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Aid Effectiveness

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

One Internet
Global Commission on Internet Governance

Internet governance is one of the most pressing global public policy issues of our time. Some estimates put the economic contribution  of the Internet as high as $4.2 trillion* in 2016.1 The Internet of Things (IoT) could result in upwards of $11.1 trillion in economic growth and efficiency gains by 2025.2 And, the Internet is more than simply a system of wealth generation; it also acts as a platform for innovation, free expression, culture and access to ideas. Yet across multiple levels, the Internet’s basic functionality and the rights of users are under strain.

The Lopsided Geography of Wikipedia
The Atlantic

Think about how often, in the course of a week, you visit Wikipedia. Maybe you’re searching for basic information about a topic, or getting sucked into a wiki-hole where you meant to study up on the “Brexit” but somehow find yourself, several related pages later, reading about the carbonic maceration process for making wine (to take just one example that has totally never happened to me).  Now imagine you can’t access Wikipedia. Or you can, but not in your native language. Or there are plenty of entries in your language, but few on the subjects that are part of your daily life. Or those entries exist, but they’re not written by locals like yourself. You certainly have other ways of getting information. But Wikipedia is one of the most ambitious information clearinghouses in human history. How would these challenges shape your understanding of the world? And how would that understanding differ from the worldview of those who don’t face such challenges?

Payment by results in aid: hype or hope?

Duncan Green's picture

Is payment by results just the most recent over-hyped solution for development, or is it an effective incentive for accelerating change?

Madeleine has a 17 month-old daughter who was born at the village's primary health facilityWhen reading up on payment by results (PbR) recently I was struck by the contrast between how quickly it has spread through the aid world and how little evidence there is that it actually works.

In a way, this is unavoidable with a new idea – you make the case for it based on theory, then you implement, then you test and improve or abandon. In this case the theory, ably argued by Center for Global Development (CGD) and others, was that PbR aligns incentives in developing country governments with development outcomes, and encourages innovation, since it does not specify how to, for example, reduce maternal mortality, merely rewards governments when they achieve it.

Those arguments have certainly persuaded a bunch of donors. The UK government (pdf) says that this “new form of financing that makes payments contingent on the independent verification of results ... is a cross government reform priority”. The UK’s department for international development (DfID) called its 2014 PbR strategy Sharpening Incentives to Perform (pdf) and promised to make it “a major part of the way DfID works in future”. David Cameron, the British prime minister, waxes lyrical on the topic.

But I seem to be coming up against a long list of potential problems with PbR. Let’s start with Paul Clist and Stefan Dercon: 12 Principles for PbR in International Development (pdf), who set out a series of situations in which PbR is either unsuitable or likely to backfire. For example if results cannot be unambiguously measured, lawyers are going to have a field day when a donor tries to refuse payment by arguing they haven’t been achieved. They also make the point that PbR makes no sense if the recipient government already wants to achieve a certain goal – then you should just give them the money up front and let them get on with it.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture

World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

Worth Every Cent
Foreign Affairs
In a Foreign Affairs article last year, we wrote what we hoped would be a provocative argument: “Cash grants to the poor are as good as or better than many traditional forms of aid when it comes to reducing poverty.” Cash grants are cheaper to administer and effective at giving recipients what they want, rather than what experts think they need. That argument seems less radical by the day. Experimental impact evaluations continue to show strong results for cash grants large or small. In August, David McKenzie of the World Bank reported results from a study of grants of $50,000 on average to entrepreneurs in Nigeria that showed large positive impacts on business creation, survival, profits, sales, and employment, including an increase of more than 20 percent in the likelihood of a firm having more than ten employees.

No, Deaton’s Nobel prize win isn’t a victory for aid sceptics
A lot of fuss has been made this week about the latest winner of the Nobel prize in economics, British-born economist Angus Deaton, and his apparent aversion to foreign aid. Predictably, much of the press has taken his victory as a vindication of their suspicions on aid. It’s worth getting a few things straight though. Deaton did not win the Nobel prize for his criticism of aid. He was awarded the prize for his analysis of inequality and creation of better tools with which to analyse living standards amongst the poorest people in the world. Deaton is, in fact, more of a critic than an opponent of aid. In the same way that a film critic doesn’t hate all films (although it sometimes seems they do), Deaton doesn’t hate all aid.

Weekly wire: The global forum

Roxanne Bauer's picture
World of NewsThese are some of the views and reports relevant to our readers that caught our attention this week.

A simple solution for better economic performance - empower women
The Nation
Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund and one of the world's most influential women, made an interesting remark last weekend.  "We have estimates that, if the number of female workers were to increase to the same level as the number of men, GDP in the United States would expand by 5 per cent, by 9 per cent in Japan, and by 27 per cent in India," she told the inaugural summit of the Women's 20 (W-20), a new grouping launched by the G20, in Turkey.  She said that aside from boosting gross domestic product, getting more women into secure and well-paid jobs raises overall per-capita income.

Dealing with digital in media development —7 things to consider
Deutsche Welle Akademie
When colleagues from DW Akademie asked me to contribute some reflections on media development, I found myself in the difficult position of having to find a common ground for the term. Between regular Facebook updates sent by a friend working with a local radio station in Southern Sudan, a conversation I had here in Malmö/Sweden with a recently arrived Syrian refugee who used to work for state television, or the daily discussions about media, globalization and development that we have in our academic environment, it is difficult to find common ground.   But then again, when all these impressions and reflections sink in, some broader issues emerge. I have summarized them under the following seven points:

The Quest for Aid Effectiveness

Zahid Hussain's picture

A health checkup in Akbarnagar Community Clinic, Bangladesh. Mahfuzul Hasan Bhuiyan/World BankHas foreign aid been helpful for development? What helps and hinders it? What does the evidence say?

The key challenge facing foreign aid globally is its effectiveness.

Research on aid effectiveness has focused on outcomes such as a country’s economic growth or quality of institutions. These studies came to mixed conclusions over whether aid can effectively promote economic development.

Microeconomic evidence paints a reasonably positive picture. The World Bank’s Independent Evaluation Group (IEG) finds that the average rates of return to aid are generally above 20%. Evidence based on randomized program evaluation techniques is also largely positive, indicating that aid-financed interventions can generate substantial benefits for individuals.

Access to Information: Aid Effectiveness is the True Test

Kate Henvey's picture

Are citizens receiving the greatest development impact for their development dollar? This is the same question I asked when the Publish What You Fund Aid Transparency Index was released in October 2013.

This week I found myself asking the same question as the 2013 World Bank Access to Information Report was released, highlighting how the Bank’s Access to Information Policy has provided the framework for the institution to emerge as a global leader in transparency and openness.

 “Of course, data and knowledge are not an end in themselves,” President Jim Kim noted in the opening message of the report, “ultimately the true test of our effectiveness is how we use this evidence to change the lives of over a billion people in extreme poverty.”

Scaling up Support for Egypt

Inger Andersen's picture

During her recent visit to Cairo, the World Bank's Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa Region Inger Andersen reiterated the Bank's support for an inclusive economy in Egypt that enables all citizens to take part in shaping their future.

Where do things stand for Yemen?

Wael Zakout's picture


Today in Sana’a, the international community and the Government of Yemen once again came together to track progress on Yemen’s transition and the agreements between the country and its donors. The 2012 peace initiative determined the transition to include a national dialogue bringing together a broad geographic and political cross section of the country (this is already underway), the drafting of a new constitution, and new elections. All of this is meant to be completed by February, 2014.

What Is Science and What Is Delivery?

Aleem Walji's picture

Having just returned from Dartmouth and meetings with the Center for Health Care Delivery Science, I’ve been thinking about the phrase “Delivery Science.” World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim’s use of the term in recent speeches is related to using evidence-based experimentation to improve poor health, education, water, and basic service outcomes in the developing world.

Reflecting on this, I think, in many ways, “science” and “delivery” are distinct and need to be understood as different but reinforcing principles. So let’s break it down.