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Owen Barder was a Vice President at the Center for Global Development, Director for Europe and a senior fellow. He is a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics and a Specialist Adviser to the UK House of Commons International Development Committee. Barder was a British civil servant from 1988 to 2010, during which time he worked in No.10 Downing Street, as Private Secretary (Economic Affairs) to the Prime Minister; in the UK Treasury, including as Private Secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer; and in the Department for International Development, where he was variously Director of International Finance and Global Development Effectiveness, Director of Communications and Information, and head of Africa Policy & Economics Department. As a young Treasury economist, Barder set up the first UK government website, to put details of the 1994 budget online.
The UK coalition government yesterday announced its spending plans for the next four financial years (to 2014-15). These spending plans are subject to scrutiny and approval by Parliament, though the tradition in Britain is that the spending plans are usually approved without significant amendment.
Lawrence MacDonald is traveling this week, so we're re-releasing an episode from our archives. This interview was originally posted on March 22, 2010.
My guest this week is Owen Barder, a visiting fellow here at the Center for the Global Development and the director of the AidInfo project at Development Initiatives, a UK-based NGO. Owen's current work focuses on improving the transparency of the international aid system—making it easier to know where and how aid is being spent.
Owen explains that more easily available aid data would benefit a number of audiences. Researchers and policymakers need the data to study what aid interventions work best. Developed country taxpayers have a right to information on how government is spending their money. Developing country governments need information on donor spending in order to budget their own resources effectively. However, according to Owen, the most important audience for aid data are the citizens of developing countries-the intended beneficiaries of the spending.
"They need to hold their government to account, they need to hold service delivery organizations to account," he says. "And to do that, they need to know what services they should be expecting, what money is being allocated, what's being spent, so they can make sure they're getting the services they need."
Whether future historians remember last week’s G-20 Summit in Cannes will depend on what happens in the weeks and months ahead. If the eurozone problems spiral out of control, Cannes will be to the coming crash as the 1933 London Economic Conference was to the Great Depression: a lost chance to avert calamity. If Europe muddles through, the brief association of Cannes with the G-20 will be soon forgotten and the resort will again be famous for its film festival.
The Dominique Strauss-Kahn debacle has unexpectedly forced the first leadership turnover at a Bretton Woods institution since the global financial crisis—the first leadership transition in what we might call the G-20 world. The tacit deal that has long put an American atop the World Bank and a European in charge of the IMF, rooted in the geopolitics of the 1940s, looks more archaic than ever. That’s why this time around, the calls have grown even louder to make the leadership selection process of the World Bank and IMF open, transparent, and meritocratic. Owen Barder suggests on his widely read blog that transparency and merit are key to maintain the reputation and relevancy of these international institutions, and Nancy Birdsall agrees that the decision needs to be based on merit, not nationality. The Financial Times and others news media say that it is time for everyone to acknowledge that we are in the 21st century with several emerging powers that must have a larger role in the Bank, the Fund and other multilateral organizations. One of us (Vij) has made this argument too, constructing a model of global governance that factors in GDP and population as of 2011, not 1941.