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  • Author: Benjamin Leo
  • Publication Date: 12-2013
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: The United States government has made repeated declarations over the last decade to align its assistance programs behind developing countries' priorities. By utilizing public attitude surveys for 42 African and Latin American countries, this paper examines how well the US has implemented this guiding principle. Building upon the Quality of Official Development Assistance Assessment (QuODA) approach, I identify what people cite most frequently as the 'most pressing problems' facing their nations and then measure the percentage of US assistance commitments that are directed towards addressing them. By focusing on public surveys over time, this analysis attempts to provide a more nuanced and targeted examination of whether US portfolios are addressing what people care the most about. As reference points, I compare US alignment trends with the two regional multilateral development banks (MDBs) – the African Development Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Overall, this analysis suggests that US assistance may be only modestly aligned with what people in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America cite as their nation's most pressing problems. By comparison, the African Development Bank – which is majority-led by regional member nations – performs significantly better than the United States. Like the United States, however, the Inter-American Development Bank demonstrates a low relative level of support for people's top concerns.
  • Topic: Security, Crime, Development, Economics, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Africa, United States, America, Latin America
  • Author: Liliana Rojas-Suarez, José Luis Guasch, Veronica Gonzales
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Over the last decade, Central American countries—Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua—have made significant progress in social and economic areas. In particular, they have stabilized their economies after decades of civil war and the economic volatility that plagued the region through the 1990s. Most countries in Central America have taken important steps to improve their business climates, particularly by enhancing macroeconomic stability, improving the soundness of their financial systems, making improvements in infrastructure services and trade facilitation, reducing red tape, and simplifying their regulatory and tax frameworks. As a result, before the 2008 financial crisis, GDP per capita in Central America grew at an average rate of 3 percent per year from 2003 to 2008, which, albeit modest, was the most robust and stable period of growth the region had witnessed since the early 1990s. However, despite this achievement, Central American economies are still lagging behind the rest of Latin America and other middle-income countries by per-capita growth rates of 0.5 to 2 percentage points. Even more worrying are the levels of poverty and inequality, which show the lack of inclusiveness in their growth models. Moreover, recent developments in the region show a number of red flags that are weakening macroeconomic and democratic stability. Significant structural changes are urgently needed to secure sustained and inclusive growth.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Emerging Markets, International Trade and Finance
  • Political Geography: Latin America, Central America
  • Author: Nora Lustig, Luis F. Lopez-Calva, Eduardo Ortiz-Juarez
  • Publication Date: 10-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Between 2000 and 2010, the Gini coefficient declined in 13 of 17 Latin American countries. The decline was statistically significant and robust to changes in the time interval, inequality measures, and data sources. In-depth country studies for Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico suggest two main phenomena underlie this trend: a fall in the premium to skilled labor and more progressive government transfers. The fall in the premium to skills resulted from a combination of supply, demand, and institutional factors. Their relative importance depends on the country.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Emerging Markets, Globalization, International Trade and Finance, Poverty, Social Stratification
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Argentina, Latin America, Mexico
  • Author: Nora Lustig
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: We apply a standard tax-and-benefit-incidence analysis to estimate the impact on inequality and poverty of direct taxes, indirect taxes and subsidies, and social spending (cash and food transfers and in-kind transfers in education and health). The extent of inequality reduction induced by direct taxes and transfers is rather small (2 percentage points on average), especially when compared with that found in Western Europe (15 percentage points on average). What prevents Argentina, Bolivia, and Brazil from achieving similar reductions in inequality is not the lack of revenues but the fact that they spend less on cash transfers—especially transfers that are progressive in absolute terms—as a share of GDP. Indirect taxes result in that net contributors to the fiscal system start at the fourth, third, and even second decile on average, depending on the country. When in-kind transfers in education and health are added, however, the bottom six deciles are net recipients. The impact of transfers on inequality and poverty reduction could be higher if spending on direct cash transfers that are progressive in absolute terms were increased, leakages to the nonpoor reduced, and coverage of the extreme poor by direct transfer programs expanded.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Education, Health, Poverty
  • Political Geography: Brazil, Argentina, Latin America, Mexico, Peru, Bolivia
  • Author: Todd Moss, Sarah Jane Staats, Julia Barmeier
  • Publication Date: 09-2011
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: The international financial institutions dramatically increased their lending in 2008–09 to help developing countries cope with the global financial crisis and support economic recovery. Today, these organizations are seeking billions of dollars in new funding. The IMF, which only a few years ago was losing clients and shedding staff, expanded by $750 billion in 2009. The World Bank and the four regional development banks for Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America have asked to increase their capital base by 30 to 200 percent. A general capital increase (GCI) for these development banks is an unusual request. A simultaneous GCI request is a oncein- a-generation occurrence.
  • Topic: Development, Foreign Aid, Financial Crisis
  • Political Geography: Africa, Asia, Latin America, Ethiopia
  • Author: Tessa Bold, Mwangi Kimenyi, Germano Mwabu, Justin Sandefur
  • Publication Date: 12-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Existing studies from the United States, Latin America, and Asia provide scant evidence that private schools dramatically improve academic performance relative to public schools. Using data from Kenya—a poor country with weak public institutions—we find a large effect of private schooling on test scores, equivalent to one full standard deviation. This finding is robust to endogenous sorting of more able pupils into private schools. The magnitude of the effect dwarfs the impact of any rigorously tested intervention to raise performance within public schools. Furthermore, nearly two thirds of private schools operate at lower cost than the median government school.
  • Topic: Development, Education, Government, Poverty
  • Political Geography: Kenya, United States, Asia, Latin America
  • Author: Benjamin Leo
  • Publication Date: 11-2009
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Global Development
  • Abstract: Four years ago, the G-7 pushed through an unprecedented initiative forcing the international financial institutions to cancel 100 percent of their outstanding debt claims on the world's poorest countries. Through the Multilateral Debt Relief Initiative (MDRI), these heavily indebted poor countries (HIPCs) stand to receive up to $60 billion in debt relief over time. Moreover, the World Bank, African Development Bank, and IMF shareholders approved a new debt sustainability framework to govern future lending decisions and prevent the need for yet another round of systemic debt relief. All parties emerged from these landmark agreements confident that the dragon of unsustainable debt finally had been slain. However, several unsettling trends raise serious questions about the finality of these actions. First, World Bank and AfDB lending disbursement volumes to these very same HIPC countries remain very high, and nearly the same as compared to pre-MDRI. Emergency IMF lending in response to the global economic crisis has compounded the situation. Second, IMF and World Bank growth projections for HIPCs remain overly rosy compared to actual and historical performance. Our new dataset of IMF growth projections suggests a structural optimism of at least one percentage point per year. Third, HIPCs continue to experience significant volatility in country performance measures that has a direct impact on their ability to carry debt sustainably. Taken together, these findings suggest that donor countries should re-examine the issue of debt sustainability in low-income countries and the system for determining the appropriate grant/loan mix. The upcoming IDA and AfDF replenishment negotiations present a timely opportunity to do so. Absent assertive and corrective action, the international community may be faced with the prospect of a HIPC IV agreement in the not too distant future.
  • Topic: Development, Economics, Foreign Aid
  • Political Geography: Latin America