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    This blog highlights effective ideas in the fight against poverty and exclusion, and analyzes the impact of development projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.
  • 8 lessons from giving cash to the poor



    CCT 8 lessons

    18 governments from Latin America and the Caribbean give out regular monthly cash transfers to almost 130 million poor. These transfers which are known as Conditional Cash Transfers or CCTs and which vary greatly in terms of objectives and coverage, try to alleviate poverty in the short term and develop human capital in the long run. These programs typically focus on children’s health and education and, in some cases, maternal health.

    In a recent paper, Rômulo Paes de Sousa (from the Institute of Development Studies), Ferdinando Regalia and Marco Stampini (both economists from the Inter-American Development Bank) analyzed the experience of 6 countries and extracted 8 lessons for countries that have recently started or that are currently considering the introduction of a CCT.

    These are the 8 lessons:

    Read more…

    Deforestation and conflict in Colombia




    From the abstract and conclusions of this paper on civil conflict and deforestation in Colombia:

    Despite a growing body of literature on how environmental degradation can fuel civil war, the reverse effect, namely that of conflict on environmental outcomes, is relatively understudied.


    We study this relationship in the case of Colombia.


    Our results are consistent with the idea that paramilitary militias use the following modus operandi: first, valuable territories are cleared through violent intimidation, which induces forced displacement; second, the vacated land is purchased at very low prices; and third, legal and illegal investments are instituted in those areas. Examples of end products of this process are coca crops, mineral exploitation and oil palm agriculture.


    violent conflict in Colombia has been a force that has driven and continues to drive deforestation.

    Laptops, children and Darth Vader



    Remember the 2011 Superbowl “Darth Vader Kid ad where a young boy attempts to use The Force to start a washer and wake up the dog? The Force only works on a Volkswagen Passat, after his father – hiding behind the kitchen window -uses the car’s remote to start it. We are fascinated that a little boy’s imagination can be triggered by a remote control: the video has over 60 million views.

    That fascination is even more acute with machines that allow us to share, have fun and even learn macroeconomics. With a computer, you can google pretty much anything, learn the Pythagorean Theorem on the Khan Academy or even find that old clip from the 1950s that pretty much invented computer animation. All you need is a laptop, or a tablet, or a phone, and a connection to the web.

    If all the kid needed was The Force (and a remote), maybe what kids need for learning is a laptop.

    So why not give out free web enabled laptops to all school age children in Uruguay? Read more…

    Corruption and growth, revisited



    corruption and growth

    Some years ago, there was a tsunami in the economics literature on the relationship between economic growth and corruption. When it became clear that correlation is not causation, and that perception is not necessarily reality, the wave dwindled, although a corruption-index industry did thrive, (for a while).

    A recent paper retakes this issue from a more rigorous stance.

    The first [contribution of this paper] is a simple but important empirical contribution: We provide causal evidence on the effect of economic growth on the amount of corruption in an economy. Despite much interest in the relationship between corruption and development, there exists very little credible evidence of a causal relationship.


    Our second contribution is to lay out a mechanism through which economic growth reduces corruption.


    Our results have several implications for understanding the determinants of corruption in developing countries. The finding that growth reduces corruption suggests that corruption might decline naturally as a country grows even without explicit anti-corruption efforts.


    The results also highlight a complex interplay between growth and institutions. The fact that economic growth is most successful in reducing corruption when coupled with strong property rights implies a complementarity between policies to strengthen institutions and to promote growth, and a mechanism through which strengthening institutions can be self-reinforcing.

    So, here we go again.

    Can Mexico make the leap in Innovation?




    In 2012, President Enrique Peña Nieto set the very ambitious goal of increasing Mexico’s investment in Science and Technology from the current 0.4 percent to 1 percent of GDP by the end of his mandate in 2018. This commitment has generated a strong debate on what policies should be adopted to support such an extraordinary effort. In this framework, the question on what policies might work for Mexico and how their effectiveness could be measured has become more crucial than ever.

    Last June I had the opportunity and pleasure to contribute to such debate in two events organized by the Mexican Foro Consultivo Cientifico y Technologico (FCCyT) in Mexico City. The first event was a two days training on “Impact Evaluation of Science and Technology Programs” taught by Gustavo Crespi and myself. The training targeted an audience of public officials, graduate students, and academics who wanted to have a better understanding of how impact evaluation techniques can be (or have been) applied to policies aimed at promoting scientific production and business innovation. Gustavo’s and my presentations have been posted in the FCCyT website.

    The second event was a one day workshop on the evaluation of science, innovation and technology policies. Key authorities and stakeholders from the Mexican National Innovation System participated in the event and contributed to a deep and lively discussion moderated by the FCCyT’s Director Gabriela Dutrénit. The discussion included presentations by Fred Gault (UN-Merit University), Chiara Criscuolo (OECD), Ximena Usher (ANII), and other experts – including myself – and covered topics such as the measurement of the effects scientific research funding, the implementation and evaluation of business innovation support programs, and the generation and management of micro-data for impact evaluations. My personal contribution focused on the IDB experience in evaluating funding for scientific research. Because, the entire event was broadcasted live on the web, all the presentations and videos have been posted in the FCCyT website.



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