Ideas to Action:

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CGD Policy Blogs


Direct Payments to Pakistan’s Flood Victims: A Smart Option for U.S. Assistance

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.

U.S. Fiscal Commission Suggests Killing OPIC - The Government's Cash Cow

Yesterday, the two Fiscal Commission co-chairs, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, put forward their long-awaited draft proposal.  I was looking forward to seeing bold, creative ideas for getting America’s fiscal house in order.  I wasn’t disappointed.  They leave no sacred public cow untouched.  However, one thing nearly made me fall out of the chair.  These seemingly well-informed insiders want to shut down the O

Six Months, Three Elections, The Future of Africa

Long-delayed elections finally happened last Sunday in Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea (even the New Yorker noticed). Good for those countries and for West Africa. But it strikes me that there are three absolutely huge elections coming up in the next six months that—at the risk of being over-dramatic—will determine nothing less than the future of Africa.

Will USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives Transition to State?

This is a joint post with Sarah Jane Staats.

The long-awaited Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) of USAID-State operations has been nearly eighteen months in the making. We’ve heard bits and pieces about the process, the players, the substance, and timing. The latest rumor is that at least one last debate is occurring prior to its release: whether USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI) or other types of humanitarian assistance should remain at USAID or be moved to the State Department. If true, this would fly in the face of the administration’s own rhetoric of rebuilding USAID and elevating development.

While it is unfortunately hard to know from the outside whether this debate is really occurring, ongoing, or has been decided, it’s important – even if only for the sake of argument – to explain why it matters that OTI stay at USAID.

1. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. While USAID and the administration are working hard to build the agency into the world’s premiere development agency, USAID is already considered the world’s premiere humanitarian response agency. USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA) is the ER for disasters.

The True True Size of Africa

The Economist has a nice piece here on the True Size of Africa. It’s about geographic size (Africa is bigger than you think – which is true for all countries and regions near the equator that don’t benefit from the Mercator distortion in our two-dimensional map world).

Backlash Brushfire in Bangladesh? Maybe Not.

A Wall Street Journal blog says that:

Backlash against the booming microfinance industry that has thrown Andhra Pradesh into crisis may be spreading to the Mecca of Microlending: Bangladesh.

The south Asian nation’s Microcredit Regulatory Authority is planning to slap new restrictions on the industry which gives tiny loans to mini entrepreneurs.

Sustaining Dutch Commitment to Development

This is a joint post with Julie Walz and originally appeared on The Broker Website.

The new Dutch government plans to cut spending on foreign aid from 0.8% to 0.7% of gross national income. Of course, by international standards, the Netherlands will remain one of the most generous nations when it comes to foreign aid: only a handful of countries even come close to 0.7%. Still, the prospective cut raises questions: Is the Netherlands shirking its responsibilities to the developing world?

We would answer: It need not, even if aid is cut.