Stand up for your health

It was in Saigon, in June 1999, that I first felt the knot at the base of my lumbar spine. Thirty-one years old, I’d never worried much about taking care of my body. In retrospect, nine months of hunching over my laptop, without a desk in that house Mai and I rented, had done something. I remember, in our last days in Vietnam, hobbling off an escalator and approaching Andrew Steer for a handshake. As head of the World Bank mission there, he was about to keynote a conference at which I would later speak too. I tried to smile and act normal as an invisible hand grabbed my muscles and ligaments from behind and clenched.

But the knot went away after we came back to the States, and I forgot about it. Occasionally it returned… I felt it the year I ported my three-year-old to daycare everyday on the back of my bike. I figured out not to pull so hard on the handlebars when accelerating. That helped. But sometimes I could barely put on my socks.
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What’s the best way to count loans as aid?

In the close of my last post, I indicated that I had more to say about how best to count loans as aid. Now I’ll say it.

In the close of my last post, I indicated that I had more to say about how best to count loans as aid. Now I’ll say it.

The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) currently handles loans this way:

Undue credit: Are France, Germany, and Japan subverting the definition of aid?

Last April, former Development Assistance Committee chair Richard Manning penned a scorching alarum in the Financial Times. Unbeknownst to the public, donors were inflating their aid totals by including loans that would profit the donors if paid in full. And the DAC, whose job it is to validate and publish these tallies, had proved feckless in defending the principle that for a loan to count as aid, it should profit the recipient not the donor.

The OECD must put in place a definition of concessionality that reflects the real cost of capital and requires real fiscal effort. It is shocking that the OECD should publish official statistics that allow “different practices” on such a key issue and which make a mockery of its own requirement that loans are concessional in character. It is encouraging OECD finance ministries to get away with murder as they seek to massage reported aid upwards at minimum cost. If the OECD cannot do a professional job on this, the UN should take over the reporting for international aid flows.

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I’m back

Welcome to my blog! You may know that I was for many years a fellow at the Center for Global Development, where I blogged a lot. Last year, after two decades of self-direction at think tanks (including time at the Worldwatch Institute), I concluded that I needed to do something new in order to grow. So I joined a new policy analysis team at the Gates Foundation. In the end, the fit proved too difficult. But the experience was positive in many ways.

Welcome to my blog! You may know that I was for many years a fellow at the Center for Global Development, where I blogged a lot. Last year, after two decades of self-direction at think tanks (including time at the Worldwatch Institute), I concluded that I needed to do something new in order to grow. So I joined a new policy analysis team at the Gates Foundation. In the end, the fit proved too difficult. But the experience was positive in many ways.

One thing I liked was working directly with decisionmakers, allowing my agenda to be shaped more immediately by theirs. Their need to know gave my work impetus. And that is why I have decided to freelance as a policy consultant: I will continue to invite others to set my agenda, in order to learn from, and gain inspiration from, the challenges and choices they face.
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