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Memo to Aid World: Drop “Capacity Building”

I have always chafed at the idea of “capacity building” – a donor fallback in developing countries whenever progress on a donor-financed project is slow. Too much of what donors mean by capacity building has turned out to be training sessions, workshops, and nice trips of mid-level technical staff from low-income countries to Paris, London and Washington.

Do Trees Grow on Money? The Problem of Attribution

How can donors know if their aid is making a difference? This question is tougher than it seems. Attributing results to donor inputs seems straightforward if the donor pays for progress on a measurable outcome, as CGD has proposed for Cash on Delivery Aid (COD Aid). If the desired results are achieved—say an increase above an agreed baseline in the number of kids completing primary school and taking a competency test—then the program has demonstrated value for money, no? 

Huh? Stalled IMF Package Would Help Ukraine More Than Ukraine Legislation Will Help Ukraine

Here’s a fact about the IMF reform package, agreed in 2010 in a negotiation led by the United States and since approved by 158 countries, but (embarrassingly and cavalierly) stalled in the US Congress: It would increase Ukraine’s access to IMF resources to deal with its financial troubles by more than twice the special $1 billion of loan guarantees for Ukraine that the Obama Administration has proposed to the Congress — and potentially almost six times as much — at virtually no cost to US taxpayers. 

Where Is Life Better…?

Last week, we sat down with Lawrence to record a Wonkcast on our new working paper The Median is the Message: A Good-Enough Measure of Material Well-Being and Shared Development Progress. In the paper, we argue that survey-based median household consumption expenditure (or income) per capita should be incorporated into standard development indicators, as a simple, robust, and durable indicator of typical individual material well-being in a country.

Median Income as a Better Measure of Development Progress—Nancy Birdsall and Christian Meyer

Development progress has traditionally been measured in terms of reductions in poverty and increases in per capita GDP, that is, average income as calculated by dividing total income by the total population. My guests on this week’s Global Prosperity Wonkcast, Nancy Birdsall  and Christian Meyer, argue that median income—the income at the middle of a country’s income distribution—is a better measure.

Why Ending Poverty Requires Ending Everyday Violence Against the Poor

When middle class households opt out en masse of public schools —  as in India and Brazil and the inner cities of USA— it’s bad news for the children of the poor majority.  That’s now a familiar and important argument for radical new thinking about school systems. But it’s even worse for poor people when the middle class and rich give up on basic public security, protecting themselves instead with private guards, gated communities and bullet-proof cars.

SOTU 2014: The Developmentista Edition

This is a joint post with Erin Collinson.

President Obama will deliver his 2014 State of the Union speech Tuesday, January 28. We polled CGD experts to find out what they’re hoping to hear when the president addresses Congress and the nation.  Check out their oratorical contributions below and read about the development-related decisions and policies they would like to emerge in support of the rhetoric.

I'm Embarrassed

USA Commits Own-Goal on the IMF

I'm an American citizen.  I'm embarrassed.  The US Congress again has failed to include in the omnibus budget bill finally passed by the House (and now going to the Senate) the trivial amount needed for the United States to finally approve critical changes at the IMF: a doubling of its resources and reform of its antiquated governance. 

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