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This is a joint post with Rita Perakis.

“But we want them to begin counting.” This is the key line in Tina Rosenberg’s column today on Cash on Delivery Aid, where she responds to comments on her initial column from readers worried that governments in poor countries don’t have the capability or the resources to measure things – not even births and deaths.

Bill Savedoff and I address this concern in our preface to the second edition of the book. What do we say about measurement capability as a precondition for successful COD Aid agreements? Quite simply: Not so! To quote ourselves:

“…waiting until countries have information systems in place is a recipe for delay when alternative approaches to measuring progress are available…The limited number of preconditions for COD Aid may make it ideal for the so-called fragile states, countries like Liberia after emerging from civil war or like Malawi after deposing its long-lived dictator.”

A recipient country can always ask an outside funder to help on measurement and reporting, or a donor might even contract with a third party to do that using donor funds for the first couple of years. (It is the funder that pays for an independent verification of the country’s report on results and that process has to be airtight.)

The main point here, as Tina Rosenberg says, is to shift the incentive to measure and report to the recipient country – and to the donor too. By creating this incentive, we will get a better idea of what outcomes programs are achieving. What is amazing is that after 50 years of foreign aid for education (for example), we still don’t know what children are actually learning in school in most poor countries.

Disclaimer

CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.