March Madness is about to begin

A few years back I had just left the Doctor’s office. He told me that I should rest, take my medication and rest. My lungs were acting up again. Since the late 70’s I have lived with sarcoidosis. The cure, prednisone. Not much of a cure I am afraid to say, but without it sarcoid would probably have done me in a long time ago.

I am not much of a basketball fan but during that bout of illness March madness hit me. I turned on the television and it seemed to be everywhere. Somehow it got under my skin and hooked me. I watched with avid interest and followed it daily. March madness had captivated my imagination. I had even chosen a team to root for.

Today it looks like we are about to experience another MARCH MADNESS.

Yesterday the news reporter said we are likely to enter, dare I say it, a depression. The economy has captured our attention. Madness is prevalent. Questions are popping up on the internet: Is Obama doing it right? Has America once again slid the world in to yet another precarious round of jumping through hoops? Global warming, auto industry failures, steroid investigations, redistributing cash flows, grants, loans, bailouts etc.; all buzzwords being heard above the din of just trying to survive.

In the meantime Laura Rawlings (Country Sector Leader for Central America-World Bank) and Gloria Rubio (Deputy Director of Social Programs Evaluation-Mexico)—both research people from the World Bank—tell us about how many of the world’s poor are helping to create an alternative model. It is a model so simple that it risks getting lost in the mayhem. The following words appeared in The World Bank Research Observer (2005),

Several developing economies have recently introduced conditional cash transfer programs, which provide money to poor families contingent on certain behavior, usually investments in human capital, such as sending children to school or bringing them to health centers. The approach is both an alternative to more traditional social assistance programs and a demand-side complement to the supply of health and education services. Unlike most development initiatives, conditional cash transfer programs have been subject to rigorous evaluations of their effectiveness using experimental or quasi-experimental methods. Evaluation results for programs launched in Colombia, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Turkey reveal successes in addressing many of the failures in delivering social assistance, such as weak poverty targeting, disincentive effects, and limited welfare impacts. There is clear evidence of success from the first generation of programs in Colombia, Mexico, and Nicaragua in increasing enrollment rates, improving preventive health care, and raising household consumption. Many questions remain unanswered, however, including the potential of conditional cash transfer programs to function well under different conditions, to address a broader range of challenges among poor and vulnerable populations, and to prevent the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

That last line is the clincher, the prevention of intergenerational transmission of poverty.

Perhaps it is time to look again at March Madness. Perhaps it is time to declare who the teams are and what the ultimate prize will be.

For over 20 years when The Back Door first began it was interesting to see who the opposition was. It was interesting to hear what reasons were used to say the concepts of contracts and bonuses just would not work. It was interesting to see and hear the criticism from both the right and the left. Now during March Madness the same words used in the creation of the contract and bonus process are being used to describe the economics of the global setting.

In the words of the NCAA: March Madness is about to begin. The clock is ticking. The countdown is happening. The teams are about to be chosen. In our efforts to see global economic change will we allow all the winning teams to play? Perhaps it is time to look again to recognize that an underdog could upset the whole show. Perhaps it is time to pay attention to the game plan being modeled by the poorest of the poor.

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