Ensuring Development by Linking Countries?

Is there a better way to make sure sustainable economic development happens? This is an idea I had a long time ago, but I thought I’d put it out there without developing it further. I should probably start by saying that things aren’t as bad as we often think.

Nonetheless, there remain big difference between countries (let’s leave out difference within countries for the moment). Most rich countries engage in international development, but donor countries have no direct stake. What if we could change this, what if we could make it donor countries responsible for development? Perhaps this would lead to innovative ways to reach development goals.

The basic idea is to pair up countries, and make them joint responsible. We could start by matching countries by listing them by GDP, GDP per capita, and the HDI. We then link the country at the top with a few countries at the bottom (considering their capacity on the basis of say the GDP), the second country from the top with a few countries close to the bottom, etc. We could even throw in historical links or geographical proximity (even cultural similarities?) into the matching. We’ll end up with unions of rich and poor countries who are jointly responsible to meet the development targets in both places in the long term — so the unions would remain for a long period. We have the UN to monitor progress, but it’ll be up to the matched unions to decide how they achieve the goals.

We already have the UN and other international bodies who set targets, priorities, and time-frames. What we will gain is a clear responsibility if countries fall behind. Successful countries get bragging rights, unsuccessful ones we can shame.

Education as a Career?

Here’s an idea I’ve had a while back: There are still too many places where children are not going to school, and even if there is free education available to children, parents may prefer or need the short-term gain from sending their children to work instead. What if we paid parents for sending their children to go to school rather than simply provided free education? What if parents were paid if their children learn how to read and write, what if their children being in the top 10% would yield a bonus payment? What if we financially award progress towards getting a job rather than presence at school? We’d obviously change the incentives, but would it work to allow talented children to concentrate on school work? My hunch is that the incentives need not be that big, but perhaps it would lead to unintended consequences like that those who do not get paid would drop out of school because school becomes about external motivation rather than internal motivation.

Migration and Development: Bosnia and Herzegovina

For the past few months, we were undertaking work to characterize the Bosnian and Herzegovinian (BiH) population in Switzerland with an eye on the relationship between migration and development (M&D). The idea behind M&D is that development in a country can benefit a great deal if the emigrants from said country (aka diaspora) are involved. One part of the study examined the situation in Switzerland, the other the situation in BiH. Here’s a research brief summarizing the perspective from BiH, full of enlightening quotes.

Research Brief: The Potential of the BiH Diaspora to Support Development.