Past Events Archive

Past Events Archive

In-person or on zoom, scholars from all over the world bring their expertise to the CDE and share their research. Some presentations focus on the theoretical underpinnings of economic processes, while others suggest direct policy implications. These talks expand our current curricular offerings and offer enrichment opportunities for current CDE Fellows.


CDE/Per Jacobsson Speaker Series: Ambassador Elsie Kanza (CDE 2000).

Prof. Anand Swamy (Williams College) will interview Ambassador Kanza (CDE ’00, Tanzania) about present and future challenges facing development projects in Africa and in the world. With extensive experience including roles within the World Economic Forum (WEF) and as a former economic advisor to the President of Tanzania Ambassador Kanza has a remarkable track record in advancing public-private collaboration initiatives, particularly focusing on Africa’s regional agenda and sustainable development goals. She has been recognized as a Tutu Leadership Fellow, WEF Young Global Leader, and Forbes Africa’s 50 Most Powerful Women.

CDE/Per Jacobsson Speaker Series: Ambassador Elsie Kanza (CDE 2000)

Dr. Elsie S. Kanza is Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for the Embassy of the United Republic of Tanzania to the United States of America and Mexico. Prior to taking on this role, she served as a member of the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Executive Committee and Special Adviser to its President. From 2011 to 2020, as Head of the WEF’ s regional agenda on Africa she led numerous public-private collaboration initiatives to solve complex systemic challenges related to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and African Union Agenda 2063. From 2006 to 2011, Ambassador Kanza served as economic advisor to the President of Tanzania. Between 1997 and 2006, she worked in various capacities in Tanzania’s finance ministry and its central bank.
Ambassador Kanza has been recognized for her achievements in advancing economic development. In 2008, she became an Archbishop Tutu Leadership Fellow, and in 2011 a WEF Young Global Leader. In 2020, she was nominated as a Richard von Weizsacker Fellow by the Robert Bosch Academy and the magazine Forbes Africa listed her as one of Africa’s 50 most powerful women. She has served on various boards, including those of the African Leadership Institute – South Africa, Mercy Corps Europe, The Nature Conservancy Africa Council, and the Uongozi Institute.
In 2015, Ambassador Kanza was awarded a Doctorate of Business Administration (honoris causa) from the University of Strathclyde for her role in driving transformative impact in Africa. She also holds a MA in Development Economics from the Center for Development Economics – Williams College; an honorary degree in Finance from the University of Strathclyde; and a BSc (cum laude) in International Business Administration from the United States International University – Africa.

Ralph Chami: Remittances

This talk explores the significant impact of remittances on fragile countries and highlights their role in fostering resilience and stability amidst challenging socio-political landscapes

A photo of Ralph Chami

Burak Uras: Asymmetric Group Loan Contracts

This study investigates the potential of asymmetric contracts in microfinance, revealing their ability to simultaneously enhance financial stability and profitability without sacrificing borrower welfare. Through experimental and theoretical analyses, the research demonstrates the robustness of these benefits across different borrower relationships and market conditions. The findings suggest that asymmetric contracts offer a promising solution to the challenges facing traditional group-lending schemes, potentially reversing the recent decline in interest in such contracts. This research underscores the importance of innovative contract designs in reshaping microfinance practices towards greater sustainability and impact.

Link to PDF Presentation

Tom Glaessner: Myths/Exaggerations and Realties of CBDC

For background info on the talk, please, refer to this paper (click on the event to see a link): Finternet: the financialsystem for the future.
And this one.

Quamrul Ashraf: Growth Diagnostics Primer

While Prof. Ashraf is on sabbatical this year and is not teaching the usual ECON 545: Growth Diagnostics, he would like to share some of its basic principles with the current CDE fellows.

a photo of  Quamrul Ashraf

Ralph Chami: The Value of a Living Nature to our Health and Economic Well-being.

Abstract: Humanity is facing the twin risks of climate change and the loss of nature and its biodiversity. Mitigating these risks hinges on our ability to protect and restore nature. In fact, nature restoration turns out to not only help mitigate climate change but to also help ensure social and economic sustainability.

In this seminar, I will show how we can build markets around nature such that they are nature and people positive. Equity will have to be baked into these markets so as to guarantee that this new wealth is shared with current and future generations and that nature itself is looked after in perpetuity. The new economic paradigm will have nature and people at its core, thereby guaranteeing sustainable and shared prosperity.

A photo of Ralph Chami

Anders Jensen (Harvard Kennedy School): Technology and Tax Capacity: Evidence from Local Governments in Ghana

This paper studies the role of technology in local-government tax collection capacity in the developing world. We first conduct a new census of all local governments in Ghana to document a strong association between technology use and property tax billing, collection and enforcement. We then randomize the use of a new revenue collection technology within one large municipal government. Revenue collectors using the new technology delivered 27 percent more bills and collected 103 percent more tax revenues than control collectors. Collectors using the new technology learned faster about which households in their assigned areas were willing and able to make payments. We reconcile these experimental findings in a simple Beckerian time-use model in which technology allows revenue collectors to better allocate their time towards households that are the most likely to comply with taxpaying duties. The model’s predictions are consistent with experimental evidence showing that treatment collectors are more likely to target households with greater liquidity, income, awareness of taxpaying duties, and satisfaction with local public goods provision. Full paper can be downloaded here.

Jerry Caprio: Banking Crises: why they matter and why so many

Abstract TBD

a photo of  Jerry Caprio

Samuel Berlinski: Impact evaluation of social policies

Principal Economist at the Research Department of the Inter-American Development Bank, Dr. Berlinksi works on education, health and labor markets with a focus on policy development and implementation.

Eric Parrado: Managing Natural Resources Revenues

Eric Parrado is known for his expertise in finance and public policy. Serving as the Chief Economist and General Manager of the Research Department at the Inter-American Development Bank, Parrado’s research and insights greatly impact economic development and financial stability in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Andrew Powell: Commodity Markets: A Primer and Review

Andrew Powell is renown for his contributions to Latin American economic policy and development. His work influences economic strategies in the region, fostering sustainable growth and stability. His insights play a pivotal role in shaping economic discourse and policy implementation.

Apoorv Gupta: The Impact of Relaxing Liquidity Constraints on Small Firm Performance: Evidence from South Africa

We examine the extent to which liquidity constraints are a barrier to firmgrowth
in low-income countries, and study the role that credit policies can play in addressing
them. We combine novel data on small business owners in South Africa’s informal
minibus taxi industry with a program that provided immediate reduction
in payments on the outstanding minibus loan. We find that relaxing liquidity constraints
led to: (i) higher repayments and lower defaults on minibus loan; (ii) an
increase in labor supply; and (iii) better overall financial health. We do not find
any evidence of increase in firm misconduct or risk to passenger safety, suggesting
an improvement in overall welfare. We rationalize these findings using a framework
where penalties arising from late payments under liquidity constraints lead
to future debt overhang, thereby, generating moral hazard in effort.


Anna Gelpern: Current Challenges for Debt Restructuring in Developing Countries

Anna Gelpern, Professor of Law and International Finance at Georgetown University Law School, specializes in international financial regulation and sovereign debt. Her extensive expertise in law and economics has shaped global financial governance. Gelpern’s work is vital in navigating complex financial landscapes and promoting economic stability on a global scale.

Andrew Powell: Sudden Stops During COVID: The Dog that Didn’t Bark

Andrew Powell is renowned for his contributions to Latin American economic policy and development. His work influences economic strategies in the region, fostering sustainable growth and stability. His insights play a pivotal role in shaping economic discourse and policy implementation.

CDE/Per Jacobsson Speaker Series: A Conversation with Ahmad Kaikaus (CDE ’00, World Bank)

The Williams Center for Development Economics (CDE) is delighted to introduce a new initiative – the CDE/Per Jacobsson Foundation Speaker Series. On Sept. 16 and 17, Ahmad Kaikaus, Ph.D., Alternate Executive Director at the World Bank, will inaugurate the series as the first speaker for the 2023-24 academic year.

Dr. Kaikaus earned a master’s degree from Williams College as part of the CDE Class of 2000. From 2019 to 2022, he served as the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Before that, he was the Secretary to the Power Division of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources in Bangladesh. His earlier experience includes working for the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington, D.C., and earning a Ph.D. from the University of Texas, Dallas.

On Saturday, Sept 16, 2023 at 10am ET, Dr. Kaikaus delivered a lecture about his experience as a civil servant in Bangladesh.

On Sunday, Sept 17, 2023 at 10am ET, Dr. Bernard Sheahan (Williams College) interviewed Dr. Kaikaus about key events in his career.

Jenny C. Aker: It’s all fun and games? Using WTP Experiments for Longer-Term Impacts

This paper tests whether Becker-DeGroot-Marschak (BDM) experiment can generate sustained impacts on adoption and usage of an improved storage technology. Using a randomized control trial (RCT), we find that WTP for the technology is lower than the market price, with no differential effects by gender or region. Short-run treatment effects on adoption and usage are positive. Almost two years after the experiment, we find persistent effects on adoption, usage, and storage behavior, as well as reduced use of pesticides and improved self-reported health outcomes. These results suggest that simple experiments can lead to sustained improvements in technology adoption, primarily by allowing households to experiment with the technology.

Uwe Sunde: Preference Convergence Around the World?

Individual preferences are the core of human decision making models. While recent evidence has documented profound preference heterogeneity across and within populations, little is known about its dynamics. Here we test whether heterogeneity in preferences related to time, risk, and social interactions persists or instead converges among more recent birth cohorts across and within countries. Using preference measures for 80,000 individuals elicited in representative samples of 76 countries from all continents, we find evidence of preference convergence among more recent cohorts across countries, both in terms of differences in location (means) and scale (standard deviations). Similar convergence patterns are found among women and men within countries. These convergence patterns obtain for countries at different levels of economic development, with different ethnic composition and historical population flows, and do not reflect convergence to preferences of the US population. (joint work with Rainer Kotschy)

Ralph Chami: Toward a Nature-Based Economy

More info soon

Ralph Chami: Remittances into Low-and Middle-Income Fragile States and Macroeconomic Consequences

A photo of Ralph Chami

Pascual Restrepo: The Task Approach to the Labor Market

Further readings:

Martin Guzman: Addressing Sovereign Debt Crises after Covid-19 and War

Professor of Economics at Columbia U and a former Minister of Economy of the Republic of Argentina, Dr. Guzman had led the management of a sovereign debt crisis that included the second largest sovereign debt restructuring in history (2020). He also developed the economic policy to manage the Covid-19 pandemic in the context of the debt and inflation crises. He will address these and many other initiatives in his talk.

Uwe Sunde: Medication Against Conflict

The consequences of successful public health interventions for social violence and conflict are largely unknown. This paper closes this gap by evaluating the effect of a major health intervention – the successful expansion of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) to combat the HIV/AIDS pandemic – in Africa. To identify the effect, we combine exogenous variation in the scope for treatment and global variation in drug prices. We find that the ART expansion significantly reduced the number of violent events in African countries and sub-national regions. The effect pertains to social violence and unrest, not civil war. The evidence also shows that the effect is not explained by general improvements in economic prosperity, but related to health improvements, greater approval of government policy, and increased trust in political institutions. Results of a counterfactual simulation reveal the largest potential gains in countries with intermediate HIV prevalence where disease control has been given relatively low priority.

Salifou Issoufou: The Role of the IMF in Fragile and Conflict-affected Countries.

The core mandate of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) is to foster international financial cooperation and stability by providing policy advice, lending, and capacity development to its member countries. A significant part of its membership, the fragile and conflict-affected states (FCS) face a variety of protracted challenges – from reduced institutional capacity, limited public service delivery, and extreme poverty to forced displacement and war. The implications of fragility and conflict are macro-critical and relevant to the IMF’s mandate. Fragility and/or conflict destabilize balance of payments positions, disrupt trade and financial flows, and hinder the development of productive resources. Social, economic, political, and security crises in FCS can threaten macroeconomic stability and inclusive growth prospects in neighboring countries and regions. This year, the IMF adopted a new strategy aimed at enhancing its engagement in FCS. Key elements of the strategy include a greater tailoring of IMF’s engagement and instruments to the country-specific manifestations of fragility and conflict; a closer proximity to our most vulnerable members; and enhanced partnerships to amplify the IMF’s impacts in FCS.

photo of Salifou Issoufou 2022

Quentin Wodon: Investing in Human Development in sub-Saharan Africa

Investing in Human Development in sub-Saharan Africa: Challenges and Opportunities

Photo of Quentin Wodon

Owen Ozier: Can Education be Standardized?

Can Education be Standardized? Evidence from Kenya


We examine the impact of enrolling in schools that employ a highly-standardized approach to education, using random variation from a large nationwide scholarship program. Bridge International Academies not only delivers highly detailed lesson guides to teachers using tablet computers, it also standardizes systems for daily teacher monitoring and feedback, school construction, and financial management. At the time of the study, Bridge operated over 400 private schools serving more than 100,000 pupils. It hired teachers with less formal education and experience than public school teachers, paid them less, and had more working hours per week. Enrolling at Bridge for two years increased test scores by 0.89 additional equivalent years of schooling (EYS) for primary school pupils and by 1.48 EYS for pre-primary pupils. These effects are in the 99th percentile of effects found for at-scale programs studied in a recent survey. Enrolling at Bridge reduced both dispersion in test scores and grade repetition. Test score results do not seem to be driven by rote memorization or by income effects of the scholarship.

Full text is available.

a photo of  Ozier

Phil Gerson: Fiscal Rules and COVID–Preliminary Evidence

A number of countries–Advanced Economy, Emerging Market and Low-Income–entered the COVID crisis with fiscal rules that were intended to help meet debt and/or deficit objectives. Despite concerns that these rules might constrain the ability of countries to respond to large shocks, debt and deficits rose markedly among almost all these countries during the pandemic. Moreover, countries that more successfully complied with their fiscal rules prior to the pandemic typically responded more forcefully than others to COVID, possibly reflecting greater credibility or fiscal space. Thus, there is reason to believe that the adoption (and implementation) of fiscal rules can actually enhance the capacity of fiscal authorities to deal with large shocks. However, debt and deficits now stand at unprecedented levels in many countries, and experience from prior episodes indicates that it may take many years for fiscal indicators to return to their prepandemic levels. A new generation of rules may thus be called for.

Teresa Molina: Child Health and Parents’ Economic and Mental Wellbeing

The Long Run Impacts of Child Health on Parents’ Economic and Mental Wellbeing

09/15/22 4:15-5pm

Class of 1960 Lecture

How do parents contend with threats to the health and survival of their children? Can the social safety net mitigate negative economic effects through transfers to affected families? We study these questions by combining the universe of cancer diagnoses among Danish children with register data for affected and matched unaffected families. Parental income declines substantially for 3-4 years following a child’s cancer diagnosis. Fathers’ incomes recover fully, but mothers’ incomes remain 3% lower 12 years after diagnosis. Both parents substantially increase use of mental health care services. Fertility increases, particularly among families in which the child did not survive the cancer. Using variation in the generosity of targeted safety net transfers to affected families, we show that such transfers play a crucial role in smoothing income for these households and, importantly, do not generate work disincentive effects.

Isaac Mbiti: Improving STEM Learning

Improving STEM Learning: Experimental Evidence from Urban Primary Schools in India.

We study the impact of a program that aimed to improve math and science learning in Indian public schools in the city of Pune. The program recruited college students who were majoring in STEM subjects to serve as science and math teaching fellows for the entire academic year. Because the fellows had little to no teaching experience, the program relied on scripted lesson plans to deliver instruction. Relative to regular public school teachers, teaching fellows had higher scores on written assessments of instruction, understanding of student errors, and content knowledge. However, both types of instructors had similar absence rates and other measures of effort. At the end of the school year, students who were randomly assigned to a fellow performed .27-.35 SD better than control peers in math, .17-.20 SD in science. In addition, we find evidence of positive spillovers to language learning. The improvements in math and science persisted through the summer break; students in the treatment group performed .29-.34 SD better in math and .08-.10 SD better in science at the beginning of the following year. Despite these gains, the program did not improve student attitudes towards math and science or alter their plans to pursue these subjects in secondary school, higher education, or careers.

Photo of Isaac Mbiti

Neal Rappaport: From Taliban to Taliban

From the Taliban to the Taliban…How did 20 years in Afghanistan end in chaos?

Abstract TBD

Photo of Neal Rappaport