Ideas to Action:

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January 7, 2014

Shaking Up the Donor Shakedown at the World Bank

The World Bank should declare the IDA-17 replenishment its last and move to replace it with a broader bank resource review. Sticking with the status quo risks an underfunded institution and one that is increasingly isolated from its shareholders (yes, that would be a bad thing).

December 17, 2013

Let the People Go: The Problem with Strict Migration Limits

Originally published in Foreign Affairs. 

On May 29, 2013, British immigration officers raided the Alternative Tuck Shop, a café just down the road from Oxford University’s economics department, where South Asian and Middle Eastern employees serve tea, scones, and sandwiches. The agents seized two young men, one from Bangladesh and one from Algeria, under suspicion of working in the United Kingdom without authorization. And they shuttered the business temporarily, meaning that hungry Oxford economists would have to walk farther down Holywell Street for their midday panini.

October 15, 2013

Here’s the Best Thing the United States Has Done in Afghanistan

Afghanistan’s progress against mortality reflects the success of providing health aid that differed radically from the bulk of American aid to Afghanistan during the war. The USAID program that contributed to the decline was a multilateral effort coordinated by Afghanistan’s own Ministry of Public Health. Results were verified by random sampling, and some funding was linked to measures of performance. This internal policy experiment, however, was destined to provoke resistance. More surprising is the source of resistance to an aid program that attempted to stop simply throwing money at a problem and focus on building sustainable systems: auditors.

August 13, 2013

A UN Declaration on the Post-2015 Development Agenda

In 2000, the UN General Assembly endorsed the Millennium Declaration, a statement that provided the source and inspiration for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The effects of the declaration—and the MDGs—are difficult to measure, but it certainly framed important global discussions about development.

In 2015, the UN’s world leaders will likely agree to a new set of goals to follow the Millennium Declaration. In this essay, Charles Kenny proposes that—instead of getting bogged down hammering out details of how to measure progress—the UN craft a new consensus statement to replace the Millennium Declaration. Kenny proposes such a statement in the pages that follow and provides commentary in the margins.

July 12, 2013

Thinking Through When the World Bank Should Fund Coal Projects

The World Bank should be ambitious in working toward clean energy approaches in its development strategies, but it would be a mistake to definitively rule out coal in all circumstances. Such a decision would be bad for development and would also undermine the very goals that the bank’s coal critics espouse by further pitting developing and developed countries against each other in the climate debate occurring within the bank. The key challenges are to identify the relevant development needs related to coal-fired generation, to define the role of the bank, and to elaborate guidelines to direct decisions. In this essay, we discuss the broad issues and then summarize what the guidelines likely would mean in practice.

June 10, 2013

The Early Success of India’s Health Insurance for the Poor, RSBY

In just five years, India’s Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana (RSBY, translated as “National Health Insurance Programme”) has expanded health-care access. Where dozens of “microinsurance” and NGO pilots failed to scale up, RSBY has already provided more than 110 million people (almost 10 percent of India’s population) with heavily subsidized health insurance, providing up to US$550 annually to finance secondary hospital care. Although the research evidence on RSBY is still developing, early results are encouraging: increased utilization and hospitalization; some indication of reduced out-of-pocket payments for healthcare; and a means of identification with a clearly linked entitlement. While RSBY still faces challenges, particularly on the quality of care of increased hospitalization rates, RSBY has aligned incentives for both public and private hospitals to deliver better care.

In this essay, Victoria Fan tells the story of how RSBY came into being under the leadership of Anil Swarup—whom she describes as an “unassuming officer of the Indian Administrative Service”—and outlines the program’s early successes and opportunities for future progress.

March 11, 2013

The Moral Imperative toward Cost-Effectiveness in Global Health

In this essay, Toby Ord explores the moral relevance of cost-effectiveness, a major tool for capturing the relationship between resources and outcomes, by illustrating what is lost in moral terms for global health when cost-effectiveness is ignored.

Toby Ord

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