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November 23, 2017 (links edition #35)

Two precious, massive compilations of cash transfer impacts: Pega et al. have a new 180-page, systematic Cochrane review of the impacts of unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) on health in low and middle-income countries (if you wish to get a PDF of the study just shoot me an email). The review covered 21 studies (16 experimental and 5 non-experimental ones) and concluded that UCTs improve some select health outcomes (i.e. the likelihood of having had any illness, the likelihood of having secure access to food, and diet diversity), one social determinant of health (i.e. the likelihood of attending school), and healthcare expenditure. The jury is still out on the health effects of UCTs compared with those of CCTs, a hot topic that for the moment remains inconclusive. In an equally rich working paper, Ralston, Andrews and Hsiao examine the empirical results from impact evaluations on safety nets in Africa – I love how they structured the evidence around quantifiable outcomes for equity, resilience opportunity (figures on p.33-38 are brilliant).

A great update of the Indonesia public expenditure review for social assistance, with Acosta nicely summarizing it in his blog. Top line numbers: energy subsidies have been cut in half, with more resources directed to targeted social assistance programs (now at 0.7% of GDP). The national registry includes around 26 million households, the cash transfer for poor and at risk students has expanded also by around 10 million students since 2012, and the flagship PKH CCT is posited to almost double its coverage in just one year – i.e., from 6 million households in 2016 to 10 million by the end of this year. Another eye-popping assessment: De la Fuente et al. show that in Zambia, there are more poor and vulnerable individuals who are net payers. This is because of the burden created across households by value-added tax and other indirect taxes. The suggest that eliminating a set of energy subsidies and switching to more cash transfers  could help ameliorate the effects of such structural issues.

Tons of materials on social registries (h/t Kathy Lindert): “10 things to Know about Social Registries” can be found here, compounded by a handy set of FAQs and a blog by Lindert et al (check out also a recent webinar, with recording and presentation). An interesting IDS paper by Kaltenborn et al takes on the question of sequence – should social protection policy/legislation come before program implementation, or vice-versa? They show cases in both directions, but also offer a rich discussion on Ghana’s bottom-up approach whereby lessons from the implementation of individual social protection programs took precedence over the development of a policy and legal framework.

The humanitarian development dilemma… modified: Peters and Pichon introduce the concept of a ‘crisis modifier’ in the Sahel, i.e., risk financing options to help deal with small-scale crises, with a humanitarian fund Providing Humanitarian Assistance for Sahel Emergencies (PHASE) embedded into to the multi-year Building Resilience to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme. The option designed to enable early action and rapid response to new humanitarian needs that manifest in the project areas, and in doing so, protect development gains BRACED projects made.

Interesting resources on Asia: Kone et al identify infra-state borders as significant impediments to internal mobility in India. Their analysis finds that average migration between neighboring districts in the same state is at least 50% larger than neighboring districts on different sides of a state border. Mobarak et al. reflect on lessons from their work on seasonal migration in Northern Bangladesh over the last 9 years. Among others, they wisely argue that “.. as a programme scales up, it is important to check that RCT results are replicable and that general equilibrium effects are considered”. Speaking of scale, Ingram and Papoulidis argue that in fragile contexts large-scale programs are less risky than smaller projects.

Let’s move to Africa. Some cautiously good news for the continent’s agricultural performance, with Casaburi et al outlining progress on markets, insurance, credit, and cooperates. Harvard’s Juma says the idea to create a single integrated pan-African market, with a combined GDP of $3.5 trillion, is essential for Africa’s industrialization, jobs creation and development. One of Mozambique’s largest cities is sinking: every year, Mambondiyani shows that Beira experiences violent storms, floods and rising sea levels. Some 40 African countries had experienced a coup, and 23 have had at least three coups: in fact, only 14 of Africa’s 54 countries are yet to experience a military coup, according to Kazeem. He went through the over 200 coups and coup attempts across Africa, since the independence era, and compiled a list of the continent’s most affected countries (hint: top one is Burkina Faso).

More rankings: CGD’s Kalow and Rose explore who is the top donor for activities connected to domestic revenue mobilization – and who are the top recipients of them in MICs and LICs. Answer: UK, Philippines, and Afghanistan, respectively. Speaking of funding, Ohler et al show that the Bank’s projects are concentrated in administrative areas in which more people live (including the bottom 40) rather than in poorer administrative areas. Another WD article by Briggs tags geotagged data into approximately 10,500 cells that cover all of Africa and show that global aid tend to flow to richer cells. And since I mentioned spatial issues, Turner has a short accessible memo tracing the history of area-based interventions (housing, various inner-city initiatives, etc.) in the US since the 19th Century. Final bonus: a new article on an old mantra, with Rodrik arguing that there isn’t a unique and universal recipe for improving economic performance.

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