Impacts of IFPRI’s “Priorities for Pro-poor Public Investment” Global Research Program

This report assesses the impact of the International Food Policy Research Institute’s (IFPRI) Global Research Program on Priorities for Public Investment in Agriculture and Rural Areas (“GRP-3”). Initiated in 1998, the stated objectives of the research program were (1) to increase public investment for rural areas and the agricultural sector given that there is an underspending in the sector and (2) to better target and improve efficiency of public resources to achieve these growth and poverty reduction goals, as well as other development goals.

GRP-3 evolved out of research on the impacts of alternative types of public spending on income and poverty outcomes in India and China that was conducted by staff of IFPRI’s Environment and Production Technology Division (later the Development Strategy and Governance Division). Those studies indicated that public investments in infrastructure—in particular, investments in roads, agricultural research and development (R&D), and education—yielded sizeable marginal benefits in terms of poverty alleviation and income generation in rural areas. This line of research was later expanded to encompass a number of countries in Africa and, to a lesser extent, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. A second major (and ongoing) thrust of the program is to support African governments in establishing public investment priorities and strategies for promoting rural economic growth and poverty alleviation. Major activities undertaken include providing analytical and institutional support to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and evaluations of individual publicly-funded programs in several African countries.

GRP-3 has generated an impressive array of published outputs. The great bulk of these emerged from the research conducted in India and China. A much smaller number of published outputs have been generated by the (more recently conducted) research in Africa; however, a substantial number of papers, book manuscripts, and monographs are in various stages of the publication process. Other important program outputs include a variety of public expenditure databases suitable for assessing the nature and effects of individual countries’ spending priorities.

GRP-3 research has had substantial influence on public expenditure priorities in India and China. Most notably, published research in India played a key role in the institution of the Rural Roads Program that directed huge sums toward construction of roads connecting large numbers of previously unserved villages. Quantitative assessment of the positive impacts from these road investments indicates that IFPRI research can reasonably take substantial credit for lifting tens of thousands of individuals out of poverty and increasing agricultural GDP by billions of rupees. Additionally, in both China and India, GRP-3 research has influenced recent policy conversations that have led to increased spending on agricultural R&D and education. Overall, the program has substantially met its stated objectives in Asia.
GRP-3 research in Africa has yet to fully meet the program’s objectives, in large part because the policymaking process in the countries where IFPRI has been active are still not far enough advanced for the research outputs to have translated into actual policies. Still, some important outcomes have emerged:

The work IFPRI has conducted in support of CAADP has successfully shepherded 19 countries through the Compact process. However, the Compacts are intermediate products; it remains to be seen the extent to which governments follow through on the plans contained within them.

IFPRI’s compilations of disparate public expenditure data in a large number of countries represent a useful local public good for use by research and practitioner communities outside of IFPRI. In addition, IFPRI’s role in guiding the formation and operation of a regional strategic assessment and knowledge support system (ReSAKSS) has boosted, if not created, institutional capacity for future monitoring and evaluation activities.

Research on the impact of public investments in the agricultural sector has been useful to the donor community by providing empirical backstopping for ongoing policy dialogues with governments. However, the difficult—and often contentious—political environment in which those dialogues occur has meant that policy outcomes are still materializing (and far from certain).

Renkow, Mitch
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International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
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