Friday, May 7, 2010

Sentences to Ponder: Governance and Development

On Fungibility by Ranil Dissanayake
It’s interesting that no-one has actually looked and examined how many of the countries ‘guilty’ of reallocation have been - audited ... The donor’s role here is to remove all excuses for not holding the audit... But once it’s been established that spending is legitimate (i.e. developmental in intention, as opposed to personal consumption using state funds) then the decisions should be out of donor hands. They advocate, but must be prepared that the final decision goes against their advice. This is meaning of Ownership.

The whole wedding is alleged to have cost about GBP 2 million, part of which paid for a twenty-eight tier wedding cake. ... Is aid money facilitating this kind of opulence? ... Even if state funds were used ... it’s quite possible that the same wedding would have taken place, with the same cost, but with developmental spending suffering even more. If this is the counter-factual, then aid money isn’t facilitating bad spending but mitigating the damage it causes.

On Accountability (courtesy Barder, quoting he head of economics for the UK aid program in India.)
New technologies for crowd-sourcing significantly bring down the transactions costs for collecting and ‘mashing’ data from many stakeholders. Examples include SMS-based systems (e.g. Ushahidi’s crisis reporting), smart-phone systems (e.g. Kenyan crop insurance) and web-based systems (e.g. eMoksha’s Fix Our City). What other examples are there?

On Political Will, Barder
Donors are almost never able to use aid to create incentives that work for developing countries, and they probably should not try. ... First, donors do not make credible threats. ... Second, the incentive created by aid is not strong enough to influence decisions of government officials.
I don’t believe that most developing countries need incentives ... what they need is money. The problem is that donors won’t give that money without a whole rash of conditions, milestones, benchmarks, policy dialogues, missions, evaluations and reports. Donors are forced to impose all that paraphernalia because they need to demonstrate to their taxpayers that the money has achieved something. ... I believe that Cash on Delivery can cut through all that: by providing money on the basis of results, donors can put more money into countries that are willing and able to deliver more and better services, without imposing hassle on either donor or recipient.

On Development Policy as opposed to aid policy, Barder again. His list of important policies:
  • Trade: Let them in
  • Agriculture: Stop using food aid as welfare for US/EU farmers
  • Climate change
  • Conflict
  • Immigration: It helped both US and EU in the 18th century. Do it again now.
  • Intellectual property
  • Corruption: "the money for corruption comes from and often returns to industrialized countries"
  • International governance: more democracy, less plutocracy

On Methods, How to do accurate guesswork when you don't have enough data: "ballpark is all he's aiming for. Trying to be too exact can be paralyzing; or, as he likes to say, rigor leads to rigor mortis."

and how to get more data: Duflo, 2010 John Bates Clark Medal winner, makes another pitch for RCTs:

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