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Shanta Devarajan's blog

Do user fees increase or decrease access to basic services?

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In a recent paper, Alaka Holla and Michael Kremer appear to resolve this controversial issue by surveying findings of a series of randomized evaluations. They conclude that user fees in health and education do reduce access. On page 33 of their 45-page paper, they mention that they have not looked at the impact of user fees on provider incentives. Yet this may be the crux of the debate. Everyone would be in favor of lowering or eliminating us

A fiscal stimulus for Africa?

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There is no question that the global financial and economic crisis is affecting Africa’s economic performance. The IMF’s World Economic Outlook forecasts a GDP growth rate for Africa of 3.5 percent, which is 1.6 percentage points lower than the previous forecast, and 1.9 percentage points below the 2008 growth rate. The growth forecast for primary commodity exporters is even lower; Angola, for instance, is

One childhood

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Rarely do we come across a video that is visually beautiful, intellectually stimulating and emotionally inspiring.  “One childhood” is a documentary about how schools and schoolteachers in Eritrea are part of the campaign to improve children’s health.  Based on the actual findings of two thorough technical evaluations that showed the wide coverage and effectiveness of the Eritrea programs, the film tells the story of how school health is now being delivered in the mountains of Eritrea, in the arid lands of the Red Sea coast and in urban Asmara.  Available on

Presque au hasard

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La « randomisation » – ou application par répartition aléatoire – des programmes d’aide est actuellement considérée comme la « règle d’or » permettant d’évaluer l’impact de chaque projet et de trouver les schémas d’intervention les plus efficaces possible. Des études antérieures ont été critiquées en raison de leur portée limitée, c’est pourquoi des interventions plus récentes portent désormais sur de plus larges échantillons de population.

Almost random

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Randomized program implementation is currently seen as the ‘gold standard’ for impact evaluation in the search for the most effective development interventions. Earlier studies were criticized for their limited scope, so some of these interventions now involve large populations. Unfortunately, the larger the intervention, the larger is the danger that people who were supposed to get the treatment do not receive the intervention and vice-versa. Do such deviations invalidate the conclusions drawn from randomized studies?

Responsible aid in a time of crisis

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My friend, former colleague and one-time co-author Bill Easterly, in his inaugural blog post, takes issue with Bob Zoellick’s Op-Eds in the New York Times and the Financial Times  on the need for more aid to poor countries in the wake of the global financial and economic crisis. Bill’s argument is that Bob is calling for more aid without specifyi

Empowering matatu passengers

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In low-income countries, road traffic accidents account for 3.7 percent of deaths, twice as high as deaths due to malaria.  Anyone who has traveled in Kenya won’t be surprised to hear that 20 percent of recorded crashes involve matatus, the private buses that careen around the city.  Billy Jack and James Habyarimana have a fascinating impact evaluation where they randomly put posters in matatus encouraging passengers to “heckle and chi

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