Compared to What?

The WB is again hitting up rich governments to “replenish” the IDA’s coffers.

Oxfam’s man in DC, Nicolas Mombrial, thinks the IDA is a good investment.

I guess it won’t surprise many of you to hear that I don’t.

His post is pretty long but very short on why the IDA is a good investment. He does cite some accomplishments, but gives no information on the cost-effectiveness of these accomplishments:

“Regardless, it is clear that IDA has had some impressive results in the last decade,for instance, helping ensure 65 million people receive access to health services and 8.5 million people get access to seeds and fertilizers.”

OK, first off, “access to health services” is not really a very interesting or valuable quantity. I’d like to know about improved health outcomes. Same with the access to seeds. Tell me about improved agricultural productivity.

Second, what about the costs? The last 3 year replenishment of IDA was for 49.3 billion dollars. So for a decade of IDA, we can use 150 billion dollars as a cost number.

People, for $150 billion dollars, you could give 75 million people each $2000 in cold hard cash.

From my point of view, that sounds a lot better than giving them “access” to services.

Now sure, there are aid agencies worse than the IDA (phone call for USAID), but there is nothing in Mombrial’s post that backs up his claim that the IDA is a good investment, and in my opinion, it’s actually a bad investment relative to unconditional cash transfers.