a collection of a few possibly relevant articles (I)


“The tone the president sets matters for the great machinery underneath,” she explains. “They determine in what direction it will grind along, and if it will do so in a way that makes sense. Will there be openness to a new direction and a readiness to admit problems and failures? All that is set at the level of the president.”


http://www.developmenthorizons.com/2012/03/world-bank-economists-need-not-apply.htmlyay for considering non-economists!

There needs to be a better disciplinary balance throughout the Bank—in research and operations. The policy environment needed to incentivise “growth that we want rather than the growth we get”, for example, is not going to be achieved by an exclusive reliance on economists. We need to understand how the rules of the growth game are set and modified if we want growth that better reduces poverty, growth that includes those on the margins of society, growth that better avoids environmental externalities and growth that disincentivises corruption. These rules of the game are rooted in norms, culture, history and many “noneconomic” (i.e. human) behaviours and are best understood and evolved by coalitions of disciplines working together.


To get big things done, the bank needs not just decent ideas from smart economists, but buy-in and cooperation from a diverse array of states. That’s a diplomatic job and a political job, and it’s exactly why the gig rightly belongs to someone with political experience on the international arena. Someone not like Jeffrey Sachs.

a new one (19 March) that is confused as I am about what the president of the Bank actually does – but weighs in on many possible angles: http://waylaiddialectic.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/sachs/

To my mind the answer to the question whether Jeffrey Sachs would be a good head of the World Bank depends, at least in part, on what exactly the core functions of the head of the World Bank are. What do we really need them to be good at?… If it’s management, I’m unsure… If it’s ideas, I think he’d be alright… If it’s diplomacy, as Felix Salmon suggests it is, then maybe Sachs would be too bombastic. But I’m not so sure… Ultimately, the thing that counts against Sachs the most in my book is that he seems far too certain. And, it’s been a long time, I think, since he’s really – in an academic sense – engaged with evidence… My dream aid agency would be one that was openly plagued by doubt – one which wasn’t sure of itself but which let research lead policy (not the other way round as the World Bank was wont to do in the past). And which spent a lot of time and money on evaluations. And which openly discussed and debated it’s failures. For all its past problems the World Bank has seemed in recent years to be shambling in this direction. Which is great – and I fear Sachs would stifle this.


What’s needed at the World Bank is someone who knows development, but who isn’t deeply invested in their own normative ideas of what must be done. Running the Bank involves a delicate dance with extremely important and powerful shareholders who can effectively shut you down at any time… The World Bank is owned and run by sovereign governments, who will talk until they’re blue in the face about how they’re working for the world’s poorest, but who ultimately are not going to sign on to anything which they don’t perceive as being in their own best interest.


The project’s evaluation protocol states, “Issues of feasibility, political buy-in, community ownership and ethics also featured prominently in village selection.” This selection bias alone might have caused incomes at the treated sites to be higher, many years into the project, than incomes at the untreated sites—even if the project itself hadn’t caused that difference. Instead, incomes today are typically the same in the two groups.

There are valid reasons to debate which methodology is best for evaluating the impact of the MVP, and serious discussion of the components that should factor into this decision seem worthwhile. But fallacious statements such as those made in this post by Sachs and Singh do nothing to further the debate nor to encourage others considering large-scale interventions to seriously invest in rigorous impact evaluation.
One must also question what donors like the Soros Foundation and the UN relied on in terms of evidence when deciding to fund this second phase of the MVP project. Either donors are happy to fund such a program based on factors other than empirical evidence, or arguments like those above are misleading decision-making.


The goal of the MVP is to effect long-term change, building “a solid foundation for sustainable growth.”  So whether or not the project is effective can only be assessed in the long term.  That means that scaling up the project before any long-term evaluation would be scaling up an intervention of unknown effectiveness.

But without any such evaluation, the MVP has already called for “the model’s expansion throughout Africa” to affect millions of people. Researchers at the Overseas Development Institute already advocate for African governments to make “MVP-type investments” a “key component” of their national development strategies.  It would be irresponsible to vastly expand an intervention that is not known to accomplish its own stated, long-term goals.


I never picked the phrase “shock therapy,” and I have to say don’t much like it. It was something that was overlaid by journalism and public discussion. It sounds a lot more painful in a way than what it is.


This pessimistic note is confirmed in a vignette about Jeffrey Sachs, the former economic shock-therapy man who re-invented himself as the intellectual avatar of the Millennium Development Project… Gill visits a benighted village called Koraro, chosen to be one of Sachs’s so-called Millennium Villages, which were meant as demonstration projects to prove that foreign aid can really work. He asks a local man whether he has ever met Sachs, to which the man replies, “I have met the owner twice,” which in itself is worth a dozen U.N. development assessments and a hundred NGO field reports. And when Gill himself finally meets Sachs, he discovers that he, too, is grasping at the Chinese straw. “They are doing something,” he tells Gill, “where we are not there at all.” But Sachs also says that “unless the fertility rate comes down sharply I’m running out of ideas.” When Gill tells him that Ethiopia’s population has doubled in a quarter-century and will likely double again in the next twenty-five years, Sachs can only reply that “it is absolutely unmanageable … beyond any of our [development] tools right now.”

Published by hlanthorn

ORCID ID: 0000-0002-1899-4790

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