Author Archives: CGDev

A TPPing Point on Trade? – Harsha Singh

TPP? TTIP? In the world of trade negotiations, there is no shortage of acronyms. And who better to break them down for us than Harsha Singh, former deputy director general at the World Trade Organization? Harsha recently visited CGD to join Kim Elliott in leading a roundtable to discuss with other trade experts the implications of these proposed mega-regional trading blocs for developing countries. After the roundtable, I invited Harsha to join me on the Wonkcast to explain the development implications of these trade deals to interested non-experts, with a particular focus on the impacts of smaller, poorer countries who are unlikely to be included.

Proposals for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) arose in part out of frustration with the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round, Harsha explains. (The TPP is proposed to include the United States, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Japan; TTIP would include the United States and the EU.)

The TPP and TTIP aim to enhance trade and investment among members, but they could also pose huge challenges for small, poor countries that find themselves excluded, he says. One of the primary concerns “is the diversion of markets away from their products to those who get preferential treatment as members of these mega-regionals.” Harsha says that while most of the focus has been on tariff preference erosion, nontariff barriers to market access may pose a much more serious problem. 

“The important thing is not just meeting the standards, but also the system which is used to determine that the standard actually is consistent with what is being demanded,” Harsha explains. “That system can often be exclusionary.”

For more on these issues, read Kim Elliott’s account of the roundtable discussion and listen to the Wonkcast. Among the topics we tackle: the impact of the mega-regional trade deals on the big emerging market economies, Brazil, China, and India, and the global value chain for an iconic 21st century product: the iPhone.

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

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Our Condolences to All Affected by Flight MH17

CGD and its health team express our condolences to the families of all lost on MH17. We know that many of those attending the International AIDS Conference, which starts this week-end in Melbourne, have been touched personally by the AIDS researchers and activists lost on the plane and will deeply feel their loss. Dr.

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What to Expect at This Year’s International AIDS Conference

Our Condolences to All Affected by Flight MH117 There’s no doubt that Treatment as Prevention (TasP) will receive continued emphasis at this year’s International Aids Conference (IAC), as advocates argue for aggressively expanding treatment from the 9 million worldwide currently on antiretrovirals (ARVs) to the 35 million people who are HIV infected.  But at the TasP workshop in Vancouver last month the more challenging and novel topic was pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.  A whole array of sessions on PrEP is already on the agenda for next week’s conference in Melbourne, and our bet is that PrEP will generate a lot of buzz – an approach with intriguing potential, but edgy downside possibilities. What is PrEP?

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What’s Hot at This Year’s International AIDS Conference? Our Bet’s on PrEP

There’s no doubt that Treatment as Prevention (TasP) will receive continued emphasis at this year’s International Aids Conference (IAC), as advocates argue for aggressively expanding treatment from the 9 million worldwide currently on antiretrovirals (ARVs) to the 35 million people who are HIV infected.  But at the TasP workshop in Vancouver last month the more challenging and novel topic was pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.  A whole array of sessions on PrEP is already on the agenda for next week’s conference in Melbourne, and our bet is that PrEP will generate a lot of buzz – an approach with intriguing potential, but edgy downside possibilities. What is PrEP

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Africa’s Data Revolution – Amanda Glassman

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.

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Delivering on the Data Revolution in Sub-Saharan Africa

This is a joint post with Alex Ezeh. Since the term “data revolution” was brandished in the High-Level Panel report on the Post-2015 Development Agenda, there has been a flurry of activity to define, develop, and drive an agenda to transform the way development statistics are collected, used, and shared the world over. And this makes sense — assessing the new development agenda, regardless of its details, will need accurate data

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Back to the People: Reorienting China’s Health System to Primary Care

For decades, primary health care in China has been practically forgotten. Most people in China today seek care directly at hospitals rather than local village clinics. With hospitals overwhelmed by patients for even minor conditions, doctors provide low quality care.

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The Known Unknown: Estimating the Global Burden of Disease

Global burden of disease (GBD) estimates help us understand how disease, injury and risk factors impact health at both the population and individual levels. Specifically, the GBD measures the prevalence and impact of fatal and non-fatal conditions at the country (and sometimes sub-national) level, as well as the underlying causes for these conditions.

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Two Strategies to Strengthen & Streamline Health Data

The global health sector is notorious for requiring a laundry list of indicators to monitor and evaluate programs.  A recent report on the burden of indicators and reporting for health quantifies the extent of the problem; some countries are requested to report on as many as 600 indicators (and this is the conservative estimate).   These data requirements are a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, rigorous monitoring and evaluation is critical to ensuring health programs reach those most in need and have the desired impact.  On the other hand, it puts a tremendous burden on countries and may lead to poor quality data, which undermines these efforts overall.

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Honey, West Bengal Shrunk the Kids

A recent paper by researchers in India shows that average Bangladeshi children are taller than their counterparts from West Bengal, when wealth is controlled for. These two regions have similar ethno-linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and the authors argue that the difference in height can be attributed to open defecation combined with differences in women status, as measured by female literacy, and maternal nutrition. Our blog on World Toilet Day discussed how sanitation prevents stunted growth and makes everyone taller by ensuring safe disposal of feces

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If China Sneezes, Will Latin America Catch Pneumonia? – Liliana Rojas-Suarez

My guest on this Wonkcast is CGD senior fellow Liliana Rojas Suarez, who serves as chair of the Latin American Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee (CLAAF). CLAAF is comprised of financial economists and former senior financial officials from the region who meet twice a year to study a current policy issue. They then issue a statement offering advice to policymakers in the region and others interested in Latin American financial regulatory issues—or just in the region’s overall economic health.

At their recent meeting here at CGD, CLAAF members considered the question: How would a Chinese Slowdown Affect Latin America? Liliana summarizes their conclusions—and recommendations for Latin American policy makers—in a blog post available here in english and en espanol.

Prefer to get your Latin American financial regulatory advice on the run, or perhaps while working out on the Stairmaster or stationary bicycle? We cover it all, and more, in this 22 minute Global Prosperity Wonkcast. Listen now, or download it for future listening.

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Millions Saved 3: (New!) Case Studies in Global Health

This is a joint post with Miriam Temin. Cement is poured, and children in Mexico have less diarrhea. Acetic acid is applied, and cervical cancer claims the lives of fewer women in India

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Gates Foundation Calls for More Principled Cost-Effectiveness in Health

Cost-effectiveness studies compare the costs and benefits of different interventions with the aim of improving decisions on the allocation of scarce resources for health. Or, put simply, they allow policy-makers to set priorities for health spending and consider how the next dollar available can get more health for the money. Related Event Improving the Use of Economic Evaluation for Global Health Funders

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Deforestation by the Numbers – Jonah Busch and Kalifi Ferretti-Gallon

Spatially explicit econometric studies… say that five times fast.

My guests on this week’s Wonkcast are CGD’s Jonah Busch and Kalifi Ferretti-Gallon, who have conducted a meta-analysis of 117 such studies to discover what drives deforestation—and what actions slow or prevent it.

Their ambitious study, the first to use this approach on such a large scale, covers two-thirds of the world’s tropical forests. For those who want to cut to the chase, this CGD brief offers a succinct summary of the findings.

In the Wonkcast we discuss why a development-oriented think tank like CGD is tackling deforestation: because intact forests provide many benefits to poor people, and because deforestation is an important driver of climate change, which in turn undermines development efforts. We then unpack the study’s main findings.

Kalifi, who did most of the number crunching, explains the criteria for selecting the 117 studies included in the meta analysis, and how she and Jonah then distilled the many factors that may drive or slow deforestation into 40 variables.

The big take-aways:

“Keeping roads out of an area, making sure that road networks are planned in a way that connects people, gets them to market but doesn't open up new frontier areas of remote forests” helps to protect the forest,” Jonah tells me.

Similarly, designating protected areas has frequently been effective. While many of these are in remote or especially scenic areas, Jonah says the meta-analysis showing that they have been effective suggests that designating more protected areas in places that are subject to deforestation pressures holds promise.

Among the surprises: strengthening land tenure and community forest management projects—two popular approaches to slow deforestation—were not proven on balance to be effective.

“I was expecting to see that community forest management lined up with less deforestation,” Jonah says. “If this were the case it would be a nice win-win for local economic development and forest protection…But while there were slightly more cases where community forest management was associated with less deforestation rather than more deforestation, it wasn't a statistically significant difference.”

In contrast, he says, payment for ecological services, for example, by paying a community to protect a forest watershed, tended to work, although the approach is comparatively recent so there are relatively few studies of such efforts.

We end the Wonkcast with a discussion of the links between the findings of the new meta-analysis and REDD+, the global effort to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

For more on REDD+, see the CGD initiative Tropical Forests for Climate and Development, of which Kalifi and Jonah’s new meta-analysis is an important contribution.

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