Journal Issue: World Bank Research Observer, Volume 20, Issue 1

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Evaluating the Impact of Conditional Cash Transfer Programs
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-03-01) Rawlings, Laura B. ; Rubio, Gloria M.
Several developing economies have recently introduced conditional cash transfer programs, which provide money to poor families contingent on certain behavior, usually investments in human capital, such as sending children to school or bringing them to health centers. The approach is both an alternative to more traditional social assistance programs and a demand-side complement to the supply of health and education services. Unlike most development initiatives, conditional cash transfer programs have been subject to rigorous evaluations of their effectiveness using experimental or quasi-experimental methods. Evaluation results for programs launched in Colombia, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Turkey reveal successes in addressing many of the failures in delivering social assistance, such as weak poverty targeting, disincentive effects, and limited welfare impacts. There is clear evidence of success from the first generation of programs in Colombia, Mexico, and Nicaragua in increasing enrollment rates, improving preventive health care, and raising household consumption. Many questions remain unanswered, however, including the potential of conditional cash transfer programs to function well under different conditions, to address a broader range of challenges among poor and vulnerable populations, and to prevent the intergenerational transmission of poverty.
Democracy, Public Expenditures, and the Poor : Understanding Political Incentives for Providing Public Services
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-03-01) Keefer, Philip ; Khemani, Stuti
The incentives of politicians to provide broad public goods and reduce poverty vary across countries. Even in democracies, politicians often have incentives to divert resources to political rents and private transfers that benefit a few citizens at the expense of many. These distortions can be traced to imperfections in political markets that are greater in some countries than in others. This article reviews the theory and evidence on the impact on political incentives of incomplete information for voters, the lack of credibility of political promises, and social polarization. The analysis has implications for policy and for reforms to improve public goods provision and reduce poverty.
The "Cotton Problem"
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-03-01) Baffes, John
Cotton is an important cash crop in many developing economies, supporting the livelihoods of millions of poor households. In some countries it contributes as much as 40 percent of merchandise exports and more than 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The global cotton market, however, has been subject to numerous policy interventions, to the detriment of nonsubsidized producers. This examination of the global cotton market and trade policies reaches four main conclusions. First, rich cotton-producing countries should stop supporting their cotton sectors; as an interim step, transfers to the cotton sector should be fully decoupled from current production decisions. Second, many cotton-producing (and often cotton-dependent) developing economies need to complete their unfinished reform agenda. Third, new technologies, especially genetically modified seed varieties, should be embraced by developing economies; this will entail extensive research to identify varieties appropriate to local growing conditions and the establishment of the proper legislative and regulatory framework. Finally, cotton promotion is needed to reverse or at least arrest cotton s decline as a share of total fiber consumption.
Reassessing Conditional Cash Transfer Programs
(Oxford University Press on behalf of the World Bank, 2005-03-01) Das, Jishnu ; Do, Quy-Toan ; Ozler, Berk
During the past decade, the use of conditional cash transfer programs to increase investment in human capital has generated considerable excitement in both research and policy forums. This article surveys the existing literature, which suggests that most conditional cash transfer programs are used for essentially one of two purposes: restoring efficiency when externalities exist or improving equity by targeting resources to poor households. The programs often meet their stated objectives, but in some instances there is tension between the efficiency and equity objectives. The overall impact of a program depends on the gains and losses associated with each objective.