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Economic development, institutional analysis, health systems, corruption, evaluation
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.
We often hear criticism of the COD Aid approach from people who question whether a high-level incentive would really alter the behavior of recipient countries. Paolo de Renzio raised this issue in a recent blog, saying that COD Aid is unlikely to work because recipient “[g]overnments have not only insufficient capacity, but also limited political interest in using available resources to maximize development impact.” The question this raises, though, is not whether COD Aid is worth trying. Rather it is questioning whether any foreign assistance can make a difference. The appropriate counterfactuals for COD Aid are existing aid modalities which rely on extensive engagement between funders and recipients on inputs, planning and implementation. The assumption of current aid modalities is that imposing the funder’s views of planning, institutional structures, training, and technical assistance from abroad can achieve progress even when a recipient country is less than enthusiastic about a program. That is the counterfactual against which to consider COD Aid.
The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a trailblazing U.S. development agency, is doing the right thing by publicly releasing impact evaluations of its programs as they are completed. Will politicians punish the MCC, using what will surely be mixed evaluations as a stick to beat it and an excuse to cut funding? If so, this will have a chilling effect on the movement to improve evaluation of U.S. development programs more broadly. Luckily, a new study of recent experience in Mexico offers some hope that politicians can resist this temptation.
A recent CGD working paper by Miguel Szekely, Toward Results-Based Social Policy Design and Implementation, describes how Mexico has institutionalized evaluation (and impact evaluations) into its policymaking processes. While there is still much to do, the paper shows how far Mexico has progressed in the last 15 years – not just in terms of conducting and publishing evaluations but more importantly by insisting on disseminating data and evidence regardless of the potential for short term political fallout if the results are negative.
Tobacco kills more people each year than HIV/AIDs, malaria and TB combined. The number of smokers is rising in developing countries and will contribute to 1 billion premature deaths in this century unless countries implement well-known, cost-effective tobacco control policies, including higher tobacco taxes. Such taxes not only save lives but also increase revenues and reduce poverty among households whose members quit smoking.
This week’ NONIE conference in Paris is focusing on lessons learned in impact evaluations. At the two-day conference, the executive director of the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie), Howard White, will present his organization’s Policy Window – a grant piloted this past year that seeks to improve the relevance of impact evaluations by first soliciting proposals from developing country government agencies and NGOs regarding the policy questions that they wish to have rigorously evaluated. To coincide with the conference, 3ie released its annual report which highlights the success of the Policy Window pilot, along with the other achievements of 3ie’s second operational year.
Interest in Cash on Delivery Aid has been so strong that we’ve printed a second edition of the book which can be purchased or downloaded online. Here is our new preface:
Since Cash on Delivery: A New Approach to Foreign Aid was published in March 2010, the ideas we proposed have been embraced by presidents and ministers, by heads of public and private institutions, and by researchers and practitioners. The Education Ministry in Malawi sent us a letter asking for help creating a COD Aid program there, the British government has publicly committed to financing pilot experiences, and articles and essays have addressed COD Aid in a range of publications including The Economist, The New York Times, and Public Choice. In the debates that ensued, we have learned even more about the Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid) approach and how significant a departure it could be from current aid practices.