Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity




The cover of the QuODA brief
May 25, 2021

The Quality of Official Development Assistance

The Quality of Official Development Assistance (QuODA) measures and compares providers of official development assistance (ODA) on quantitative indicators that matter most to development effectiveness and quality. It aims to encourage improvements to the quality of ODA by highlighting and assessing providers’ performance.

An image of Benjamin Franklin wearing a mask on the $100 bill
May 21, 2021

MDBs to the Rescue? The Evidence on COVID-19 Response

The world is now more than a year into the second global crisis of the century. This time, the IMF has stepped up. But what about the multilateral development banks? One of their central roles is to expand the fiscal space of middle- and low-income countries (MICs and LICs) for development spending, exactly what is needed now, and to catalyze finance from the private sector, especially when private finance pulls back. Have they done so? As the 2020 data on MDB finance become available, what can we conclude about how MDBs are performing when the developing world needs them most?

Students at the Mulago School for the Deaf in Mulago, Uganda
May 19, 2021

The Pathway to Progress on SDG 4: A Symposium

The heart of Girin Beeharry’s manifesto is that we must reorient global aid for education around promoting foundational literacy and numeracy, unflinchingly monitor progress on that core goal, and hold all development institutions accountable for measurable results in this domain. In this collection, sector leaders, researchers, and practitioners provide their reflections and counter proposals to Girin’s essay.

A graphic of the indexed GIPC 2019 IP Index Component Score for African Countries and China.
May 18, 2021

China’s Model of Innovation: Are There Lessons for African Countries?

Innovation is known to be important for productivity and economic growth, while intellectual property rights are, in conventional economics models, thought to spur innovation. Yet China, which averaged over 6 percent annual economic growth for three decades and is often cited as a “growth miracle,” has been criticized for poor intellectual property rights protection domestically, as well as when exporting products abroad.

Peter Grinsted and Ovigwe Eguegu
Cover of working paper 581
May 12, 2021

Do High-Stakes Exams Promote Consistent Educational Standards?

Each year over two million secondary-school students across English-speaking West Africa sit coordinated exams, with the explicit goal of maintaining consistent educational standards across schools and over time. We find that scores across math items drawn from different exam years—when taken by an identical group of students on the same day—closely track fluctuations in Ghana’s national pass rates over time, absent any role for cheating or changes in real performance.

May 11, 2021

The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Social Health Insurance Claims for High-Burden Diseases in the Philippines

In the Philippines, anecdotes on the dwindling use of essential healthcare services as an indirect consequence of COVID-19 pandemic are mounting, but compelling evidence remains scarce up to this day. In this study, we examined the magnitude of decline in insurance claims of twelve high burden diseases and five common procedures from 1,286 public and private hospitals.

Valerie Gilbert Ulep , Anton Paterno , Jhanna Uy , Vanessa Siy Van , Lyle Casas and Justin Tan
May 5, 2021

Incentivising Investment in Human Capital through the European Fund for Sustainable Development

As the EU prepares to significantly scale up its deployment of blended finance, guarantees, and other risk-sharing tools aimed at stimulating investment in developing countries, and, in the face of spiralling needs as a result of COVID-19, this paper analyses how the EU could use its development budget to incentivise private investment in human capital. The paper provides three contributions.

May 4, 2021

Should Governments and Donors Prioritize Investments in Foundational Literacy and Numeracy?

Students around the world lack foundational literacy and numeracy skills at striking rates. This essay examines the potential channels by which FLN investments and skills—which most systems teach in the early grades of primary school—may impact later schooling and subsequent life outcomes and the existing evidence for each channel. We find suggestive evidence for widening trajectories in school between students who master FLN skills in early grades and those who do not, although other factors may also explain the widening gaps.

April 29, 2021

An Analysis of the Binding Constraints on Digital Financial Inclusion in India Using a Decision Tree Methodology

The past decade has seen significant innovation and growth in the volume and value of digital payments in India. However, we find that the associated gains have been heavily concentrated in favor of wealthier and urban customers and have had less impact on lower income and rural populations. While some customers now have a far greater selection of quick, cheap, and convenient digital payments methods, as much as 65 percent of the population remains effectively excluded.

An image of the IMF building.
April 21, 2021

Can Special Drawing Rights Be Recycled to Where They Are Needed at No Budgetary Cost?

In this note, David Andrews looks at one mechanism that could work for using excess SDRs to the benefit of low- and middle-income countries: donating them. It is a simple idea but hardly straightforward, as he demonstrates with a “case study” of how the United Kingdom might do this. The UK’s rules governing the use of its reserves, when overlayed on the IMF’s rules surrounding SDRs, make for a difficult thicket to plow through to effect a donation of SDRs.

An image of the globe on top of money.
April 20, 2021

Forging an MDB System: Strategy and Governance

The need for collaboration and cooperation across the multilateral development banks (MDBs) seems obvious. Donor governments set up these institutions to multiply their development dollars, to concentrate global development expertise, and to spread knowledge and evidence of effective development policies and practices around the globe.

April 16, 2021

Unpacking Gender Gaps and Data Gaps in Public Sector Employment and Pay

We look at available sources to ask (i) Where is data available on employment and wages allowing for comparisons between women and men, and the public and private sectors? (ii) How do women’s employment, compensation, and seniority compare with men’s in the public and private sectors? (iii) How do gender gaps vary by countries’ income level, education levels, and other factors? What are the policy implications of the data we analyze? (iv) Which countries’ efforts can be modeled by others, and how else can global gender gaps in employment and compensation be narrowed?

The cover of the note
April 14, 2021

The UK’s Reduction in Aid Spending

In this briefing note, we review what this shift in policy means for overall aid spending, effective management of the aid budget, and the broader public finances. The government has stated that it is a temporary shift in policy; we consider how the fiscal outlook and other government spending decisions interact with the aid budget, and discuss the implications of uncertainty over the aid budget going forward.