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

CGD senior fellow Ben Leo says that the United States is losing influence in the developing world due to its outdated development finance mechanisms. He shares his proposals for a US Development Finance Corporation.

Direct download: 21st_Cent_Dev_Policy_Ben_Leo.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:09 PM

Why is Africa underdeveloped? Is it the commonly-cited reasons of political corruption and colonization, or its modern counterpart, globalization? Kingsley Moghalu has his own ideas. He believes Africa's development potential lies in the hands of Africans themselves. Moghalu, former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and author of a new book called Emerging Africa, expands on lessons-learned in Nigeria and on Africa's development future as a whole in this week's podcast. 

Direct download: Kingsley_edit7_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 3:01 PM

Rules to name, shame, and punish banks, whose clients may funnel money to terror groups, are denying much-needed funds to developing countries. It’s a clash of two sets of sound policies, says Clay Lowery, former assistant secretary for international affairs at the US Treasury and the chair of a CGD working group on this problem of “de-banking.” “Those two policies are in conflict with each other,” Lowery says, “and that’s a very difficult thing to overcome.”

The first set of policies was designed to curb money laundering and the financing of terrorism, especially in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States, Lowery told me in a new CGD podcast. Faced with the obligation of trying to track the final destination of money flows they service — and the reputational risk involved if their clients are less than law-abiding — a string of big-name financial institutions have simply been closing down the accounts of legitimate businesses that offer remittance services to millions of people working in different countries.

 

One of the primary aims of those rules, Lowery says, “was to hurt the reputation of financial institutions: so if they were going to be doing business with bad people we were going to ‘out’ [them]. So that reputational risk became something that banks worried about a lot.” 

The second set of policies was focused on how to facilitate finance flows into developing countries in an efficient way that aids economic growth and development. Remittances — money sent home by workers overseas — are estimated to total $400bn annually through formal channels and another $130bn through informal channels. They have become a huge source of revenue for developing countries — far greater than official aid. Money transfer organizations are often the only route available to send funds to poor countries. De-banking may deny revenue to some criminal or terror groups but it also stops innocent people sending much-needed money to their families.

As Lowery and I discussed, central banks in the United States and United Kingdom, as well as regulators and policymakers are among many key players examining these unintended consequences of rich countries’ anti–money laundering policies, along with CGD’s working group which aims to report later this year.

Direct download: Clay_Lowery_newedit_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 2:31 PM

“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