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May 2016

Should aid fight corruption? New book questions logic behind this week’s anti-corruption summit

Duncan Green's picture

Over at the Center for Global Development, Charles Kenny wants comments on the draft of his book on Aid and Corruption (deadline end of May). Let’s hope this becomes standard practice – it worked brilliantly for me on How Change Happens – more varied voices can chip in good new ideas, spot mistakes or contradictions, and it all helps get a buzz going ahead of publication.

But let me take it one step further. As a contribution to the corruption summit, hosted by David Cameron on 12 May 2016, I thought I would summarize/review the book. Charles gave the green light, provided I stress the ‘preliminary, drafty, subject-to-revisiony nature of the text’. Done.

The summit is about a lot more than aid – for example the rich countries putting their houses in order on tax havens. Which is just as well, because the book poses some real challenges to the whole ‘anti-corruption’ narrative on aid. What’s more, it is erudite, engagingly written and upbeat – as you’d expect given Charles’ optimistic previous takes like Getting Better. He’s got a great eye for telling research and ‘man bites dog’ surprise findings. Example: ‘Taking a cross section of countries and comparing current income (2010) to corruption perceptions in 2002 and income in 2002, results suggests more corrupt countries in 2002 have higher incomes in 2010.’

His core argument is pretty striking – when it comes to aid and corruption, corruption does indeed matter, but the cure is often worse than the disease: ‘an important and justified focus on corruption as a barrier to development progress has led to policy and institutional change in donor agencies that is damaging the potential for aid to deliver development.’ Ouch.

The future of Benin will be shaped by its geography

Jacques Morisset's picture
Photo Credit: Arne Hoel/World Bank


Following a long tradition of economists, the newly-elected government in Benin can gain inspiration from geography. For economist Jeffrey Sachs, university professor at New York’s Columbia University, many tropical countries have failed to grow because their hot climate facilitated the propagation of epidemic diseases. Economist Paul Collier, professor of economics and public policy in the Blavatnik School of Government at the University of Oxfod, has argued that Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is lagging because of its disproportionate number of people living far from the ocean and thus from global markets.  Similarly, French historian Fernand Braudel’s work  reminds us that many urban centers only became “true” drivers of growth when they were able to host processing industries, which are usually absent in Africa.

Campaign Art: Soap that helps early detection of cancer

Davinia Levy's picture
People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

If you think about your community (family, friends, colleagues, etc), you probably know someone who has or has had breast cancer. According to the World Cancer Research Fund International, in 2012, breast cancer was the second most common cancer, with about 1.7 million new cases registered.
 
The good news, if any, is that breast cancer has a very high survival rates (of over 90%) when detected and treated at an early stage. A good way to detect cancer early is to perform routine self-exams to search for any lumps or changes in the breast area. A recommended time to do these self-exams is when we are naked and alone – and these conditions are met when we are in the shower.

To incentivize self-exams amongst the local population in Puerto Rico, HIMA San Pablo – a network of hospitals – came up with this public health awareness campaign. They distributed soap with a reminder carved in each soap bar and with waterproof instructions to correctly perform self-examinations in the shower.
 
The Life Soap

How to implement “open innovation” in city government

Victor Mulas's picture
City officials are facing increasingly complex challenges. As urbanization rates grow, cities face higher demand for services from a larger and more densely distributed population. On the other hand, rapid changes in the global economy are affecting cities that struggle to adapt to these changes, often resulting in economic depression and population drain.
 
“Open innovation” is the latest buzz word circulating in forums on how to address the increased volume and complexity of challenges for cities and governments in general.
 
But, what is open innovation?
 
Traditionally, public services were designed and implemented by a group of public officials. Open innovation allows us to design these services with multiple actors, including those who stand to benefit from the services, resulting in more targeted and better tailored services, often implemented through partnership with these stakeholders. Open innovation allows cities to be more productive in providing services while addressing increased demand and higher complexity of services to be delivered.
 
New York, Barcelona, Amsterdam and many other cities have been experimenting with this concept, introducing challenges for entrepreneurs to address common problems or inviting stakeholders to co-create new services.   Open innovation has gone from being a “buzzword” to another tool in the city officials’ toolbox.

Change in (flight) plan: Just three months to fix Vanuatu’s runway

Christopher J. De Serio's picture
Port Vila, Vanuatu. Photo credit: Phillip Capper


Overjoyed at the emergency rehabilitation of Bauerfield International Airport, Vanuatu’s gateway for travelers, Linda Kalpoi, the general manager of the Vauatu Tourism Office, was in buoyant spirits as she attended the May 6 ceremony announcing the repair’s completion.
 
Vanuatu yearned for good news. Still recovering from Cyclone Pam’s devastation in March 2015, it was hit by political turmoil after the unprecedented conviction of 14 members of Parliament in October 2015. Then, on January 22, 2016 – the same day Ni-Vanuatu citizens were casting ballots for a snap election – Air New Zealand suspended flights due to safety concerns over the runway condition. Qantas and Virgin Australia followed suit a week later. With only a few airlines still operating, the country lost a sizeable chunk of international tourists. 
 
Airport planning in Vanuatu has long been fraught with differing opinions and priorities. Multiple governments with conflicting visions for developing international air transport, as well frequent changes to the staff and leadership of Airports Vanuatu Ltd (AVL), had left the runway in critical need of repair.

Electronic versus paper-based data collection: reviewing the debate

This post was co-authored by Sacha Dray, Felipe Dunsch, and Marcus Holmlund.

Impact evaluation needs data, and often research teams collect this from scratch. Raw data fresh from the field is a bit like dirty laundry: it needs cleaning. Some stains are unavoidable – we all spill wine/sauce/coffee on ourselves from time to time, which is mildly frustrating but easily discarded as a fact of life, a random occurrence. But as these occurrences become regular we might begin to ask ourselves whether something is systematically wrong.

Pathways to Prosperity: An e-Symposium

Peter Lanjouw's picture
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Blog #3: Poverty down, but 1 in 2 hangs by a thread

 
India is home to the largest number of poor people in the world, as well as the largest number of people who have recently escaped poverty. Over the next few weeks, this blog series will highlight recent research from the World Bank and its partners on what has driven poverty reduction, what still stands in the way of progress, and the road to a more prosperous India.

We hope this will spark a conversation around #WhatWillItTake to #EndPoverty in India. Read all the blogs in this series, we look forward to your comments.


The sharp decline in poverty in India has been accompanied by a strong pattern of upward mobility, leading to an emerging middle class. Education, urban residence, and wage work have contributed to this higher-than-average upward mobility and lower downward mobility.  Yet, a vast share of the population remains vulnerable to slipping back into poverty, suggesting that gains against poverty need to be deepened and made more secure.  Scheduled Tribes stand out as a group that has fallen further behind, with one-third stuck in chronic poverty.

Using auctions to support climate and development outcomes

Scott Cantor's picture


Auctions are ubiquitous. On any given day, somewhere in the world, bidders compete for energy, wireless spectrum, used vehicles, agricultural products—the list goes on. Auctions can help resolve uncertainties in the market, convening buyers and sellers to help them achieve the best possible price for goods or services that are otherwise difficult to value.
 
Auctions can also resolve uncertainties in the development sector, identifying the projects most likely to succeed and determining the right level of funding. To test this hypothesis in the climate arena, the World Bank has been piloting an approach to incentivize green projects in developing countries. The Pilot Auction Facility for Methane and Climate Change Mitigation (PAF) held its second online auction earlier this month, allocating $20 million in funding directly to the private sector for projects reducing methane emissions.

Syrian refugees: A mental health crisis

Omer Karasapan's picture
 kafeinkolik l Shutterstock

The Syrian Civil War is entering its sixth year with no resolution in sight: Even February’s truce may be collapsing as the battle for Aleppo intensifies. There will be more refugees and casualties as civilians flee the violence. With its aerial bombings, car bombs, chemical warfare, the unparalleled brutality of Islamic State, and unrelenting trauma of urban warfare, Syria’s war has seen half a million deaths, over 4 million refugees, and some 7 million internally displaced peoples (IDPs). 

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