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Five Questions with Dean Karlan

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil
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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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Modi’s Reform Agenda, the WTO, and 2015 UN Development Report

by Shannon K. O'Neil
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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Five Questions with Elmira Bayrasli

by Guest Blogger for Shannon K. O'Neil
Software developers work on computer sytems at the Information Technology Developers Entrepreneurship Accelerator (iDEA) hub in the Yaba district in Lagos June 25, 2015. At first glance, Yaba is like many other parts of Nigeria's sprawling commercial capital: a cacophony of car horns and shouting street vendors, mingling with exhaust fumes and the occasional stench of sewage. But in between the run-down buildings in this seemingly inauspicious part of Lagos, a city of around 21 million, tech start-ups are taking root and creating a buzz that is drawing international venture capitalists and more established digital firms. (Reuters/Akinleye) Software developers work on computer sytems at the Information Technology Developers Entrepreneurship Accelerator (iDEA) hub in the Yaba district in Lagos June 25, 2015. At first glance, Yaba is like many other parts of Nigeria's sprawling commercial capital: a cacophony of car horns and shouting street vendors, mingling with exhaust fumes and the occasional stench of sewage. But in between the run-down buildings in this seemingly inauspicious part of Lagos, a city of around 21 million, tech start-ups are taking root and creating a buzz that is drawing international venture capitalists and more established digital firms. (Reuters/Akinleye)

Emerging Voices highlights new research, thinking, and approaches to development challenges from contributing scholars and practitioners. This post features Elmira Bayrasli, the co-founder of Foreign Policy Interrupted and a lecturer at New York University.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Africa’s Stalled Progress, Nepal’s Post-Disaster Setbacks, and What We’re Reading on TPP

by Shannon K. O'Neil
A man walks past the debris of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, Nepal October 5, 15. Twin earthquakes in April and May killed almost 9,000 people in Nepal's worst natural disaster (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar). A man walks past the debris of collapsed houses in Bhaktapur, Nepal October 5, 15. Twin earthquakes in April and May killed almost 9,000 people in Nepal's worst natural disaster (Reuters/Navesh Chitrakar).

CFR’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy (CSMD) Program highlights noteworthy events and articles each Friday in “This Week in Markets and Democracy.”

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Sustainable Development Goals Adopted

by Shannon K. O'Neil
U.S. President Barack Obama addresses attendees during a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York September 27, 2015. More than 150 world leaders are expected to attend the UN Sustainable Development Summit from September 25-27, 2015 at United Nations in New York to formally adopt an ambitious new sustainable development agenda, a press statement by the U.N. stated (Reuters/Mike Segar). U.S. President Barack Obama addresses attendees during a plenary meeting of the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan, New York September 27, 2015. More than 150 world leaders are expected to attend the UN Sustainable Development Summit from September 25-27, 2015 at United Nations in New York to formally adopt an ambitious new sustainable development agenda, a press statement by the U.N. stated (Reuters/Mike Segar).

The biggest achievement of the past week’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York was the adoption of a new fifteen-year plan for global development. Replacing the soon-to-expire Millennium Development Goals, seventeen new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will guide UN and domestic development policies through 2030 with an ambitious, and some say overly idealistic agenda. Based on UN member and civil society input over a three-year process, the final set of SDGs aims to eliminate hunger, reduce inequality, promote shared economic growth, and “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.” President Obama, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and Pope Francis all endorsed the new “global goals” during the three-day UN Sustainable Development Summit held in the run-up to UNGA. Here are two major takeaways from the summit:

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This Week in Markets in Democracy: What We Are Reading

by Shannon K. O'Neil
A vendor selling flowers hands over change to a customer in Kunming, Yunnan province, August 19, 2015. China's currency devaluation should give a shot in the arm to global foreign exchange volumes as traders take advantage of and protect themselves against the surprise surge in volatility, but its longer-term impact on market activity may not be so benign (Wong Campion/Reuters). A vendor selling flowers hands over change to a customer in Kunming, Yunnan province, August 19, 2015. China's currency devaluation should give a shot in the arm to global foreign exchange volumes as traders take advantage of and protect themselves against the surprise surge in volatility, but its longer-term impact on market activity may not be so benign (Wong Campion/Reuters).

This Week in Markets and Democracy will return on August 28. Until then, here is what CSMD is reading this week.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Calais Crisis, TPP Stalls, and Post-2015 Agreement Reached

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Sudanese migrants stand at "The New Jungle" camp in Calais, France, August 6, 2015. For most of the 3,000 inhabitants of the "Jungle", a shanty town on the sand dunes of France's north coast, the climax of each day is the nightly bid to sneak into the undersea tunnel they hope will lead to new life in Britain (Juan Medina/Reuters). Sudanese migrants stand at "The New Jungle" camp in Calais, France, August 6, 2015. For most of the 3,000 inhabitants of the "Jungle", a shanty town on the sand dunes of France's north coast, the climax of each day is the nightly bid to sneak into the undersea tunnel they hope will lead to new life in Britain (Juan Medina/Reuters).

This is a post in a new series on the Development Channel,“This Week in Markets and Democracy.” Each weekCFR’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program will highlight noteworthy events and articles.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Financing for Development, Pope in Latin America, Arrests in Egypt and China

by Shannon K. O'Neil
Pope Francis waves while visiting the Banado Norte neighborhood in Asuncion, Paraguay, July 12, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Nunez Pope Francis waves while visiting the Banado Norte neighborhood in Asuncion, Paraguay, July 12, 2015. REUTERS/Lucas Nunez

This is a post in a new series on the Development Channel,“This Week in Markets and Democracy.” Each week, CFR’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program will highlight noteworthy events and articles.

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The UN’s Third Financing for Development Conference: After Growth & Aid, What Comes Next?

by Shannon K. O'Neil
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the opening of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, July 13, 2015 (Tiksa Neger, Reuters). U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses the opening of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa, July 13, 2015 (Tiksa Neger, Reuters).

Governments, civil society groups, and business leaders are gathered this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia for the UN’s Third Financing for Development Conference (FFD3). Up for debate is how to fund the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, a new set of global development indicators that the UN will adopt in September.

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This Week in Markets and Democracy: Development Debate, Modi Controls India’s Narrative, and Reigning in Civil Society

by Shannon K. O'Neil
India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends an event organised by the Christian community to celebrate the beatification of two Indians by Pope Francis late last year, in New Delhi February 17, 2015. Modi vowed on Tuesday to protect all religious groups, an apparent response to a series of attacks on Christian institutions in New Delhi fueling concerns that minorities are being targeted by Hindu zealots. (Stringer/Reuters) India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi attends an event organised by the Christian community to celebrate the beatification of two Indians by Pope Francis late last year, in New Delhi February 17, 2015. Modi vowed on Tuesday to protect all religious groups, an apparent response to a series of attacks on Christian institutions in New Delhi fueling concerns that minorities are being targeted by Hindu zealots. (Stringer/Reuters)

This is a post in a new series on the Development Channel,“This Week in Markets and Democracy.” Each week, CFR’s Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Program will highlight noteworthy events and articles.

Read more »