Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

CGD Policy Blogs

 

Try Something New in Syria

The conflict in Syria has dragged on for 26 months, and the international community has seemingly exhausted its options for non-lethal aid and support to the Syrian opposition.  Now, with new allegations that chemical weapons were likely used by the Assad regime, the United States and others may be inching closer to putting boots on the ground.       

Foreign Aid in Congress: Five Contradictions

I was pleasantly surprised by the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last week on the FY2014 USAID and MCC budgets. I expected a remix of the partisan spats I watched two years ago. Instead, there was impressive congressional turnout plus serious questions and thorough answers. There was even some friendly competition between USAID and MCC. But five contradictions come up anytime foreign aid is on the Hill and the latest budget hearing was no exception.

Schooling Isn’t Learning

In 2010, World Bank statistics report that Guinea-Bissau had a youth literacy rate of 72%.  That means seven in ten people aged 15-24 were estimated to be able to read and write a simple paragraph.  The estimate was probably made on the basis of that many kids having been in school long enough that they should have easily mastered such a basic skill.  The official net enrollment rate was 74% --about three quarters of primary-age kids were enrolled in school.

Reinhart-Rogoff: The Problem and Solutions

Paraphrasing "jesting Pilate", "what is truth when academic superstars supposedly produce it?" is possibly the most important yet neglected question raised by the recent Reinhart-Rogoff (R-R) affair.

The essential facts of this episode are these: two Harvard professors, Carmen Reinhart and Kenneth Rogoff, used their academic research to become strong advocates in the policy realm, although not among fellow academics, of the need for fiscal austerity when economies approach a threshold level of debt-to-GDP ratio of 90 per cent. Their superstar reputations (deservedly earned through previous work) rendered their advocacy influential, even highly so, in the charged policy debates in the United States and all over Europe. The research - especially the critical and attention-grabbing finding of a sharp growth discontinuity at that 90 per cent threshold - was subsequently exposed as flawed.

Foreign Aid Remix: Yohannes and Shah Head Back to the Hill

MCC CEO Daniel Yohannes and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah are heading back to Capitol Hill Thursday to testify together before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I expect Yohannes and Shah will sing different parts of the same tune: the United States is prepared to do more with less as it strives to fulfill the administration’s global development vision. But it should also be a remix of their joint hearing two years ago with questions on how Congress should prioritize among US development programs. Shah and Yohannes can hit some new high notes on how their agencies are being selective with aid dollars, sharing more aid data and doing better evaluation. They should also be clear about the differences between USAID and MCC. And let’s hope the committee members can avoid the low notes from two years ago when partisan spats (including some in Latin) marred what could have been an important development policy conversation between the executive branch and Congress.

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