global_prosperity_wonkcast
International development experts share their views about ways wealthy countries can promote prosperity in developing countries.

“It’s nice to have a list,” CGD senior fellow Scott Morris told me about the shortlist of eight candidates for the Presidency of the African Development Bank. He was giving credit to the Bank for holding what appears to be a truly transparent election process to succeed out-going President Donald Kaberuka. Who’s on the list? What’s good about it? And where does it fall short? These are all things Scott and I discussed in the latest CGD Podcast. Take a listen….

Direct download: AfDB_Presidential_Candidates_-_Scott_Morris.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00 PM

USAID Administrator Raj Shah has called for “massive private and commercial-sector investment” in development as imperative to ending extreme poverty. As he prepares to step down after five years at the helm of America’s international development agency, Dr. Shah sat down with me to record a CGD Podcast. The wide-ranging interview looked back at the successes – and lessons learned – and looked ahead to the major Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in the summer, as well as to America’s evolving role in international development. 

Direct download: Raj_Shah_final_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:48 PM

In its first decade, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has set itself apart from other development agencies with its focus on three key pillars: policy performance, results, and country ownership. But has this focus translated into impact? Senior Policy Analyst Sarah Rose and Visiting Fellow Franck Wiebe have just released a suite of policy briefs and papers that evaluates this very question. To hear Sarah and Franck’s take on what MCC has done well and what it can do better in its next decade, tune in to the full podcast.

Direct download: Wiebe_Rose_final_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:34 PM

In our first podcast of the new year and my first podcast as new host, I speak with CGD's president Nancy Birdsall on her expectations for 2015 as they relate to global development. We cover growing inequality, the marquee moments for development in 2015, and Nancy makes the case for optimism on the post-2015 development agenda. Have a listen.

Direct download: The_Development_Landscape_in_2015_and_Beyond_-_Nancy_Birdsall.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:57 PM

Pollution has no respect for party lines. In the US, Republican and Democratic districts may differ in many ways but when comes to the carbon emissions heating our planet the differences are much smaller than you might expect. This is one of the most surprising and important findings in a remarkable new working paper from CGD visiting senior associate Kevin Ummel. I’m so excited about this paper I took a short break from my new job at the World Resources Institute to discuss with Kevin the far-reaching implications of his work for the design and politics of US carbon pollution fees.  

Kevin’s paper, Who Pollutes? A Household-Level Database of America’s Greenhouse Gas Footprint, is a slender 23 pages that sits on the brawny shoulders of a fresh approach to available data and an muscular number crunching exercise to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions of households all across America.

Kevin tells me that he set out to study the consumption habits of American households based on the recognition that “every kilogram of human-caused emissions can be traced to a consumptive choice on the part of an individual, a household, or in some cases, a government.”

Kevin used data from two massive surveys (the Consumer Expenditure Survey and the American Community Survey) to determine what American households buy with their money. He then combined this survey data with data from the environmental sciences to “translate how people spend their money into an estimate of how much [carbon] pollution they are producing.”

One surprise: the high degree of what Kevin calls “pollution inequality”—the top 10 percent of US polluters are responsible for 25 percent of the country’s carbon footprint, while the least-polluting 40 percent of Americans account for just 20 percent.

Who pollutes most? Low-density, affluent suburbs, where the lifestyle includes big homes, big cars, long commutes and plenty of international air travel. Many of these people also recycle and opt for local produce to reduce their carbon footprint! (Sound like anybody you know?)

High-density cities have the lowest household carbon footprint—especially the poorer neighborhoods that tend to vote for Democrats. More surprisingly, less affluent rural communities that tend to vote Republican also have small carbon footprints.

The new data show that these geographical distinctions are much starker than the differences between the carbon footprints of Republican and Democratic districts, which tend to be “very, very small,” Kevin says. 

All this is very good news for the growing number of policy experts and ordinary Americans who see a revenue-carbon pollution fee as the best way to reduce emissions and spark a prosperity-enhancing, poverty-reducing, green technology revolution.

“If the US were to put a carbon tax in place, it’s not the case right off the bat that the members of one party would be disadvantaged relative to the other,” Kevin says.

“The difference in political rhetoric is far greater than the difference in environmental reality,” he adds. “The rhetoric should be: Why are we taxing things we want more of, like income, instead of things we want less of, like pollution?”

It’s the politics, of course. But Kevin doesn’t put all the blame on politicians. Research, he says, can do much more to give policy makers and politicians the tools they need to design a carbon-fee-and-rebate approach that will appeal to voters across the political spectrum.

I heartily agree! I urge you to skim Kevin’s full paper to learn more about his analytical approach and the surprising findings about who pollutes (skip to the Discussion if you are more policy wonk than data nerd). Then, to discover how this could unfold in the political world, read my newly published CGD essay: The Sudden Rise of Carbon Taxes, 2010-2030, a future history. 

Category: -- posted at: 12:26 PM

Pollution has no respect for party lines. In the US, Republican and Democratic districts may differ in many ways, but when it comes to the carbon emissions heating our planet, the differences are much smaller than you might expect. This is one of the most surprising and important findings in a remarkable new working paper from CGD visiting senior associate Kevin Ummel. I’m so excited about this paper I took a short break from my new job at the World Resources Institute to discuss with Kevin the far-reaching implications of his work for the design and politics of US carbon pollution fees.  

Kevin’s paper, Who Pollutes? A Household-Level Database of America’s Greenhouse Gas Footprint, is a slender 23 pages that sits on the brawny shoulders of a fresh approach to available data and an muscular number-crunching exercise to estimate the greenhouse gas emissions of households all across America.

Kevin tells me that he set out to study the consumption habits of American households based on the recognition that “every kilogram of human-caused emissions can be traced to a consumptive choice on the part of an individual, a household, or in some cases, a government.”

Kevin used data from two massive surveys (the Consumer Expenditure Survey and the American Community Survey) to determine what American households buy with their money. He then combined this survey data with data from the environmental sciences to “translate how people spend their money into an estimate of how much [carbon] pollution they are producing.”

One surprise: the high degree of what Kevin calls “pollution inequality”—the top 10 percent of US polluters are responsible for 25 percent of the country’s carbon footprint, while the least-polluting 40 percent of Americans account for just 20 percent.

Who pollutes most? Low-density, affluent suburbs, where the lifestyle includes big homes, big cars, long commutes, and plenty of international air travel. Many of these people also recycle and opt for local produce to reduce their carbon footprint! (Sound like anybody you know?)

High-density cities have the lowest household carbon footprint—especially the poorer neighborhoods that tend to vote for Democrats. More surprisingly, less affluent rural communities that tend to vote Republican also have small carbon footprints.

The new data show that these geographical distinctions are much starker than the differences between the carbon footprints of Republican and Democratic districts, which tend to be “very, very small,” Kevin says. 

All this is very good news for the growing number of policy experts and ordinary Americans who see a revenue-carbon pollution fee as the best way to reduce emissions and spark a prosperity-enhancing, poverty-reducing, green technology revolution.

“If the US were to put a carbon tax in place, it’s not the case right off the bat that the members of one party would be disadvantaged relative to the other,” Kevin says.

“The difference in political rhetoric is far greater than the difference in environmental reality,” he adds. “The rhetoric should be: Why are we taxing things we want more of, like income, instead of things we want less of, like pollution?”

It’s the politics, of course. But Kevin doesn’t put all the blame on politicians. Research, he says, can do much more to give policy makers and politicians the tools they need to design a carbon-fee-and-rebate approach that will appeal to voters across the political spectrum.

I heartily agree! I urge you to skim Kevin’s full paper to learn more about his analytical approach and the surprising findings about who pollutes (skip to the Discussion if you are more policy wonk than data nerd). Then, to discover how this could unfold in the political world, read my newly published CGD essay: The Sudden Rise of Carbon Taxes, 2010-2030, a future history. 

Direct download: Kevin_Ummel_10.15_final.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 12:25 PM

This Wonkcast was originally recorded on September 2, 2014. 

As the Ebola epidemic continued to spread in West Africa, with more than 3,000 cases and 1,500 deaths, I invited CGD senior fellow Mead Over, a health economist and one of the world’s top experts on the economics of HIV/AIDS, to discuss newly released maps from the World Health Organization (WHO) and measures for limiting the economic fallout from the epidemic.

“Ebola is much more like Avian Flu and SARS than AIDS,” Mead tells me. Its gestation period is very rapid, and that stirs a panic that creates an economic impact.

In the case of the SARS epidemic, he notes, there were only about 800 deaths but the economic impact of reduced trade, tourism and investment was estimated at about $40 billion—the equivalent of $50 million per death.

In the case of the Ebola epidemic, where cases will far exceed those of SARS, the economic impact could be far greater, he says.

He emphasizes however that the Ebola epidemic so far is tiny compared to the toll of malaria, tuberculosis, and HIV, “all of which are many multiples more deadly on a continuing basis.”

Our conversation then turns to two maps that the WHO released late last week, one showing the location and spread of the Ebola virus (Figure 1), the other showing the location of laboratories and treatment centers (Figure 2). 

Figure 1:  Location of cases throughout the countries with most intense transmission

Location of cases throughout the countries with most intense transmission

Figure 2: Response Monitoring

Response Monitoring

These maps are very helpful to those of us who are trying to grasp what’s happening in real time in West Africa. What they show is that we have a long way to go, Mead says.

He adds that it is “shocking” how few laboratories able to confirm the diagnosis are shown in the map. While there may be some additional laboratories that are not shown, the WHO maps are presumably the best information available, so either the data or the labs themselves are alarmingly lacking.

“Labs are necessary to confirm a diagnosis of Ebola. The inability to confirm a diagnosis makes it much harder for the physicians and nurses to protect themselves. It means there's a need to quarantine people who would not otherwise need to be quarantined. And quarantining is extremely difficult,” he explains. 

Released along with the two maps last week was WHO’s “Ebola Response Roadmap” which outlined steps for affected countries and the international community to contain the epidemic. 

WHO projects that if all recommended measures are taken the epidemic may be contained within 6-9 months with perhaps more than 20,000 cases.

Noting that most of the cases shown on the WHO map are recent, Mead says that the toll may be much higher.

“That’s an indication that this epidemic is growing very rapidly in the countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. The reported cases do not seem to be close to the border of Senegal or Guinea-Bissau, but there are cases close to the borders of Mali and Cote d’Ivoire,” he says.

So while this epidemic has been confined primarily to three countries, the governments of Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and Guinea-Bissau are all on the alert.

“There’s a need for all those countries to strengthen their health infrastructure at the borders,” Mead says.

Mead concludes by discussing the international community’s response to minimize the economic fallout, an issue he addresses in greater detail here

My thanks to Aaron King for a first draft of this blog post and to Kristina Wilson for recording and editing the Wonkcast.

Direct download: evd-sitrep1-20140828.pdf
Category: -- posted at: 4:00 AM

Where do you go when hit with a serious medical condition? “The hospital!” is an obvious answer for people in high income countries, but for people in low-income and emerging market economies, access to a proper hospital is often just a dream. Why are decent hospitals in the developing world so few and far between?  

This week I invite senior fellow Amanda Glassman  on the Wonkcast to discuss a new CGD Working Group  that is studying the problems that result in a lack of effective hospitals in low-income and emerging market countries.  

Why focus on hospitals now? While news from the front lines of Ebola  has made the entire world aware of the dearth of hospitals in the afflicted countries, Amanda notes that within the global health community the shortage of hospitals in the developing world was already a hot topic.

For years donors have focused their attention and resources on primary care and preventive services—the kinds of help that can be provided at low cost in a village or neighborhood clinic.

“We’ve pretty much picked that low-hanging fruit,” Amanda says. “Now we’re thinking about health systems in a more integral way… Not just the hospital buildings but the but structures and policies that are needed to make hospitals function efficiently, contributing to health.”

What can be done?

CGD’s Hospitals for Health Working Group’s newly released consultation draft of its forthcoming report proposes a “Global Hospitals Collaborative," an entity that would  facilitate a network of individuals and institutions dedicated to fostering improved policymaking, investment, and management for emerging-market hospitals. Specific activities would include setting benchmarks, gathering and sharing data, analyzing the barriers to more and better hospitals—and finding solutions.

“There’s a need to establish some kind of baseline,” Amanda says. Those studying the problem lack the basic information needed find solutions to the problem, she adds.

“A global collaborative could recommend directions for data and analytics, possible reforms, and for learning one from the other,” she adds.

Wouldn’t the World Health Organization (WHO) be the proper home for such an entity?

Amanda thinks not. “Now more than ever the WHO needs to be focused on those global public goods of disease surveillance, control and prevention, as we see in the case of Ebola,” she says.

While she believe the WHO needs to be deeply involved, she also believes such a collaborative would benefit from the greater flexibility available in a less institutionalized setting.

Learn more about why hospitals may be the missing link in developing country health care and how the proposed collaborative could help. Tune into the  Wonkcast and read the report

My thanks to Kristina Wilson for recording and editing the Wonkcast and for a first draft of this blog post. 

Direct download: amanda_final_edit.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:50 PM

Where do you go when hit with a serious medical condition? “The hospital!” is an obvious answer for people in high income countries, but for people in low-income and emerging market economies, access to a proper hospital is often just a dream. Why are decent hospitals in the developing world so few and far between?  

This week I invite senior fellow Amanda Glassman  on the Wonkcast to discuss a new CGD Working Group  that is studying the problems that result in a lack of effective hospitals in low-income and emerging market countries.  

Why focus on hospitals now? While news from the front lines of Ebola  has made the entire world aware of the dearth of hospitals in the afflicted countries, Amanda notes that within the global health community the shortage of hospitals in the developing world was already a hot topic.

For years donors have focused their attention and resources on primary care and preventive services—the kinds of help that can be provided at low cost in a village or neighborhood clinic.

“We’ve pretty much picked that low-hanging fruit,” Amanda says. “Now we’re thinking about health systems in a more integral way… Not just the hospital buildings but the but structures and policies that are needed to make hospitals function efficiently, contributing to health.”

What can be done?

CGD’s Hospitals for Health Working Group’s newly released consultation draft  of its forthcoming report proposes a “Global Hospitals Collaborative," an entity that would  facilitate a network of individuals and institutions dedicated to fostering improved policymaking, investment, and management for emerging-market hospitals. Specific activities would include setting benchmarks, gathering and sharing data, analyzing the barriers to more and better hospitals—and finding solutions.

“There’s a need to establish some kind of baseline,” Amanda says. Those studying the problem lack the basic information needed find solutions to the problem, she adds.

“A global collaborative could recommend directions for data and analytics, possible reforms, and for learning one from the other,” she adds.

Wouldn’t the World Health Organization (WHO) be the proper home for such an entity?

Amanda thinks not. “Now more than ever the WHO needs to be focused on those global public goods of disease surveillance, control and prevention, as we see in the case of Ebola,” she says.

While she believe the WHO needs to be deeply involved, she also believes such a collaborative would benefit from the greater flexibility available in a less institutionalized setting.

Learn more about why hospitals may be the missing link in developing country health care and how the proposed collaborative could help. Tune into the  Wonkcast and read the report

My thanks to Kristina Wilson for recording and editing the Wonkcast and for a first draft of this blog post. 

Direct download: Hospitals20for20Health2C20Consultation20Draft.209.22.14.pdf
Category: -- posted at: 4:00 AM

This podcast was originally recorded on July 8th, 2014. 

Is the revolution upon us? When it comes to data, the development world seems to be saying yes, Yes, YES! To look beyond the hype, I invited Amanda Glassman, a CGD senior fellow and director of our global health policy program, to join me on the show to discuss a new report from the Data for African Development working group that looks at Africa’s statistical capacity, warts and all. It turns out that the revolution may not be all it’s cranked up to be, and that well-intentioned outsiders—donors especially—are too often part of the problem.

A partnership with the  African Population and Health Research Center in Nairobi, the working group found that in Africa such statistical fundamentals as taxes and trade, births and deaths, and growth and poverty are frequently outdated, inaccurate or simply unavailable.  How badly out of whack? In recent months Ghana and Nigeria have recalculated the size of their economies and come up with GDP estimates that are more than two-thirds larger.

I ask Amanda if big data is going to solve these problems. Is there hope that Africa will simply be swept up in a big data tsunami?

Amanda has her doubts. In much of Africa, she says, statistical capacity is at such a standstill: it has remained unchanged for the last ten years according to the index of statistical capacity published by the World Bank.

“Certainly big data and new technologies are very exciting, and offer some really interesting opportunities to collect new data… On the other hand, if countries don’t have a national statistical system in place that to just produce the basics, they will be missing opportunities to harness these new capabilities and the opportunities to use big data.”

Why the lack of progress? Amanda says there’s plenty of blame to go around (she calls it “collective guilt”), specifically a mis-match between the priorities of African governments and the donors. Governments need sub-national data to help guide budgetary and policy decisions, she explains, while external donors often want national-level data to make allocation decisions across countries.

How to resolve this tension? The working group proposes a data compact that would be initiated by an African president or minister of finance and draw upon the support of interested external funders. The compact would be a means for all interested parties to agree upon a phased set of actions to address data problems, and a method for tracking progress. The compact could even take the form of a pay-for-performance endeavor (see CGD’s Cash-on-Delivery Aid proposal for one such example).

“The idea would be to say ‘we’re going prioritize some aspect of the building blocks (such as data on births and deaths) that we have not achieved in our country,’” Amanda explains. Compact participants would agree on measures of progress in the accuracy, timeliness and openness of that data. A big, high-level political commitment could be useful in mobilizing the necessary funding from a combination of donors and governments, she says.

We close our conversation with a look toward the post-2015 development framework. Will the working group’s findings and recommendations become a part of that ongoing debate? Absolutely, Amanda replies. “We’ll do our very best to let it be known that this would be a good idea. Certainly were engaged in the process and talking to all the different people who are involved.”

To learn more about the working group’s findings and recommendations, listen to the Wonkcast, see Amanda’s blog post, or read the report

Category: -- posted at: 4:00 AM