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Bill Savedoff is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development where he works on issues of aid effectiveness and health policy. His current research focuses on the use of performance payments in aid programs and problems posed by corruption. At the Center, Savedoff played a leading role in the Evaluation Gap Initiative and co-authored Cash on Delivery Aid with Nancy Birdsall. Before joining the Center, Savedoff prepared, coordinated, and advised development projects in Latin America, Africa and Asia for the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Health Organization. As a Senior Partner at Social Insight, Savedoff worked for clients including the National Institutes of Health, Transparency International, and the World Bank. He has published books and articles on labor markets, health, education, water, and housing including “What Should a Country Spend on Health?,” Governing Mandatory Health Insurance, and Diagnosis Corruption.
In the world of international aid, performance payments are a hot topic. But when it comes to signing performance payment agreements, most funders have been reticent. One of the reasons is a fear of “Double Counting” – paying once for investments to achieve outcomes and a second time when the outcomes are delivered. This concern ignores the complexity of achieving development goals and the intangible assets invested by recipient countries. When funders do agree to performance agreements, they end up ignoring the burden on recipients of “Double Demanding” – disbursing when outcomes are achieved and then setting restrictions on the use of those funds. All this confusion gets in the way of designing effective aid programs.
Creating an evidence base requires good research, but how can we know if evidence is strong or weak … or even misleading? The process by which researchers conduct, document, and share their work is essential to winnowing out weak studies and to improving, honing and disseminating strong ones. At the risk of taking the metaphor too far – can we make research so transparent that anyone can see right through it?
In 2010, Norway and Indonesia signed a US$1 billion performance agreement to reduce greenhouse gas emission from deforestation. The experience holds lessons for international cooperation in addressing climate change and other global challenges.
Results-based aid (RBA) is a form of foreign assistance in which one government disburses funds to another for achieving an outcome. This paper distinguishes four different theories used to justify RBA programs and analyzes four case studies – from GAVI, the Amazon Fund, Ethiopian Secondary Education and Salud Mesoamérica.
As mentioned in our last post, aid agencies are experimenting with programs that incorporate the main features of COD Aid: paying for outputs and outcomes, giving the recipient greater discretion to spend as they see fit, independent verification, and transparency. Once these results-based programs are up and running, they face a critical test when the first results are reported. In particular, most programs create expectations by setting annual targets and are then judged relative to those targets rather than to their baseline. And this means that even successful programs will be viewed as failures (a point also made in an earlier blog). By refusing to set targets, a results-based program can avoid this pitfall. How is it that targets can create such a problem?
I’ve been reading news of corruption scandals in Brazil with a great deal of sadness. I lived in Brazil during its return to democracy and experienced first-hand the hope and optimism that came with that transition. In a recent policy paper, I argue that decisions about funding projects in other countries should depend more on the results achieved by those countries than by formal actions meant to control corruption.
Philip Morris International and other cigarette manufacturers are among the most profitable firms in the world, selling the world’s most lethal legal product. They prominently advertise their commitment to corporate social responsibility on everything from child labor to renewable energy. They’ve even conceded that smoking is dangerous and say they are committed to a smoke-free world. But none of these initiatives make up for breaching their most fundamental corporate social responsibility—one defined quite cogently by free-market-advocate Milton Friedman—to pursue their profits “without deception and fraud.”
“3ie has made my job much easier.” This is what we heard last month from a high-ranking government official in Africa, referring to the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), and it made us very proud. Creating 3ie was the outcome of the Evaluation Gap Working Group that we led along with Nancy Birdsall to address the limited number of rigorous impact evaluation of public policies in developing countries. As CGD celebrates its 15th year, it is worth considering what made that working group so successful, the obstacles we confronted, and the work that still remains to be done.
Politicians and agency officials are always morally indignant when it comes to corruption in foreign aid, pointing to elaborate procedures and investigative offices to prove that they are “tough” and calling for zero tolerance (most recently here and here). However, for most governments and agencies, corruption is only a problem when it is discovered. That is when it becomes an obstacle to disbursing funds and keeping business moving.