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Development Channel

Issues and innovations in global economic development

Five Questions with Dean Karlan

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil Thursday, February 11, 2016
A girl studies while sitting on top of a taxi outside her shanty home at a roadside in Mumbai, India (Shailesh Andrade/Reuters). A girl studies while sitting on top of a taxi outside her shanty home at a roadside in Mumbai, India (Shailesh Andrade/Reuters).

Emerging Voices highlights new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges from contributing scholars and practitioners. This post features a conversation with Dean Karlan, professor of economics at Yale University, president and founder of Innovations for Poverty Action, and founder of ImpactMatters, a newly-launched organization that assesses how well nonprofits use and produce evidence of impact.

1) How have development economics and the study of poverty evolved in recent years?

Until about fifteen years ago, there were two different strands of development work, both with limitations. The first asked a big, monolithic policy question—“does aid work?—and compared how aid affected development outcomes across countries. But the cross-country research lacked the necessary data and an understanding of critical micro-level mechanisms, or the obvious first step of why some countries get more aid than others. It led to big debates, but failed to determine causality.

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The Political Salience of Latin Americans’ Perceptions of Corruption

by Matthew Taylor Tuesday, February 9, 2016
A demonstrator holds a scarf during a march to demand for the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Tegucigalpa August 14, 2015. Thousands of protesters have been continuing demonstrations in Tegucigalpa, calling for the resignation of Hernandez over a $200 million corruption scandal at the Honduran Institute of Social Security (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters). A demonstrator holds a scarf during a march to demand for the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez in Tegucigalpa August 14, 2015. Thousands of protesters have been continuing demonstrations in Tegucigalpa, calling for the resignation of Hernandez over a $200 million corruption scandal at the Honduran Institute of Social Security (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters).

Once a year, policymakers and the press are forcibly reminded of the terrible costs of corruption. This year, it fell on January 27, when Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) was released, inciting the ritual gnashing of teeth and beating of chests about relative national corruption gains and losses.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Moldova’s Protests, Investors Take on Graft, Corruption’s Costs in Nigeria

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, February 5, 2016
People hold a protest in front of the parliament building in Chisinau, Moldova, January 21, 2016. At least 8,000 people protested in the Moldovan capital on Thursday against the appointment of Prime Minister Pavel Filip, whose hasty swearing-in ceremony at midnight also prompted a government spokesman to resign (Reuters/Viktor Dimitrov). People hold a protest in front of the parliament building in Chisinau, Moldova, January 21, 2016. At least 8,000 people protested in the Moldovan capital on Thursday against the appointment of Prime Minister Pavel Filip, whose hasty swearing-in ceremony at midnight also prompted a government spokesman to resign (Reuters/Viktor Dimitrov).

Moldova’s Corruption Undermines EU Bid

Moldova’s corruption continues despite deepening European Union (EU) ties. New Prime Minister Pavel Filip’s pro-EU party is linked to a $1 billion bank embezzlement scheme that saw nearly 13 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) disappear. Two former prime ministers fell in the scandal, one to a no confidence vote while another is in jail. Now, despite government rhetoric accepting the EU Association Agreement governance statutes and promising to stamp out corruption, protesters are calling for Filip’s resignation. It is unlikely that Moldova will move beyond EU “partner” status anytime soon.

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Nigeria’s 2016 Budget Continues Use of Secretive ‘Security Votes’

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil Wednesday, February 3, 2016

In a post originally published on African Arguments, CFR International Affairs Fellow Matthew Page explains that despite President Muhammadu Buhari’s anticorruption progress, the government’s new budget includes allocations for opaque funds that often go missing.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Egypt’s Backsliding, UK Transparency Setbacks, New Global Rankings

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, January 29, 2016
Members of security forces keep watch in Tahrir Square before the fifth anniversary of the January 25 uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, January 24, 2016 (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany). Members of security forces keep watch in Tahrir Square before the fifth anniversary of the January 25 uprising, in Cairo, Egypt, January 24, 2016 (Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany).

United States Undeterred by Egypt’s Democratic Backsliding

Five years after its revolution, Egypt is no closer to democracy. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government routinely arrests political and social media activists, and has detained tens of thousands of people, many held for months without charges. Raids on news outlets and a law prohibiting journalists from contradicting official government information undermine freedom of expression. Every opposition party boycotted fall 2015 legislative elections and less than a third of the population turned out to vote. Still, the United States seems to be choosing stability over political freedoms. President Obama restored $1.3 billion in annual military assistance cut after Sisi overthrew former president Mohamed Morsi in 2013. And Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director John Brennan recently visited Cairo to boost security and counterterrorism cooperation, congratulating Sisi on inaugurating a new parliament.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Corruption in Iran, Africa, and Mexico

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, January 22, 2016
Humberto Moreira, a former ally of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and his lawyer Ulrich Richter (L) leave the Soto del Real penitentiary outside Madrid, Spain, January 22, 2016 (Reuters/Susana Vera). Humberto Moreira, a former ally of Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, and his lawyer Ulrich Richter (L) leave the Soto del Real penitentiary outside Madrid, Spain, January 22, 2016 (Reuters/Susana Vera).

Iran’s Sanction Are Gone, but Not Its Corruption

Corruption presents a huge hurdle for Iran. It ranks 136 out of 175 countries in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, and 118 of 189 in the World Bank’s Doing Business report. Despite earning $650 billion in oil profits over the last eight years, billions went missing, and little found its way into public goods such as infrastructure. Still, as international sanctions lift, European and Asian companies including Daimler, Airbus, Total, Eni, and Statoil have or are considering ventures. The UK government even published a guide on doing business in Iran, noting the prevalence of customs that violate its Bribery Act.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Energy Subsidies, Human Rights in Supply Chains, and Poland’s Democracy Rollback

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, January 15, 2016
A driver waits to fill his car with fuel at a petrol station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 22, 2015 (Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser). A driver waits to fill his car with fuel at a petrol station in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 22, 2015 (Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser).

Oil Prices Plummet—Will Subsidies Follow?
As crude prices fall below $30 a barrel, oil-producing states face mounting fiscal challenges. Saudi Arabia’s 2015 deficit neared $100 billion, roughly 15 percent of gross domestic product (GDP);Venezuela’s reached 14 percent; and Algeria expects foreign reserves to fall by $30 billion in the coming year to cover its looming fiscal gap. Across commodity-dependent nations finance ministers are looking to cut budgets. Energy subsidies are an obvious target, as these expensive and inefficient payments distort markets and undermine development. In December, Saudi Arabia reduced fuel subsidies and prices went up 50 percent. Algeria promised to cut energy subsidies (though in the short term, they are rising). Even in Venezuela, where citizens pay less for gas than water, rumors are the government is considering a hike. The hesitation? Price increases during recessions don’t go over well; in Venezuela, the unpopular move helped bring Hugo Chavez to power.

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Trade, Anticorruption, and Elections at the Start of 2016

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, January 8, 2016
U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (3rd L) makes remarks at a news conference to announce a law enforcement action relating to FIFA, as (L-R) Assistant U. S. Attorney for Eastern District of New York Evan Norris, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert Capers, FBI Assistant Director New York Field Office Diego Rodriguez, IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Richard Webber and IRS Special Agent in Charge of Los Angeles Field Office Erick Martinez listen, in Washington, December 3, 2015. Officials Alfredo Hawit and Juan Angel Napout have been arrested by Swiss authorities in the ongoing soccer scandal (Reuters/Mike Theiler). U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch (3rd L) makes remarks at a news conference to announce a law enforcement action relating to FIFA, as (L-R) Assistant U. S. Attorney for Eastern District of New York Evan Norris, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York Robert Capers, FBI Assistant Director New York Field Office Diego Rodriguez, IRS Criminal Investigation Chief Richard Webber and IRS Special Agent in Charge of Los Angeles Field Office Erick Martinez listen, in Washington, December 3, 2015. Officials Alfredo Hawit and Juan Angel Napout have been arrested by Swiss authorities in the ongoing soccer scandal (Reuters/Mike Theiler).

As a new year begins, trade is slower, the drive against corruption continues, and electoral struggles shape fragile democracies. Here are three issues the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy (CSMD) program will be following in 2016:

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Modi’s Reform Agenda, the WTO, and 2015 UN Development Report

by Shannon K. O'Neil Friday, December 18, 2015
A labourer pushes a handcart loaded with sacks containing tea packets, towards a supply truck at a wholesale market in Kolkata, India, June 26, 2015. For years Indian businesses have lobbied for a nationwide sales tax, hoping to replace a chaotic structure that inflates costs and halts their trucks at state borders for duty payments, and to unify the country into one of the world's largest single markets. But after political compromises that finally got a goods and services tax (GST) bill before parliament, they have turned wary (Reuters/De Chowdhuri). A labourer pushes a handcart loaded with sacks containing tea packets, towards a supply truck at a wholesale market in Kolkata, India, June 26, 2015. For years Indian businesses have lobbied for a nationwide sales tax, hoping to replace a chaotic structure that inflates costs and halts their trucks at state borders for duty payments, and to unify the country into one of the world's largest single markets. But after political compromises that finally got a goods and services tax (GST) bill before parliament, they have turned wary (Reuters/De Chowdhuri).

Modi’s Reforms at Odds
A senior official in Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is pushing a corruption probe that threatens to derail his own party’s Goods and Services Tax (GST). A linchpin of Modi’s economic platform, the reform would replace numerous local and state taxes with a single nation-wide tax. The government expects GST to boost government revenue, attract foreign investment, and add up to two percent to GDP. With the corruption case’s targets—opposition Congress Party leaders Sonia and Rahul Gandhi—denouncing the investigation as politically motivated, the fallout will likely halt Modi’s tax reform in India’s opposition-led upper house. As the Gandhi case advances, the GST may not, putting Modi’s ambitious pro-business and anticorruption agendas at odds.

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Will Setting Goals End Hunger? What’s Next for the SDGs…

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil Tuesday, December 15, 2015
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L), Lars Lokke Rasmussen (C), co-chair and Danish Prime Minister, and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, co-chair and Uganda's President, applaud at a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York, September 25, 2015. World leaders on Friday adopted the most sweeping agenda ever of global goals to combat poverty, inequality and climate change, described by the United Nations secretary-general as "a to-do list for people and planet" (Reuters/Mike Segar). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (L), Lars Lokke Rasmussen (C), co-chair and Danish Prime Minister, and Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, co-chair and Uganda's President, applaud at a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York, September 25, 2015. World leaders on Friday adopted the most sweeping agenda ever of global goals to combat poverty, inequality and climate change, described by the United Nations secretary-general as "a to-do list for people and planet" (Reuters/Mike Segar).

Emerging Voices highlights new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges from contributing scholars and practitioners. This post is from Dean Karlan, professor of economics at Yale University, president and founder of Innovations for Poverty Action, and founder of ImpactMatters, a newly-launched organization that helps nonprofits use and create evidence to assess their impact.

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