Yesterday, Lant Pritchett expressed his bewilderment at my open letter to Bill Gates advocating cash for the poor rather than chickens. I think Lant’s right and he’s wrong. We have to focus on the big picture and economic growth as a society, but I think there’s a strong argument for directly tackling the worst poverty now.
CGD Policy Blogs
How do you make the case for US foreign aid to an Administration that has proposed slashing it? That was the task for Mark Suzman, Chief Strategy Officer and president of Global Policy and Advocacy for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, when he recently accompanied Bill Gates to meetings at the White House. In this week's CGD podcast, Suzman gives us two very different versions of the fight against global poverty and disease—the perception and the reality. At an event called Financing the Future, he joined CGD experts Masood Ahmed, Amanda Glassman, and Antoinette Sayeh to discuss ways the development community can better convey their results.
“Chickens versus cash” might be the “best investment” for a very narrow question, but I argue it probably isn’t in the top 100 value for money research questions in development economics.
Many in the development community lament that we have failed on two counts: broad audiences don’t know about unprecedented progress in poverty reduction and human development indicators in recent decades, and, if they do know, they don’t see the connection between aid programs and such progress. Despite strongs efforts on the part of development institutions to measure results, it remains hard to articulate them in a way that is compelling to nontechnical audiences—taxpayers who absolutely deserve to understand why and how development dollars are making a difference.
Put funding for the 150 account in context, and you better understand the broader trend and two crucial points: (1) the 150 Account is a tiny slice of the federal budget, so proposed cuts will contribute little toward shoring up much larger accounts like national defense; and (2) increases in foreign assistance over the past sixteen years have supported US development efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and helped deliver on a historic US commitment to fight global HIV/AIDS, particularly in Africa.
The debate at a recent CGD event eloquently demonstrated once again that this is a moment of deep uncertainty and basic disagreement about the future and purpose of aid programs and development agencies. But even more risk is introduced into this perilous mix if we fail to understand what we already have in the toolkit and how these tools can be used to meet needs.
Big cuts are likely coming to the State Department and USAID. So how can the US make the best use of fewer foreign assistance dollars in future? That was the subject of a heated debate at CGD earlier this week. CGD’s Scott Morris, the director of our US Development Policy Initiative, joined leading thinkers from across the political spectrum—Danielle Pletka from the American Enterprise Institute, Jim Roberts from the Heritage Foundation, and John Norris from the Center for American Progress—to discuss the best way to move forward with limited resources.
With major cuts to foreign assistance expected in the Trump administration’s budget preview later this week, CGD’s US Development Policy Initiative hosted experts from across the political spectrum to discuss what these cuts might mean. In a heated debate (well, at least for a think tank event), CGD’s Scott Morris, CAP’s John Norris, AEI’s Danielle Pletka, and Heritage’s Jim Roberts found a few areas of agreement, if more in the way of constructive suggestions to Congress and the Administration on ways forward.
When the UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, they were met with a mix of hope, dismay, and derision. Until we see how people respond to these goals, judgments about their specificity, complexity, and usefulness are educated guesses. At a workshop last month, I got a glimpse of two ways the SDGs may be making a difference—focusing political attention and reorganizing aid relationships.
A Key Question If You Are Reviewing Multilateral Organization Effectiveness: Do We Need a Multilateral Solution?
There’s increasing appetite in the US to follow the UK model and launch a review of US spending through international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank. There is a lot to be said for such an exercise—my colleague Todd Moss even carried out a mock version for the US a few years ago which suggested plaudits for Gavi and the African Development Fund alongside brickbats for the ILO and UNESCO. But I think the model has a serious weakness if it is going to be applied as broadly in the US as some proposals, including a draft executive order making the rounds, imply. I’d argue for (preferably) limiting the review to like-to-like comparisons covering aid and development institutions or (at least) using different criteria for judging the many different types of international organizations.