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Month: May 2019

SP Links May 10 – cash transfers in Yemen, lessons from Ebola, shock-responsive social protection in LAC, linking safety nets and humanitarian assistance for refugees…

What nutritional effects can cash transfers with soft conditions achieve in conflicts? New results from war-torn Yemen by Kurdi et al show that such program reduced acute malnutrition by 9-10 percentage points (pp). Also, declines were observed in stunting and wasting (by 0.35 and 0.43 z-scores, respectively), while the probability of breastfeeding increased by 15pp.

And on a different kind of crisis… what did we learn from the Ebola outbreak response on 2014-15? A thoughtful, first-hand set of lessons from Konyndyk highlights that, from the outset of the crisis, the world (i) knew the basics on to break Ebola transmission, (ii) had a strong vaccine candidate, and (iii) had a robust therapeutic candidate. And yet… the virus containment tools could not be scaled up quickly enough. Hence, tactics shifted from clinical to behavioral, accompanied by a change in delivery partnerships and expertise.

Speaking of shocks, Beazley et al have finalized their OPM review, co-sponsored by WFP, of shock-responsive social protection systems for Latin America and the Caribbean. The recent wave of natural disasters in India shows there is much more to learn from states than PDS and NREGA-related issues – that is, the disaster management protocol from Odisha seems to have saved millions of lives. BTW, a crisp IPA brief takes stock of evidence and open questions around how financial inclusion programs can help resilience-building.

But let me extend the resilience discussion to its limits, i.e., taking a look at humanitarian assistance: UNHCR released a very well-articulated note on how to align social assistance and humanitarian aid for refugees (in particular, check out the decision-making frameworks in Annexes 1-2). The paper is based on information collected in Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, Greece and Mexico, as well as building on the transitional safety net for Central African refugees pilot and a paper on mapping of social safety nets for refugees.

Back to social protection issues, is the UK on a path to consider piloting Universal Basic Income? A new 80-page UBI report commissioned by the Labor Party’s Shadow Chancellor of Exchequer, and produced by Standing, sets out a plan to launch trials of 5 different designs across the country. On the other side of the Atlantic, the LA Times reports on the quasi-UBI experiment in Stockton.

From universality to targeting the ultra-poor: Ozler reviews Kabeer’s paper on the matter in South Asia, including an interesting discussion on mix-methods – you can read his thoughts on the blog as well as directly, in comments-mode on Kabeer’s JHDC paper itself.

On a different form of social protection programs… a thought-provoking paper by Bau examines the relationship between public policies and kinship practices, pointing out some unintended consequences of contributory pensions in Ghana and Indonesia: based on her analysis on matriarchal and patriarchal households, she argues that pensions can induce beneficiaries to reduce investments in children’s education (see also VoxDev video).

Good news on service delivery in Africa: about 46,000 Africans deem that access, timeliness, and treatment in sectors like education, ID documentation, and health got better. Yet feedback on policing and corruption is less positive, according to a new paper by Bratton et al based on Afrobarometer.

More on the continent: tax revenues as % of GDP rose by 2-3 percentage points in the past couple of decades, now between 15 and 16.5% pending on estimates. So what are the obstacles for domestic resource mobilization in low-income countries? Plant and Gupta will examine main barriers and options as part of a forthcoming project at CGD. Bonus on taxes: an interview with Harvard’s Jensen covers his work in Rwanda, Tanzania and Zambia.

A simple way of reducing urban crime in low-income neighborhoods? Install lights in dark public spaces! A few years ago, I studied how Medellin implemented similar measures (great work by Davila). This week, an NBER paper by Chalfin et al shows that installing street lights in parts of NYC reduced night outdoor crimes by 36%. Worth thinking as part of new generation of public works?

A great paper by Alice Evans chronicles how incentives for pro-labor reforms in Vietnam and Bangladesh were tied to the shifting fortunes of global trade agreements – first limited, then embedded, and then lax again. And on Asia, Himanshu has a WIDER review of inequality trends and levels in India.

I hope you think the weekly links are written plainly and clearly, as Dave Evans rightly pushes economists to get clear on how they write (check out the Word/Outlook readability tool there enclosed).