As the annual meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund kick off next week, the Bretton Woods institutions are mired in scandal. I want to set aside the broader political calculations and focus on the case at hand: the Doing Business scandal. Facts matter, and the credibility of the World Bank and IMF matters beyond current leadership. So let’s review what we actually know about the data manipulation, how it arose, and who may be to blame, starting at the very beginning.
CGD Policy Blogs
We are mourning the loss of our colleague and friend, Girin Beeharry. Girin was an intellectual force and a true impatient optimist, in the spirit of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation where he spent much of his career. He was outraged by the poor quality of schooling available to children in many parts of the developing world, and frustrated by what he saw as the lack of any serious global effort to do anything about it.
Tech Plus Teachers: One-on-one Phone Tutorials Didn’t Help Kids Learn During School Closures in Sierra Leone
When schools in Sierra Leone closed last March, the government was more ready than many to respond. We designed a randomised control trial which assigned 4,399 students from 25 government primary schools to receive—in addition to the standard access to the government’s broadcast that all students received—either reminders to tune in or reminders and weekly phone tutorials with teachers.
The official Covid death count in India as of end-June 2021 is 400,000. The reality is, of course, catastrophically worse. Unlike in other countries, authoritative excess death estimates based on official data have not been available because government recording of deaths, especially at the center, has been lagging. In new research, we provide three different estimates of such excess deaths based on three different data sources, each requiring different assumptions and methodologies.
Earlier this year, Girin Beeharry stepped down as the inaugural director of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s global education program. But he’s not going quietly. His recent essay, “The Pathway to Progress on SDG 4,” is essentially a manifesto for international actors in the education sector. In it, Girin diagnoses deep failures in the sector he’s helped shape in recent years, and lays out his vision for what needs to change to get back on track toward the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of quality education for all (SDG4).
Each year over two million secondary-school students across Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Liberia and The Gambia sit coordinated tests known as the WASSCE. In a new CGD working paper, undertaken by researchers from CGD and IEPA-Ghana, we look at English and maths papers in West Africa’s leading high-stakes exams and show that they can vary significantly in difficulty from year-to-year. If exams are not comparable over time then this has implications for countries that rely on results as they make education policy and for fairness for the candidates who sit them.
Building on spectacular scientific achievements, the rich world’s vaccine response to the pandemic within its borders has been (with notable exceptions) commendable. But the response of the international community has been mystifyingly myopic and unconscionably delinquent. We’re headed toward global “vaccine apartheid.” Visibly leading the charge to vaccinate the world, with significant political and financial commitments, offers the US the chance to regain considerable soft power.
Lives vs. Livelihoods Revisited: Should Poorer Countries with Younger Populations Have Equally Strict Lockdowns?
Governments around the world have taken drastic measures to control the spread of coronavirus. Public debate has understandably focused on the differences across countries; however, there has been surprising uniformity in the severity of lockdowns and other containment measures between rich and poor countries. This fairly homogenous lockdown strategy has spanned much of South Asia and Latin America, which have been ravaged by the pandemic, and many countries in Africa, which appear to have contained it quite effectively.
Our recent paper examining the World Bank’s COVID-19 performance garnered a response from the institution, which you can read here. We very much welcome the bank’s comments on its crisis performance in reaction to our paper. We stand by the data and conclusions of our paper, but it’s worth reviewing some of the issues under debate here and reiterating the core questions and findings from our work.
The World Bank has committed to providing $104 billion in financing by next June to help developing countries deal with the COVID-19 crisis. Is that sufficient to meet the needs of developing countries facing a massive growth contraction? And will the bank actually deliver on its pledge?