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Biometrics, foreign aid, Africa, economics of resource-rich countries, growth and development, transition economies
Alan Gelb is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. His recent research includes aid and development outcomes, the transition from planned to market economies, the development applications of biometric ID technology, and the special development challenges of resource-rich countries. He was previously director of development policy at the World Bank and chief economist for the bank’s Africa region and staff director for the 1996 World Development Report “From Plan to Market.”
This paper surveys the arguments for and against cash-transfer programs in resource-rich states, discusses some of the new biometric identification technologies, and reaches preliminary conclusions about their potentially very large benefits for developing countries.
This is a joint post with Caroline Decker and originally appeared on The Hill's Congress Blog.
Pakistan clearly has an urgent need for swift, effective aid in the wake of its catastrophic summer of floods. Infrastructure has suffered unprecedented damage, and as many as 1.6 million households, mostly rural, have lost their homes and possessions. Beyond relief efforts to provide urgent needs—food, water, medical care, and temporary shelter—the priority of the Pakistani government and its international partners will be helping those directly affected get back on their feet and rebuild their lives. What is the best way to help? Even before the floods, spending aid money well in Pakistan was not going to be easy. In 2009, Congress pledged $7.5 billion in non-military aid over five years, but only a tiny fraction of that money has been disbursed. Finding channels (either inside or outside the Pakistani government) where the United States could be confident that dysfunction and corruption would not siphon away too much of the aid has been a challenge. That challenge is still present in the context of the flood reconstruction effort.
However, a new approach has the ability to leapfrog over these impediments.