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CGD’s work in this area focuses on strengthening financial systems in development countries through innovation and regulation.
Greater access for the poor to the formal financial system—including payments, savings, credit, and insurance—can greatly improve household stability and development prospects. CGD examines how to strengthen, broaden, and deepen financial systems in developing countries through innovation and regulation. We also study the effects of financial crises, to avoid and mitigate future shocks, and how developing countries can improve their business climates to spur inward investment.
For the US Development Policy Initiative’s inaugural Voices of Experienceevent, three former Treasury Under Secretaries for International Affairs took the stage: Tim Adams of the Institute of International Finance, Lael Brainard of the Federal Reserve, and Nathan Sheets of Peterson Institute for International Economics. The conversation, moderated by CGD Board Member Tony Fratto, revealed the “esprit de corps” of the International Affairs team, and covered everything from the central yet oft under-the-radar role the Office of International Affairs plays in the formulation and execution of international economic policy, to each Under Secretaries’ proudest moments.
The informal sector is a major source of economic activity and job opportunities in poor countries as well as emerging economies. In sub-Saharan Africa, the size of the informal sector is estimated to employ over 70 percent of the population. Why do businesses remain informal? What gains in productivity or profitability do they forego by as a result of that choice?
This work analyzes fresh data made available by updated, more comprehensive Enterprise Surveys of formal firms of various sizes and, importantly, of informal firms. It concentrates on five countries (the DRC, Ghana, Kenya, Myanmar, and Rwanda) to provide more fine-grained insights into differences in characteristics and productivity levels between formal and informal firms or different sizes in different developing countries.
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.
In November 2015, CGD published a report on the unintended consequences of anti-money laundering policies for poor countries, focusing on three groups: migrant workers who send remittances to their families, vulnerable people who are displaced by conflict or natural disasters and are in need of foreign assistance, and businesses that rely on cross-border trade. Since then, the international community has made several efforts to address the problem of financial exclusion created in part by these policies.
Distributed ledger technology, like Bitcoin’s blockchain, has the potential to transform cross-border payments, boost financial inclusion, and lessen the unintended consequences of anti-money laundering enforcement. Ripple, a fintech company using distributed ledger technology, made headlines recently, as did the appearance of a new cryptocurrency, Zcash. If you’ve gotten swept up in the enthusiasm around emerging financial technologies (fintech), you may think that the creaking system of international transfers in fiat currencies, and the problems of global financial exclusion associated with it, will soon come to an end. However, as we’ve said before, these innovations may not have as much of an impact as you expect.
In spite of recent progress in the usage of alternative financial services by adult populations, Latin America’s financial inclusion gaps have not reduced, relatively to comparable countries, and, in some cases, have even increased during the period 2011-2014. Institutional weaknesses play the most salient role through direct and indirect effects. Lack of enforcement of the rule of law directly reduces depositors’ incentives to entrust their funds to formal financial institutions. Indirectly, low institutional quality reinforces the adverse effects of insufficient bank competition on financial inclusion.
The Obama administration has taken some important steps to put women’s economic empowerment at the center of US foreign and development policy, but there’s still plenty of work left to do. Researchers and advocates alike have made the case for why gender equality—and specifically women’s economic empowerment—is critical for achieving economic growth, eradicating extreme poverty, and improving the health, education, and well-being of people worldwide. This blog post turns to concrete ways that the next US administration can promote women’s economic empowerment, thereby maximizing the impact of its development agenda.