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'I'll Be Gone and You'll Be Gone'

Sina Odugbemi's picture

There was an article in the New York Times recently with the title 'What's Really Wrong With Wall Street Pay?'  In the article, the writer discusses a problem world leaders want to do something about but are not sure how. How do you stop compensation packages for bankers and traders in global markets from encouraging them to take the kinds of wild risks that have done so much damage to the global economy?  I wish the leaders the very best of luck in dealing with that one. Success in the endeavor is far from certain...to put it gently.

What caught my eye as I was reading the piece is what the writer says bankers call the "I.B.G-Y.B.G." problem, as in 'I'll be gone and you will be gone'. It is the moral hazard problem. Traders in global markets take incredible risks and recklessly, they collect their bonuses and move on. The firm takes all the risk. Well, it turns out that taxpayers take risks as well, since governments have had to bail out so many banks deemed too big to fail.

Well, my point is this: in international development don't we have our own version of the "I.B.G.-Y.B.G." problem? When those who design development projects and get them approved by relevant authorities, move on, get promoted, and are not held accountable for results, is that not a case of you'll be gone and I'll be gone? If you are not going to be  held accountable for implementation and results you don't have to worry about whether or not the project will produce results under real world conditions. You can cut and paste global best practice on a technical issue into projects to be implemented in vastly different environments. Job done. When implementation challenges inevitably arise and hold things up, well, that is somebody else's problem. For the design team it is a case of ' I'll be gone and you'll be gone'.

There is talk that just as  the G-20 leaders are grappling with this problem as it affects global financial markets, leaders in international development institutions are worrying about incentives and accountability with regard to the design of development projects. I am not at all clear which set of leaders has the easier task. And that says a lot.

Photo Credit: Flickr user Steve Rhodes

Comments

Submitted by VEDiCarlo on
I think you are very right to say that the "moral hazard problem" of "IBG- YBG" is a threat to good development projects. Not only does it remove the threat of accountability for failed projects, it encourages the "cut and paste" of best practices, as you say. Furthermore, the fear of potential failure for taking charge of implementing new ideas seems to tie the hands of innovators who work within traditional institutes such as the UN. Running parallel to the problem of "IBG-YBG" seems the near colonialist belief that any aid (read: Western interference) is better than the current situation in developing countries. Donors of all sizes and origins seem to operate from the belief that they are fulfilling a moral good by following an "at least I'm there for now" when implementing new projects.

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