Time to put to rest the stale debate over whether the World Bank should disburse grants or loans to the world’s poorest countries. It is critical that the Bank provide more of its funding as grants, but in a more rational manner than has been the case to date. A third Bank window should distribute grants – and grants only – to very poor countries, for example, with incomes below $500 per capita. Shifting to grants-only for the very poorest countries would ensure they never again find themselves with unpayable debt burdens, and would allow them to re-invest resources into their own economies rather than repay the Bank.
The British proposal to create an International Finance Facility in order to 'frontload' $50 billion in aid per year until 2015 has generated a lot of attention and will likely be a major topic at the G8 meeting this July. But the IFF has also been shrouded in confusion and misconceptions. This paper explains the IFF proposal and highlights some of the common misunderstandings surrounding it, including the mechanics of the scheme itself, the potential for a U.S. role, and the expectations of aid which underlie the IFF’s premise. The UK deserves plaudits for elevating global poverty on the international agenda and for seeking ways to better harness the power of private capital markets for development. But the IFF, as currently conceived, is an idea that merits more scrutiny and a healthy dose of skepticism.
In 1999, the United States and other major donor countries supported an historic expansion of the heavily indebted poor country (HIPC) debt relief initiative. Three years after the initiative came into existence, we are beginning to see the apparent impact that HIPC is having, particularly on recipient countries' ability and willingness to increase domestic spending on education and HIV/AIDS programs. Yet it has also become clear that the HIPC program is not providing a sufficient level of predictability or sustainability to allow debtor countries (and donors) to reap the larger benefits, particularly in terms of sustained growth and poverty reduction, originally envisioned. After reviewing some of the main critiques and proposals for change, we offer here a new way forward -- a proposal to deepen, widen, and most importantly insure debt relief to poor countries.
We assess the dynamic behind the high net resource transfers of donors and creditors, IDA, bilaterals, IBRD, IMF and other multilateral creditors to the countries of sub-Saharan Africa in the 1980s and 1990s. Analyzing a panel of 37 recipient countries over the years 1978-98, we find that net transfers were greater in poorer and smaller countries. The quality of countries' policy framework mattered little, however, in determining overall net transfers.