Posts Tagged ‘aid’

More and Better Aid – Bill Easterly Style

September 3, 2009

There is no inherent tension between reforming our aid system to make it more effective, transparent and accountable, and scaling up funding for projects that are making a demonstrable difference in the lives of the world’s poor.

More and better aid.

A focus on aid effectiveness alone ignores the very obvious point that there are numerous practical steps that can be taken immediately to be ameliorating the lives of the world’s poorest and contributing to poverty alleviation – a necessary foundation for development.

Why the single minded focus on aid effectiveness when we know that the limiting factor in many instances is financial.  Primary education, food production, disease control, health, infrastructure, are all in many instances limited by the funds available to be deployed on them.

Of course no one is saying that the primary barrier in all instances is financial, or that aid is a stand alone solution.  That, however, seems to be the focus of many of Professor Easterly’s writings.

His books, in many places, tell a very different story than many of the article he writes.  The short articles are, however, what many people with limited time and understanding of the issues base their opinions on to justify inaction.

It is all about your audience.

If Professor Easterly does not want to be facilitating a drop off of engagement in people who are just starting to be informed and involved in these issues he should be much more overt about it.

Squash the projects that don’t work and advocate for more aid going to the ones that do.  It is not one or the other, it is both.

More and better aid.

Finally, and I am repeating this because I have never seen a good answer to it.  Professor Easterly, in The White Man’s Burden writes:

“Put the focus back where it belong: get the poorest people in the world such obvious goods as the vaccines, the antibiotics, the food supplements, the improved seeds, the fertilizer, the roads, the boreholes, the water pipes, the textbooks, and the nurses. This is not making the poor dependent on handouts; it is giving the poorest people the health, nutrition, education, and other inputs that raise the payoff to their own efforts to better their lives.”

Is that planning?  No, it is just good common sense.  Why can’t we have more aid like that?

Why doesn’t Professor Easterly advocate for more aid to be spent like that instead of just focusing on aid effectiveness?  Has anyone heard a good answer for this?

More and better aid – Bill Easterly style.


Welcome to Bill Easterly Watch

August 30, 2009

Welcome to Bill Easterly Watch.  We actually agree with a fair amount of what Professor Easterly says, however, we see the broken system as the starting point, not the ending point and we don’t think just criticizing without proposing alternatives is making a productive difference.  A point which will be elaborated on in  a future post.

This entire aid “debate” which Bill has placed himself in the center of, hinges on false dichotomies and broad generalizations.  “Huge” amounts of “aid” money have been wasted.  Most of it was given for purposes having nothing to do with development so holding it to development outcomes seems a little silly.  Until the end of the Cold War speaking about “aid” can be somewhat of misleading because it was pretty much used to buy geopolitical allies (very little went for development) so that’s pretty much a write off and useless for trying to gauge future outcomes.

Also, the “huge” amounts of wasted aid referenced by Easterly break down to be very little on a per capita basis.  $2.3 trillion in aid has been spent in the last 50 years.  That also works out to be around $15 per person per year.  Again most of which was given for purposes having nothing to do with development.  Here might I highlight the better part of the more and better aid policy demand of various advocacy organizations.

$15 per person most of which was given for non development purposes, lots of which went to technical consultants or warlords or dictators, lots of which was wasted (on the prerogative of the donors), while confronting the world’s worst pandemic disease, amidst decolonization and countless struggles for power (many of which were funded and fueled by the donors at the expense of the recipients) did not single handedly lift all of the most vulnerable and marginalized populations of the world out of extreme poverty and spur economic growth so therefore we should end aid?

I might be alone here, but the argument that you need to learn how to manage your $15 better seems  a little ridiculous.  Especially keeping in mind that the $15 we’re talking about is one week’s worth of subsidies for a cow in the EU or that in North America we spend a couple thousand annually per person on health care.  Never mind the $18 Trillion that went to bailouts let alone the $14 Billion that went to Wall Street bonuses.  Human equality?  Anyone?