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Congress Looks at World Bank, Asks How It Can Do Better

With big cuts to US bilateral and multilateral assistance looming, the House Committee on Financial Services convened a hearing to investigate accountability and results at the World Bank. Scott Morris, CGD’s director of the US Development Policy initiative (DPI), was joined by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists’ Sasha Chavkin, CalTech’s Jean Ensminger, and BIC’s Elana Berger. It was a thoughtful conversation, with everyone on the panel agreeing that it is in the United States’ interest to continue engagement with the World Bank. Here are my main takeaways from the hearing.

Health Technology Assessment: Global Advocacy and Local Realities

Cost-effectiveness analysis (CEA) can help countries attain and sustain universal health coverage (UHC), as long as it is context-specific and considered within deliberative processes at the country level. Institutionalising robust deliberative processes requires significant time and resources, however, and countries often begin by demanding evidence (including local CEA evidence as well as evidence about local values), whilst striving to strengthen the governance structures and technical capacities with which to generate, consider and act on such evidence. In low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), such capacities could be developed initially around a small technical unit in the health ministry or health insurer. The role of networks, development partners, and global norm setting organisations is crucial in supporting the necessary capacities.

Criminal Finances: Should the UK Be Imposing Public Registers of Beneficial Ownership on Its Ex-Colonies?

A new Criminal Finances Bill is making its way through the UK House of Commons which aims to make it harder for criminals and kleptocrats to use the UK financial system to launder ill-gotten gains, while minimising the burden on legitimate businesses and individuals. The bill gives expanded powers to law enforcement agencies and makes banks and other businesses liable for prosecution if they fail to prevent facilitation of tax evasion. It also introduces ‘Unexplained Wealth Orders’ (UWOs). These would allow the authorities to demand explanations about any assets that appear suspicious. These measures should have both domestic and international benefits in tackling illicit financial flows.

How to Support Post-Dictator Recovery in the Gambia

In the Gambia, the newly elected Barrow administration has to rebuild the country which has been suffering autocratic repression and staggering corruption for 22 years. The Gambia is the only country in the region to have grown poorer over the past two decades. I lay out ways outsiders can help the Gambia recover.

Extractive Industry Transparency Rule Subject to Long Battle, Poised to Meet a Quick End

President Trump and many congressional Republicans have made no secret of their strong interest in dismantling “Dodd-Frank,” a law signed in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis to strengthen regulation of the financial industry in the United States. But it’s a small, seemingly peripheral, transparency provision focused on developing countries that’s poised to be one of the law’s earliest casualties. Congress quietly voted last week to torpedo implementation of a rule that would require U.S. firms to disclose payments made to foreign governments for the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.

What Tillerson’s Leadership Could Mean for US Development Policy

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted yesterday to give the greenlight to Rex Tillerson’s nomination for Secretary of State. Assuming he is confirmed by the full Senate—which at this point is all but certain—Tillerson will play a critical role in shaping US foreign policy from the helm of the State Department with important implications for global development. While, like other nominees, some of Tillerson’s stated positions appear out of sync with those espoused by President Trump, it’s worth examining where Tillerson is on the record when it comes to issues of development and humanitarian relief.

How Much Aid is Really Lost to Corruption?

One of the questions reportedly from the Presidential transition team to the State Department was: “With so much corruption in Africa, how much of our funding is stolen?” During the nomination hearings for Rex Tillerson to be Secretary of State, Senator Rand Paul provided one answer: seventy percent of aid is “stolen off the top.” The question is a fair one to ask. The bad news is that the short answer is “we don’t know.” The better news is that the slightly longer answer is “nowhere near 70 percent.” And the best news is that if we spent more time tracking the results of aid projects, we’d have a much better idea of where corruption was a problem and if our efforts to reduce it were working.

Postcard from Davos

The world’s elite—plus a few ringers like me—gathered last week in the small Swiss village of Davos to discuss the state of the world at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF). Although not formally on the agenda, the issue of tropical forests infiltrated a number of discussions. But first, a quick recap of the meeting’s big themes that provided the broader context.

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