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Grameen Bank Heist and Burma Debt - David Roodman

David RoodmanOur Wonkcast this week covers two separate topics and two international figures recently in the news. First, Muhammad Yunus is considered the father of microfinance as the founder of Grameen Bank. Why then has he been removed from his post? What does it mean for the future of Grameen? Following up, we discuss another Nobel peace prize winner, Aung San Suu Kyi, and the future of Burmese debt.

Should UNITAID Rethink Its Raison d’Être?

UNITAID: maybe you’ve heard of it, or maybe not. Launched in 2006, UNITAID has lived in the shadow of its older and bigger global-health siblings (the Global Fund, GAVI, and PEPFAR, to name a few). Perhaps due to its relative obscurity and late entry to a crowded global-health field, UNITAID has proactively worked to differentiate itself through a focus on commodities, market shaping, novel funding sources, and innovation. To wit, UNITAID’s stated mission is “to contribute to scale up access to treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis for the people in developing countries by leveraging price reductions of quality drugs and diagnostics, which currently are unaffordable for most developing countries, and to accelerate the pace at which they are made available.”

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as Death Star? Really?

Avaaz, a member-based NGO that describes itself as a “global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere,” is taking aim at the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). According to Avaaz, the TPP is a “top-secret, global corporate power grab of breathtaking scope,” that will result in “a giant global pact, with an international tribunal to enforce it” that  will be “brought down like a Death Star on our democracies.” And there are only two days left to stop it.

Cross-post: The Aid Fungibility Debate and Medical Journal Peer Review

I also posted this on CGD's global health policy blog.

The Lancet just published a letter I wrote questioning an influential study in its pages that concluded that most or all foreign aid for health goes into non-health uses. The letter follows up on concerns I expressed in this space in April 2010. Why the 2.5-year lag? Only this past January did the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) share the data set and computer code that it used to generate the published findings. And only with those in hand could I check my concerns and describe them to others with credibility. (I'm grateful to the kind people at IHME who gave me the data and code, but don't want to let the institution per se off the hook.)

Confusingly, in May the Public Library of Science published another critique of the same article. I questioned that reanalysis, and it was eventually retracted.

Here, I sketch my argument, comment on the reply from Chunling Lu and Christopher Murray, then call out the Lancet for a certain lack of transparency, as well as for sometimes bringing more reputation than rigor to policy-relevant social science research.

What’s New in the Child Survival Call to Action?

The newly released new child mortality data by UNICEF has findings that are encouraging yet still worrisome: the world has made progress in reducing child deaths globally; yet each day some 19,000 children die every day largely from preventable causes. USAID highlighted this new publication to remind the world of its “Child Survival Call to Action: Ending Preventable Child Deaths,” co-hosted by USAID, India, Ethiopia, and others on June 14 and 15. Before we completely forget what happened in mid-June, we revisit the event and its desired goals by taking a closer look at the event’s “Roadmap”. Bottom line: The Child Survival Call to Action does not bring much new money or knowledge, but it brings some laudable political attention and a promising emphasis on delivery and accountability. But without more systematic attention from countries and donors, the new child survival agenda risks being another same-old global-health flavor-of-the-month, potentially crowded out by competing priorities in global health.

The Aid Fungibility Debate and Medical Journal Peer Review

The Lancet just published a letter I wrote questioning an influential study in its pages that concluded that most or all foreign aid for health goes into non-health uses. The letter follows up on concerns I expressed in this space in April 2010. Why the 2.5-year lag? Only this past January did the Seattle-based Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) share the data set and computer code that it used to generate the published findings. And only with those in hand could I check my concerns and describe them to others with credibility. (I'm grateful to the kind people at IHME who gave me the data and code, but don't want to let the institution per se off the hook.)

Confusingly, in May the Public Library of Science published another critique of the same article. I questioned that reanalysis, and it was eventually retracted.

Here, I sketch my argument, comment on the reply from Chunling Lu and Christopher Murray, then call out the Lancet for a certain lack of transparency, as well as for sometimes bringing more reputation than rigor to policy-relevant social science research.

USAID Staffer Tracker Update: Legislative and Public Affairs Nomination

After a whopping forty-four months, the White House nominated a USAID assistant administrator for legislative and public affairs yesterday. Chuck Cooper, if confirmed by the Senate, would move to USAID from a similar (though not Senate-confirmed) position at MCC. The kicker? The Senate is scheduled to recess at the end of next week until after the Nov. 6 elections. This leaves two big questions: will he be confirmed at all and if so, will he have time to make an impact?

Ethiopia’s AIDS Spending Cliff

There’s an AIDS spending cliff in Ethiopia and the government is already in free fall. Next year, Ethiopia will experience a 79% reduction in US HIV financing from PEPFAR. The announcement of these cuts came with an explanation that PEPFAR was “free(ing) up resources by reducing programs in lower HIV prevalence countries” (see blog). Further, Global Fund monies have gone almost completely undisbursed in 2012. These cuts in spending might be warranted due to epidemiological trends and improved efficiency, or might cripple progress as health programs dependent on external donors are cut back. The truth is, with the current poor status of basic information on beneficiaries and costs, it’s difficult to judge whether these cuts are good or bad.

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