Research Summary


by Eric D. Werker


My research aims to understand how prosperity is created in poor countries. My first “chapter” in this larger quest has focused on how rich-country actors have managed to be a force for change in poor-country economies. I have investigated the various attempts of governments and non-profits to reduce poverty and effect change in the developing world. Some of my findings and views are summarized in "The Political Economy of Bilateral Foreign Aid," found below; on the whole, I find that rich-country efforts to alleviate poverty in the developing world are often self-serving, can deeply affect the economy but not necessarily generate top-line growth, and initiate a number of distortions to the domestic political economy—not all of them good. My second “chapter” focuses on the role of domestic policymakers and local business in generating private sector development in poor countries. In 2009 I took a 2-year leave from HBS to advise the Liberian government, which generated new hypotheses, data, and course material for this chapter. The extractive sector has figured prominently in this work. I am presently working on an article on developing and investing in frontier markets as well as a series of papers on the political economy of the business environment in developing countries.

Keywords: Foreign aid; Africa; private sector development; emerging markets; economic development; political economy; non-governmental organizations; fragile states; governance; natural disasters; Private Sector; Emerging Markets; Development Economics; Non-Governmental Organizations; Natural Disasters; Africa; Liberia;