Eric D. Werker
Associate Professor of Business Administration, Marvin Bower Fellow
Eric Werker is Associate Professor in the Business, Government, and the International Economy Unit and a Marvin Bower Fellow at Harvard Business School. His research explores the political economy, macroeconomics, and business environments of emerging and frontier economies, particularly in Africa.
Professor Werker has written on fragile states, foreign aid, foreign investment, non-governmental organizations, conflict, and governance. His work has been featured in the Financial Times, Washington Post, BBC, NPR, and publications across the developing world.
Outside of academia, Werker is the Lead Academic for the International Growth Centre's program in Liberia and economic advisor to the President of Liberia. He has worked with the US Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation on foreign aid projects and with the NGO Conservation International on low-carbon development. He serves on the Advisory Group of the Center for Global Development, is a Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Center for International Development, and has worked with corporations and nonprofits on their decisions and activities in emerging markets.
Werker earned his Ph.D. and AB in economics from Harvard University. In his spare time, he enjoys family, skiing, climbing, mountain biking. He lives in Somerville with his wife Alana and son Jonathan, 1.
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,” which will focus on the role of domestic policymakers and local business in generating private sector development in poor countries, is only beginning. I kicked this stage off in 2009 when I took a 2-year leave from HBS to advise the Liberian government. I have developed the material for this chapter in the field and in the classroom, and am presently working on a book 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;
private sector development;
The Political Economy of Bilateral Foreign Aid
Despite its developmental justification, aid is deeply political. This paper examines the political economy of aid allocation first from the perspective of the donor country, and then the political economy of aid receipt and implementation from the perspective of the recipient country. When helpful, it draws from studies of multilateral aid. Following those discussions, the paper explores solutions, employed by the development community, to the distortions brought about by the political economy of bilateral aid - distortions that steer aid away from achieving economic development in the recipient country. As it turns out, none of these solutions can shield foreign aid from the heavy hand of politics. Developing countries heavily influenced by foreign aid end up with a different, and novel, governing apparatus.