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If the World Bank Wants to Move On from the Doing Business Scandal, It Should Take a Look at AidData

Today’s release of a new dataset of over 13,000 Chinese-financed projects in developing countries marks a major contribution to our understanding of China’s role as a lender to the developing world, as well as the ways in which these projects are increasingly structured to avoid accounting for direct liabilities on public balance sheets. At a moment of high debt vulnerability in the developing world, both contributions ought to prove valuable to policymakers in rich and poor countries alike as they seek to work through these problems.  

A road construction project in Sri Lanka. Photo by Deshan Tennekoon/World Bank

In the Secretive World of Government-to-Government Lending, 100 Chinese Debt Contracts Offer a Trove of New Information

Is Chinese financing good for developing countries? Taking stock of China’s lending activities has long been hindered by the lack of publicly available data on dimensions like loan volumes and interest rates, let alone more esoteric features like loan collateral or default contingencies. A pathbreaking new study by researchers at AidData at William & Mary, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Georgetown Law School, and the Center for Global Development changes that.

AIIB Has Another Opportunity to Establish Best MDB Practice

In advance of adopting a new Policy on Public Information, the AIIB is inviting suggestions on how it could best align public disclosure with its guiding principles of “promoting transparency, enhancing accountability and protecting confidentiality.” The adoption of the new policy provides AIIB President Jin Liqun and the AIIB shareholders an opportunity to demonstrate that this newest of multilateral development banks (MDBs) is serious about its commitment to adopting international best practices. I identified a number of actions that the AIIB could take to improve its disclosure practices. Here are my top three recommendations:

Can Robots Save Banks? RegTech’s Potential to Solve De-Risking

Policies put in place to counter financial crimes have unfortunately had a chilling effect on banks’ willingness to do business in markets perceived to be risky—due in part to the high price of compliance. Even as changes are being made to address this problem, financial institutions are developing solutions in the form of new cutting-edge technologies to help them comply better and faster with anti-money laundering regulations.

It’s Time for a Code of Conduct on Transparency for Financiers Backing PPPs

Public-Private Partnership models continue to proliferate, backed by multilateral development banks old and new. But the volume of PPPs in developing countries has stagnated since the global financial crisis, and they won’t deliver unless they are designed and implemented well. Making more and better public-private investments will take a far greater commitment to transparency from participants in the deals. Financiers—MDBs in particular—should take the lead.

Aid Transparency and Private Sector Subsidies at the IFC

Vijaya Ramachandran, Ben Leo, Jared Karlow and I have just published two papers looking at where and in what capacity the IFC, OPIC, and selected European development finance institutions (DFIs) are investing their money. The core of the papers is a dataset that Jared painstakingly put together by scraping public documentation about DFI projects. It wasn’t easy because DFIs are considerably behind many aid agencies in releasing usable data on their portfolios. And that lack of transparency presents a significant problem if those same DFIs spend aid money on subsidizing the private sector.

Why Development Finance Institutions Use Tax Havens

Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) exist to promote development by investing in the poorest, least developed countries. They often route those investments via holding companies or private equity funds domiciled in tax havens. On the face of it, that seems absurd: tax havens are widely seen as a drain on development, depriving cash-strapped governments of billions of dollars in public revenue. In a new paper I argue that whilst widespread opposition to DFIs investing via tax havens is understandable, it is misguided. Banning the use of tax havens would do more harm than good. 

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Where Does Your Country Rank on Development? – CDI Podcast with Ian Mitchell and Anita Käppeli

How well do your country's policies make a positive difference for people in developing nations? That’s the question CGD seeks to answer each year in our Commitment to Development Index (CDI). The team behind the CDI, deputy director of CGD Europe Ian Mitchell and policy analyst Anita Käppeli, join me to discuss why these rankings matter, how countries stack up, and how their scores may be impacted by the shifting political environment.

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