For all the bad news, today is still a day to spread hope, not fear.
The World Bank's World Development Indicators, in the print edition, has got rid of the term 'developing countries.' Online, and in operations, nothing has changed. Does this even count as a baby step? For Zocalo Public Square.
With the first superbacteria resistant to all antibiotics arriving in America and the Zika virus looking like it may not be long behind I'm selfishly hoping it is a good moment to be pitching a book draft about the past and future of infectious diseases.
The book's tag line:
Seven centuries ago, and eight centuries before that, times of global trade and prosperity were followed by devastating plagues that killed many millions and reshaped history. Are we about due for another plague, one that would reverse our world-changing progress against the scourge of infection?
Only if we are incredibly stupid.
The Plague Cycle covers the story of infection from the first people through the rise of civilization to SARS and Zika, looking at how human progress gave rise to some of our biggest killers and then forged the tools to fight them. And it looks at the many ways we're misusing those tools -from vaccine denial through antibiotic waste.
I put a draft of the book online here for a couple of weeks mainly to see if I could attract the interest of a publisher. More soon on that (I hope!).
On the CGD blog I've put up a draft book for comments --would love thoughts.
In the aftermath of the invasion of Afghanistan, the US Agency for International Development supported the Afghan Ministry of Public Health to deliver basic healthcare to 90% of the population, at a cost of $4.50 a head. The program played a vital role in improving the country’s health: the number of children dying before the age of five dropped by 100,000 a year. But accounting standards at the Ministry of Public Health concerned the United States Special Investigator General for Afghanistan. There was no evidence of malfeasance, nor argument about the success of the program. But for all results were fantastic, receipts were not in order. The investigator called for the health program to be suspended because of “financial management deficiencies” at the ministry.
This case illustrates a growing problem: an important and justified focus on corruption as a barrier to development has led to policy change in aid agencies that is damaging the potential for aid to deliver results. Donors have treated corruption as an issue they can measure and improve, and from which they can insulate their projects at acceptable costs by controlling processes and monitoring receipts. Results not Receipts highlights the weak link between donors’ preferred measures of corruption and development outcomes –related to our limited ability to measure the problem. It discusses the costs of the standard anti-corruption tools of fiduciary controls and centralized delivery. And it suggests a different approach to tackling the problem of corruption in development: focus on outcomes. If a program is delivering results at a reasonable price, the space for corruption –and the impact of that corruption-- is limited.
A CGD working paper with Megan O'Donnell on World Bank projects and gender. Lots of 'mainstreaming,' less in the way of results.
A policy memo for CGD on a law to help US multinationals combat inequality in the workplace overseas.
A number of countries worldwide have laws that specifically discriminate against women’s participation in the workforce, including bans on particular occupations, restrictions on opening bank accounts or taking jobs without a male family member’s authority, and restrictions on travel. Such discriminatory laws are associated with considerably lower female labor force participation and with negative consequences for economic growth and sustainable development. They also contradict globally accepted norms and values on gender equality in the workplace. The US legislation or executive action we propose would encourage US multinationals to mitigate the impact of local discriminatory legislation to the extent possible within the host country’s domestic laws by following a code of conduct regarding women’s employment, potentially limiting that obligation to the most discriminatory of countries. The proposed legislation is modeled on US anti-apartheid legislation (P.L. 99-440) that encouraged US firms to hire, train, and promote nonwhites in South Africa in the 1980s. Part of the legislation addresses the actions of the executive branch; this could also form a stand-alone executive order.
(Still) getting better. For the Atlantic.
A call for smart sanctions on the House of Saud based on its extremism at home and abroad. For Politico.
Paul Ryan only cares about one third of the American idea that condition of birth shouldn't determine outcomes --me in The Atlantic.
With Justin Sandefur, for Vox. The piles of arbitrary adjustments that got us from $1.25 to $1.90.
The United Nations has set conflicting goals for 2030: combatting climate change while providing energy to all. It suggests they aren't by low-balling electricity demand. For the Atlantic.
A piece on the Thomson Reuters Foundation website on open contracting with Gavin Hayman.
The Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa in July represents one of President Obama’s last major opportunities to secure his development legacy. This catchily titled CGD policy brief co-authored with Beth Schwanke offers 14 proposals for commitments the United States Government should consider advancing for the Conference on Financing for Development. [Bets in advance on a hit rate of 0.5/14].
Well, mostly, anyway. For @BW.
A CGD Policy Working Paper. The total scale of incremental investment requirements in infrastructure in developing countries has been estimated at around USD 1 trillion a year, with a range of related studies suggesting numbers between $815 billion to $1.3 trillion. While all such numbers are open to considerable debate, and were not designed to measure the cost of delivering the specific SDG infrastructure targets, they suggest the likely scale of the financing challenge for an SDG agenda which includes universal coverage to adequate housing, water, sanitation, modern energy and communications technologies. The complexity of infrastructure finance in developing countries suggests that external private investment will remain a minor player in the financing of infrastructure for development. Nonetheless, reforms of development finance institutions and multilateral development banks alongside infrastructure pricing in recipient countries could considerably increase financial flows, and the Addis Financing Conference later this year could help provide the authorizing environment for such reforms.
Slightly misleading headline. Go, just remember you'll be pretty useless, and see it as a learning experience --the start and motivation for a life of advocating or working for development. For @BW.
This CGD Policy Paper focuses on invented or created technologies of the type that could (theoretically) be subject to patents and the potential for international agreements including the Addis Financing Conference to better create and share such technologies. It discusses the nature of invented technologies and the standard policy tools used to support its development. It then addresses two separate questions related to inventions and development: ‘what is invented’ and ‘how it diffuses.’ With this background, it goes on to discuss the role of policy tools including patents, tiered pricing, research support, advance market commitments, and prizes in creating development-friendly technology. It concludes with some recommendations for language to be inserted in the Addis Declaration
By 2030 we may have managed to eradicate being poor by the average definition two or three decades ago of the poorest 15 countries with available statistics updated by more or less reliable inflation and purchasing power numbers since then.... That's what happens when you have to change the method of calculating extreme poverty because your boss said it could be eradicated. For @BW.
[That said, should note that means in the last few years I've suggested (a) it may be possible to end extreme poverty defined as $1.25/day, which would be good; (b) that it wouldn't be good enough (c) if the SDGs are going to have the goal of ending extreme poverty we should fix the goal posts and (d) fixing the goalposts means that 'extreme poverty' will be increasingly removed from any country's actual definition of poverty...]
Because there are less of them. For @BW.
There is no doubt that a new set of development goals will be agreed this year but time is fast running out to make sure they matter. For The Guardian.
A working paper with Justin Sandefur, Sarah Dykstra and Amanda Glassman. Since 2001, an aid consortium known as Gavi has accounted for over half of vaccination expenditure in the 75 eligible countries with an initial per capita GNI below $1,000. Regression discontinuity (RD) estimates show aid significantly displaced other immunization efforts and failed to increase vaccination rates for diseases covered by cheap, existing vaccines. For some newer and more expensive vaccines, i.e., Hib and rotavirus, we found large effects on vaccination and limited fungibility, though statistical significance is not robust. These RD estimates apply to middle-income countries near Gavi's eligibility threshold, and cannot rule out differential effects for the poorest countries. There's a policy brief that's an easier read.
Developing countries are increasingly robust to shocks. For @BW.
The World Bank is facing a bunch of crises --this might be a way out. For @BW.