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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.”
The biometrics revolution has allowed more countries to create strong ID systems for their citizens. These systems have mostly relied on fingerprinting, but with the advent of low-cost, highly effective iris readers this is about to change.
The World Bank is reorganizing. Bloomberg reports that president Jim Yong Kim has written staff about a shake-up at the bank’s highest levels in preparation for implementing an as-yet-to-be-announced new institutional strategy. Such can be unsettling for bank employees, some of whom will find their jobs on the line and others who may get new bosses. Is there any reason for the rest of the world to care?
As recently as 2011, only 42 percent of adult Kenyans had a financial account of any kind; by 2014, according to the Global Findex, database that number had risen to 75 percent. In sub-Saharan Africa, the share of adults with financial accounts rose by nearly half over the same period. Many other developing countries have also recorded gains in access to basic financial services. Much of this progress is being facilitated by the digital revolution of recent decades, which has led to the emergence of new financial services and new delivery channels.
Anton Dobronogov, Alan Gelb and Fernando Brant Saldanha
Natural resources are being discovered in more countries, both rich and poor. Many of the new and aspiring resource exporters are low-income countries that are still receiving substantial levels of foreign aid.
Africa’s industrial progress has been disappointing. Part of the reason is that labor costs are higher than one might expect, given GDP per capita. Alan Gelb, Christian Meyer, and Vijaya Ramachandran distill the policy lessons.
This paper surveys 160 cases where biometric identification has been used for economic, political, and social purposes in developing countries. One primary conclusion is that identification should be considered as a component of development policy, rather than being seen as just a cost on a program-by-program basis.
The authors find that the value of discovered reserves is high relative to the costs of exploration and that many countries can continue to generate resource rents far longer than indicated by current reserve estimates. In some cases, public measures to encourage private exploration may be justified.
Uganda has sought to finance its development agenda with oil since discovering the resource in its Albertine Lakes Basin in 2009. This paper considers alternative methods for distributing the rents from oil that mitigate some of the governance risks associated with natural resource revenues.
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.