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Foreign direct investment, financial flows, private-sector development, humanitarian assistance, Africa
Vijaya Ramachandran is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. She works on the impact of the business environment on the productivity of firms in developing countries, and is the coauthor of an essay titled "Development as Diffusion: Manufacturing Productivity and Africa's Missing Middle,” published in the Oxford Handbook on Economics and Africa. Vijaya is also studying the unintended consequences of rich countries’ anti-money laundering policies on financial inclusion in poor countries. She has published her research in journals such as World Development, Development Policy Review, Governance, Prism, and AIDS and is the author of a CGD book, Africa’s Private Sector: What’s Wrong with the Business Environment and What to Do About It. Prior to joining CGD, Vijaya worked at the World Bank and in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. She also served on the faculties of Georgetown University and Duke University. Her work has appeared in several media outlets including the Economist, Financial Times, Guardian, Washington Post, New York Times, National Public Radio, and Vox.
The need for infrastructure improvements is a top-tier economic, political, and social issue in nearly every African country. Although the academic and policy literature is extensive in terms of estimating the impact of infrastructure deficits on economic and social indicators, very few studies have examined citizen demands for infrastructure.
Clay Lowery, our group’s chair, is Vice President at Rock Creek Global Advisors, an international economic policy advisory firm, where he focuses on international financial regulation, sovereign debt, exchange rates, and investment policy. He is also a Visiting Fellow at the Center for Global Development and serves on the Policy Advisory Board at the European Institute. He was an Adjunct Professor at Georgetown University in international finance and a lecturer at the National War College.
Originally published in October 2013 and updated January 2015
Food security has arisen again on the development agenda. High and volatile food prices took a toll in 2007–08, and in many low-income countries agricultural yields have risen little, if at all, in the last decade. Moreover, food production in these poor countries is especially vulnerable to climate change. Meeting this demand is a global challenge. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is expected to lead the way in meeting this challenge and, with the arrival in 2012 of the first new director-general in 18 years, it has an opening to restructure itself to do so.
On January 12, 2010, an earthquake of magnitude 7.0 struck close to the densely populated city of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, killing over 200,000 people and reducing the city to rubble. Five years later, I still cannot figure out where all the money has gone.
Many developing countries have made progress in political openness and economic management but lag in terms of attracting private sector investments, at least outside of narrow resource-based enclaves.These countries may have recognized potential but have not yet established the reputation needed to sustain investment through the inevitable political and policy shocks that take place in most countries. The concerns that deter investors are many but can be broadly classified into high costs that that prevent global competitiveness and high actual or perceived risks.
CGD is pleased to announce a screening of Fatal Assistance, part of our film series, Global Development Matters.
Haitian born filmmaker Raoul Peck takes us on a 2-year journey inside the challenging, contradictory and colossal rebuilding efforts in post-earthquake Haiti. Through its provocative and radical point of view, Fatal Assistance offers a devastating indictment of the international community's post-disaster idealism. The film dives headlong into the complexity of the reconstruction process and the practices and impact of worldwide humanitarian and development aid, revealing the disturbing extent of a general failure. We learn that a major portion of the money pledged to Haiti was never disbursed, nor made it into the actual reconstruction. Fatal Assistance leads us to one clear conclusion: current aid policies and practice in Haiti need to stop immediately.
Following the screening of the film, CGD Senior Fellows Vijaya Ramachandran and Michael Clemens will provide commentary, before opening the floor to questions from the audience.
Economists are increasingly focusing on the links between rising inequality and the fragility of growth. The relationship between inequality, leverage and the financial cycle which sowed the seeds for 2007-08 global financial crisis, together with the disproportionate political influence of the rich, create a narrative of excess. Andrew Berg will discuss the effect of this narrative on the financial crisis in his new paper, coauthored with Jonathan Ostry and Charalambos Tsangarides.
The authors offer three key findings. First, more unequal societies tend to redistribute more. This makes it imperative that we understand the relationship between growth and inequality, in order to distinguish between market and net inequality. Second, this distinction allows us to see that lower net inequality is robustly correlated with faster and more durable growth. Finally, redistribution appears benign in its impact on growth; only in extreme cases is there evidence of a negative effect on growth. They conclude that combined direct and indirect effects of redistribution are, on average, pro-growth, when the growth effects of resulting lower inequality are taken into account.
The first-ever National Business Census began in Haiti this month. A census of formal and informal businesses has never been conducted and there is no comprehensive business database. Although a daunting task, the census will likely help to strengthen small and medium enterprises and increase local procurement.
The survey began September 3rd and will be conducted by 500 interviewers recruited by 42 supervisors from across the country – at a cost of 26 million gourdes (around $600,000). Wilson Laleau, the Minister of Trade and Industry, explained that this survey will enable the government to assist entrepreneurs with access to credit, help meeting standards, and entering new markets. Maintaining crops, inventories, and production is notoriously difficult with disasters such as Hurricane Isaac. A comprehensive census could improve access to credit and insurance coverage for natural disasters. Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe said: “Everyone recognizes the importance of such an activity… [a census is a] prerequisite to any policy to support the development of entrepreneurship in Haiti.”
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.
In 2012, the Center for Global Development (CGD) convened the Working Group on Food Security, bringing together 22 experts in food policy, nutrition, agriculture, and economic development from around the world. The group’s task was to review pressing challenges to agricultural development and food security and take stock of the Rome-based United Nations food agencies charged with addressing them. The working group decided to focus on the largest of those agencies—the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)—and has two key recommendations.
How do employers decide whether to provide their employees with HIV/AIDS prevention services? CGD Visiting Fellow Vijaya Ramachandran's data from 860 firms and 4,955 workers in Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya shows that larger firms, and those with more highly skilled workers, invest more in HIV/AIDS prevention. Firms in which more than 50 percent of workers are unionized also are more likely to provide more prevention services.
Lifting the trade and investment embargo on Cuba is a laudable policy objective that would allow Cubans better access to American goods and services. It might also give American businesses a boost, including from places that could do with one, like rural Louisiana. Changing the law will be an uphill struggle unless November’s elections transform Congress. But even if Congress can agree, changes to the law might not be sufficient to convince investors to go to Cuba.