Mar 3, 2012

Jeffrey Sachs for the World Bank?

Ana Maria Coloma asked for my take on Jeffrey Sachs for president of the World Bank.

My main concern is that there might be some possible conflict of interests. He is behind the Millennium Village Project (MVP). Some have argued that the interventions which are part of the MVP have not had a substantial effect on income (although they have increased agricultural productivity). I wonder if Professor Sachs would have the incentives to support and promote RCTs to evaluate the programs that he has created. One has to keep in mind that he advocates increasing aid as the solution to world poverty. Is he willing to reconcile this idea with the need of evaluation?

If he is willing to take that challenge and evaluate the MVP (as well as other interventions) it would actually be a great opportunity for him to show that he can be self-critical, and to show that he is willing to establish policies according to evidence. Is he willing to do that?

This takes us into another direction. Should support for RCTs be the main criteria to appoint  a  president of the WB? RCTs are the most important trend in development economics - and probably they have been for the past fifteen years - the World Bank is moving into that direction (see for example David McKenzie's work). 

What I do like about Jeffrey Sachs is that development economics has been the focus of his work for many years - some past presidents have had other profiles. I like Jeffrey Sachs work on malaria, the resource curse, and geography and economic growth. In his book The End of Poverty he argues that there are not magic bullets to promote economic development.  Again, if he is willing to take this assertion seriously and rigorously examine his own work (as well as many other interventions), I would support him. 

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