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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.
Technology, infrastructure, governance and anticorruption, human development, subjective wellbeing/happiness
Charles Kenny is a senior fellow and the director of technology and development at the Center for Global Development. His current work focuses on gender and development, the role of technology in development, governance and anticorruption and the post-2015 development agenda. He has published articles, chapters and books on issues including what we know about the causes of economic growth, the link between economic growth and broader development, the causes of improvements in global health, the link between economic growth and happiness, the end of the Malthusian trap, the role of communications technologies in development, the ‘digital divide,’ corruption, and progress towards the Millennium Development Goals. He is the author of the book "Getting Better: Why Global Development is Succeeding, and How We Can Improve the World Even More" and “The Upside of Down: Why the Rise of the Rest is Great for the West.” He has been a contributing editor at Foreign Policy magazine and a regular contributor to Business Week magazine. Kenny was previously at the World Bank, where his assignments included working with the VP for the Middle East and North Africa Region, coordinating work on governance and anticorruption in infrastructure and natural resources, and managing a number of investment and technical assistance projects covering telecommunications and the Internet.
The IFC is designed to catalyze investments in countries that investors might consider too risky to invest in alone. But our recent analysis of IFC’s portfolio found that it is shying away from risky investments, raising serious questions about whether the IFC is focusing on the places where it can make the most difference.
Development Finance Institutions (DFIs)—which provide financing to private investors in developing economies—have seen rapid expansion over the past few years. This paper describes and analyses a new dataset covering the five largest bilateral DFIs alongside the IFC which includes project amounts, standardized sectors, instruments, and countries. The aim is to establish the size and scope of DFIs and to compare and contrast them with the IFC.
IFC’s portfolio is not focused where it could make the most difference. Low income countries are where IFC has the scale to make a considerable difference to development outcomes. While an excessive portfolio shift might imperil IFC’s credit rating, the evidence suggests that there is considerable scope for increasing commitments to low income countries without significant impact to IFC’s credit scores.
Do the fifteen year targets of the SDGs stand in the way of their vision of integration and sustainability? If you wanted to achieve long term development progress, you’d probably focus on technology change, learning and innovation in policies, and improving institutional functioning. If you wanted to improve outcomes in fifteen years, you’d probably focus on throwing money at technical solutions. The problems with the second approach include that we don’t have the money, and the technical solutions won’t necessarily work best over the long term.
The Sustainable Development Goals are an ambitious set of targets for global development progress by 2030 that were agreed by the United Nations in 2015. A review of the literature on meeting "zero targets" suggests very high costs compared to available resources, but also that in many cases there remains a considerable gap between financing known technical solutions and achieving the outcomes called for in the SDGs. In some cases, we (even) lack the technical solutions required to achieve the zero targets, suggesting the need for research and development of new approaches.
The Canadian government has made some impressive steps towards prioritizing gender and women’s rights in international relations. I’m hoping that’s a sign of momentum towards even bigger steps in the New Year—using the full range of tools from trade and migration policy through investment and aid.
The US Department of the Interior announced last week that the United States would no longer seek to comply with the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), an international multi-stakeholder organization that aims to increase revenue transparency and accountability in natural resource extraction. The move—while disappointing—is not altogether unexpected. And sadly, it will put the United States further behind the curve when it comes to corporate transparency.
Under managing director Christine Lagarde, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has become a champion for gender equality. This note examines how much the IMF’s dialogue with its member countries has changed as a result of the labeling of gender as a "macrocritical" issue. In short, there has been increased attention to the issue as reflected in word counts and discussion of women’s labor force participation, but there is still a long way to go.
Nicola Gennaioli, Rafael La Porta, Florencio Lopez-de-Silanes and Andrei Shleifer have just published a fascinating paper in the QJE: “Human Capital and Regional Development”. They constructed a database of 1,569 subnational regions across 110 countries covering GDP, population, education levels, geographic and institutional factors, and looked at correlates with higher per capita income. They suggest that geography and education are significant correlates of regional GDP, while their measures of institutions and culture are less well correlated. They have followed up with a working paper using an expanded dataset, “Growth in Regions” that reports regional convergence of 2.5% a year and note that a rate so slow suggests “significant barriers to factor mobility within countries.”
In Navigation by Judgment, Dan Honig argues that high-quality implementation of foreign aid programs often requires contextual information that cannot be seen by those in distant headquarters. Tight controls and a focus on reaching pre-set measurable targets often prevent front-line workers from using skill, local knowledge, and creativity to solve problems in ways that maximize the impact of foreign aid.
Given the vital importance of child vaccination programs to US national security interests, intelligence-community participation in public health services should be explicitly banned. Doing so might help restore confidence in vaccination programs—benefiting those immunized and the health and security of Americans here at home.
Funding the global public good of technology is a useful way for donors to leverage the impact of their aid. Different types of technologies appear to be important to development progress, and to spread, in different ways. ‘Lab coat technologies’ (inventions) spread easily and improve quality of life, ‘process technologies’ (institutions) spread with difficulty and are important to economic growth. For all donor interventions, however, it appears that context matters—the same technology or investment has varied impact in different environments. Donors should take the importance of context on board when designing their technology interventions.
This paper seeks to determine the degree to which a gender lens has been incorporated into World Bank projects and the success of individual projects according to gender equality-related indicators. We first examine the World Bank’s internal scoring of projects based on whether they encompass gender analysis, action, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) components, as well as project development objective indicators and outcomes according to these indicators.
This podcast was originally recorded in March 2011. Development is easy, right? All poor countries have to do is mimic the things that work in rich countries and they’ll evolve into fully functional states. If only it were that simple. My guest this week is Lant Pritchett, a non-resident fellow at the Center for Global Development and chair of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Master’s program in international development. His latest work looks at how the basic functions of government fail to improve in some developing countries (a dynamic he defines as a “state capability trap”). Part of the problem, says Lant, is that donors often insist on transplanting institutions that work in developed countries into environments where those institutions don’t fit at all.