Press "Enter" to skip to content

Month: September 2017

September 22, 2017 (links edition #27)

Do cash transfer payment methods affect beneficiary spending? Apparently not: Sen and De examine the question in the context of India’s NREGA and found that alternative payment mechanisms – i.e., bank accounts or manual cash disbursements – don’t seem to alter expenditure patterns. They also document constraints in the poor’s access of bank accounts due to financial illiteracy and other barriers. A three-pager by UNICEF’s Natali summarizes the impacts of unconditional cash transfers in Zambia across 8 poverty dimensions. The evaluation of another Zambian El Nino cash scheme for 25,000 people is just out, with its 13 recommendations pointing at both positive results as well as various implementation challenges from operating in remote rural areas (as well as response timing).

More on cash: in a JEL article, Parker and Todd review the extensive empirical literature on the Mexican’s CCT Prospera. While positive, they argue that most evidence pertains to the first few years of the program. Hence, gaps remain on the program’s longer-term impacts, e.g., intergenerational transmission of poverty, labor force participation, learning outcomes (not just school enrollment), and general-equilibrium effects (on wages, taxes, etc.).

From transfers to tax credits. In the US, the child tax credit (CTC) provides substantial benefits to families with children, including about $1,000 max benefits for both younger and older children. Maag and Isaacs propose some design restructuring to focus on children under 5, with the net effect of adding  $18 billion in benefits to the $57 billion the CTC will already provides. Since we mentioned taxes, Guerreiro et al. take on the controversial issue of ‘taxing the robots’ and assess the efficiency of alternative taxing models.

A lot of resources on universal basic income: a recent survey by Politico found that 43% of registered American voters support a UBI, with 39% opposing it and 18% being uncertain. Full data tabulations are available here (see p.161-163). Shanta Devarajan makes its case for UBI in rentier states in a new blog post (unfortunately its link to the announced new working paper leads to an old one). In another short piece, Schjoedt posits that the most likely pathway towards a UBI is to start with categorical, lifecycle transfers. If too much to read, a 30-min podcast explains the Finnish experiment – not a UBI, however, despite the rhetoric (courtesy of Veronica Lopez). To conclude with universality matters, in a couple of months (Nov 27) ILO will unveil its flagship World Social Protection Report 2017-19: Universal Social Protection to Achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Talking of flagships, FAO et al have just released the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2017. The report shows a bleak upsurge in undernourishment numbers by 38 million over 2015-2016 (mostly due to conflicts), with the global undernourishment toll now at 815 million people. Also, WFP launched its publication World Food Assistance 2017: Taking Stock and Looking Head. I particularly enjoyed the discussion (p.51) around trade-offs between high costs of assistance vs maintaining presence in unstable contexts – put differently, it would cost $2.2 billion less to operate in fragile contexts if their overall stability was enhanced (see also here for an event recording and PPTs).

Continuing on the fragility theme, in Ukraine, since 2016 more than 3 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, and an estimated 1.4 million are internally displaced. A new report by Barbelet provides a sobering account of the humanitarian access challenges faces by both international and local actors.

Two IDS working papers look at women’s experiences with paid and unpaid work in India and Tanzania, showing how women cope with the dual burden. More on Tanzania: a handy one-pager from IPC identifies factors hindering informal workers from joining contributory pension schemes. Among these, there is limited awareness about the availability of voluntary contributory plans, their eligibility requirements, and the presence of user-friendly processes for registration and pension payments. Another IPC one-pager, this time on Mozambique, discusses pilot models for connecting agriculture and social protection, including in the form of food procurement for school feeding programs.

Since we mentioned agriculture: Anderson et al. discuss how farmers cope with seasonal food insecurity in Malawi. They show that households that experience seasonal hunger harvest their crops earlier than average – a short-term coping mechanism that can reduce the crop’s yield and nutritional value, possibly perpetuating hunger. Teignier analyzes how international trade in agriculture can facilitate structural transformation, including with case studies of South Korea during the last 50 years and Great Britain in the 19th century. Similarly, but in a more recent time horizon, Stiglitz’s distills lessons from the Great Depression both for the advanced countries and developing countries as they go through their structural transformation process. On another type of (related) transition, i.e., aging, Caruso et al have a fascinating piece discussing a range of issues around long-term, elderly care services in LAC, including with lessons from high-income countries.

Two papers aim at explaining differences in country performance on a range of dimensions. In a new NBER paper, Levine et al argue, among other points, that the intensity with which people were enslaved and exported from Africa during the 1400 – 1900 period helps account for overall financial development, household access to credit, and firm access to finance. Drawing from their new paper, Best et al blog about how select reforms in public bureaucracies can yield slow but sustained improvements, including with an illustration from Russia.

Let’s conclude this edition with four recent and forthcoming events. The Development Studies Association had its yearly meeting, which featured 59 panels with 3-4 papers each covering lots of grounds (displacement, urbanization, aid effectiveness, social justice, etc.). Session descriptions, paper abstracts and author contacts can be accessed here. Next week, the annual gathering of the Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN) will take place in Lisbon, with event program and materials available here. On Sept 27, ODI is hosting a panel discussion (webstreamed) on ‘How Are We Changing Humanitarian Action?’ The following day, the ‘International Conference on Social Protection in Contexts of Fragility and Forced Displacement’ kicks off in Brussels, with livestream here and full event website here.