Ideas to Action:

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December 20, 2016

The Impact of Anti-Money Laundering Regulation on Payment Flows: Evidence from SWIFT Data - Working Paper 445

Regulatory pressure on international banks to fight money laundering (ML) and terrorist financing (TF) increased substantially in the past decade. We find countries that have been added to a high-risk greylist face up to a 10% decline in the number of cross border payments received from other jurisdictions, but no change in the number sent. We also find that a greylisted country is more likely to see a decline in payments from other countries with weak AML/CFT institutions. We find limited evidence that these effects manifest in cross border trade or other flows. Given that countries that are placed on these lists tend to be poorer on average, these impacts are likely to be more strongly felt in developing countries.

December 20, 2016

Why Increasing Female Migration from Gender-Unequal Countries Is a Win for Everyone

Available evidence points to a superior payoff to female migration from gender-unequal countries to more gender-equal countries for the migrant, the sending country, and recipient country alike. This suggests that a policy by relatively gender-equal countries to provide entry preference to female economic migrants from gender-unequal countries would combine development impact and economic self-interest.

December 12, 2016

The Use and Utility of US Government Approaches to Country Ownership: New Insights from Partner Countries

Over the last decade, the US government has repeatedly expressed its commitment to incorporating “country ownership” into the way it designs and delivers foreign assistance.  This paper draws upon perception-based data from government officials and donor staff in 126 developing countries to explore how development policymakers and practitioners evaluate US government efforts that promote (or hinder) country ownership and the extent to which these efforts are perceived as useful.  While the US government does pursue some approaches considered favorable for country ownership, practices that put countries more firmly in the driver’s seat are underutilized compared to their perceived utility.

December 12, 2016

An Agenda for Harmful Cultural Practices and Girls' Empowerment

Harmful cultural practices and norms—even the seemingly non-violent ones that consign girls to bear the brunt of household labor—have consequences for nutrition, health, educational achievement, sexual abuse, and child marriage. Accordingly, it is critical to develop a research agenda that places girls aged 0 to 10 at the center of policy to address harmful practices. Both as an issue of gender-based violence and as an impediment to girls reaching their potential, we need greater commitments to country-level data, informed and enforced legislative action, and innovative methods to challenging and shifting socially shared definitions of girlhood.

December 6, 2016

MCC Country Eligibility Predictions for FY2017

The last board meeting of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) under the Obama administration will take place on December 13, 2016. On the docket? Selecting which countries will be eligible for MCC assistance for fiscal year (FY) 2017. For the fourteenth year running, CGD’s Rethinking US Development Policy Initiative discusses the overarching issues that will impact the decisions and offers its predictions of which countries will be selected.

December 2, 2016

Internationally Comparable Mathematics Scores for Fourteen African Countries - Working Paper 444

Internationally comparable test scores play a central role in both research and policy debates on education. However, the main international testing regimes, such as PISA, TIMSS, or PIRLS, include very few low-income countries. For instance, most countries in Southern and Eastern Africa have opted instead for a regional assessment known as SACMEQ. This paper exploits an overlap between the SACMEQ and TIMSS tests—in both country coverage, and questions asked—to assess the feasibility of constructing global learning metrics by equating regional and international scales. I find that learning levels in this sample of African countries are consistently (a) low in absolute terms; (b) significantly lower than predicted by African per capita GDP levels; and (c) converging slowly, if at all, to the rest of the world during the 2000s. Creating test scores which are truly internationally comparable would be a global public good, requiring more concerted effort at the design stage.

November 28, 2016

A Global Offer for Learning (GOL): Based on Experiences with Paying for Results

Children in developing countries get lots of schooling, but they are not necessarily learning. To address this, countries need new forms of feedback, experimentation, and financing that conventional aid is ill-suited to provide. This paper reviews experiences with an unconventional aid modality—paying for results—as it could apply to learning. The paper explains how such a program could be implemented and accelerate institutional changes needed to improve student learning.

November 21, 2016

AidChoice: Give the People who Pay for Aid a Voice in Spending It

What if taxpayers could decide for themselves how some of the UK’s aid budget is spent? Allocating funding would let taxpayers engage meaningfully with development issues, potentially reinforcing support for tackling poverty and deprivation overseas. Competition for funding would give international development organisations an incentive to offer an explicit value proposition. This could catalyse a race to the top in becoming transparent, measuring impact, and delivering value-for-money. AidChoice, as set out below, would be revenue neutral, would not lower the UK’s overall spending on foreign aid (or the amount scored as ODA), and might generate modest but meaningful savings, all while increasing public support for development spending and improving accountability.

November 15, 2016

Nigeria Will Become Polio-Free: Challenges, Successes, and Lessons Learned for the Quest to Eradicate Polio

Despite no reported cases of polio in two years in Nigeria, on August 11, 2016, the WHO announced two new wild polio cases had been discovered in Northern Nigeria. While undoubtedly a setback, Nigeria has mobilized its immunization forces and will look to take heed of four key lessons learned during almost three decades of anti-polio efforts: 1) establishing and sustaining trust is critical to the success  of eradication campaigns; 2) frequent, independent monitoring and evaluation are key to tracking the progress of an intervention and making modifications; 3) holding all actors accountable is essential to pushing an intervention forward; and 4) contextualized health initiatives are key in fighting polio and other diseases. These lessons will reinforce a cohesive, multilateral strategy that builds on past successes to secure a polio-free Nigeria.

David Boyd , Alykhan Premji , Paige W. Sholar , Azfar Hossain , Kunal Potnis , Lisa Wanda , Jamal Edwards , Laura Winn and Lexia Chadwick
November 15, 2016

Is There a Goldilocks Solution? “Just Right” Promotion of Labor Mobility

The “just right” approach for the mobility of low-skill labor looks to avoid either “too hard”—expecting countries to make legally binding commitments to a global protocol—or “too soft”—no global mechanisms for reducing restrictions on labor mobility. We propose a “bundled” organization that works with existing bilateral labor agreements and partners as part of an organization capable of analysis and advocacy.

Lant Pritchett and Rebekah Smith
November 15, 2016

Cash on Delivery Aid for Energy

Energy is critical to human welfare, yet energy consumption in developing countries is extremely low relative to modern living standards. Conventional aid programs have invested in energy production with some success but also with many notable failures. This paper discusses how a distinctive approach to development aid—disbursing funds against improved outcomes—could make aid more effective in the energy sector. In particular, it explores the use of Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid) to resolve perennial difficulties encountered by conventional aid programs in energy sector development.

November 10, 2016

The Impact of Taxes, Transfers, and Subsidies on Inequality and Poverty in Uganda - Working Paper 443

This paper uses the 2012/13 Uganda National Household Survey to analyze the redistributive effectiveness and impact on poverty and inequality of Uganda’s revenue collection instruments and social spending programs. Fiscal policy—including many of its constituent tax and spending elements—is inequality-reducing in Uganda, but the reduction of inequality due to fiscal policy in Uganda is lower than other countries with similar levels of initial inequality, a result tied to low levels of spending in Uganda generally. The impact of fiscal policy on poverty is negligible, while the combination of very sparse coverage of direct transfer programs and nearly complete coverage of indirect tax instruments means that many poor households are net payers into, rather than net recipients from, the fiscal system. As Uganda looks ahead to increased revenues from taxation and concurrent investments in productive infrastructure, it should take care to protect the poorest households from further impoverishment from the fiscal system.

Jon Jellema , Nora Lustig , Astrid Haas and Sebastian Wolf
November 8, 2016

Fiscal Policy, Inequality and the Poor in the Developing World - Working Paper 441

Using comparable fiscal incidence analysis, this paper examines the impact of fiscal policy on inequality and poverty in twenty-five countries for around 2010. Success in fiscal redistribution is driven primarily by redistributive effort (share of social spending to GDP in each country) and the extent to which transfers/subsidies are targeted to the poor and direct taxes targeted to the rich. While fiscal policy always reduces inequality, this is not the case with poverty. While spending on pre-school and primary school is pro-poor (i.e., the per capita transfer declines with income) in almost all countries, pro-poor secondary school spending is less prevalent, and tertiary education spending tends to be progressive only in relative terms (i.e., equalizing but not pro-poor). Health spending is always equalizing except for Jordan.

November 7, 2016

Banking the Unbanked: Evidence from Three Countries - Working Paper 440

We experimentally test the impact of expanding access to basic bank accounts in Uganda, Malawi, and Chile. Over two years, 17 percent, 10 percent, and 3 percent of treatment individuals made five or more deposits, respectively. Average monthly deposits for them were at the 79th, 91st, and 96th percentiles of baseline savings. Survey data show no clearly discernible intention-to-treat effects on savings or any downstream outcomes. This suggests that policies merely focused on expanding access to basic accounts are unlikely to improve welfare noticeably since impacts, even if present, are likely small and diverse.

November 3, 2016

Aligning to 2020: How FP2020 Donors Can Work Better, Together

In July 2012, world leaders gathered to reaffirm the right of women and girls to make informed and autonomous choices about their reproductive lives. To support the implementation of this right, country governments and donors committed to three actions: a new partnership to enhance accountability for progress—Family Planning 2020 (FP2020), an aspirational goal—120 million additional users of voluntary, high-quality family planning services by 2020, and $4.6 billion in additional funding, including $2.6 billion from international donors and the private sector.

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