Jonathan Glennie talks about his new book, The Trouble With Aid.
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Jonathan Glennie is the Christian Aid country representative in Bogota, Colombia, and he campaigned as part of Make Poverty History. His new book, The Trouble With Aid, argues that when you take into account all the effects that aid has, it can do more harm than good. In this episode of Development Drums, Jonathan explains why he thinks that many countries should make it a priority to reduce their dependence on aid.
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This is an important debate and I found the title and the cover of the book more negative than Jonathan’s arguments, which are much more balanced.
The big challenge of impact assessment for aid as a whole is the lack of the “counter factual”. What would have happened without the aid?
Jonathan criticises the policies encouraged by donors, but would the recipients have had a. better policies in the absence of aid; b. the same policies (because conditionality does not work) or c. worse policies (because donors are worse at deciding on sensible policies than developing country governments). All 3 are in practice true in different countries and times we do not have good enough evidence on the balance. And don’t forget that policies backed by conditions are not necessarily imposed against the will of the democratic government if the government also favours the reforms but welcomes the added help and discipline of the aid process to see the process through.
Structural adjustment was plainful and much criticised by the NGOs, but was necessary because policies were unsustainable. Without structural adjustment and IMF lending there would still have been a lot of poverty in Africa – possibly more in the long run and even the short run. Did the loans and changing policies lay the foundation for better macro policies and economic growth especially after 2000?
The accountability arguments are also complicated. Donors have recognised the problem, and focused on new and better aid principles which are known as “Paris” principles. Are the criticisms still as valid today as they were in the past? Can’t we have, and actually need, a lot of aid in fragile and landlocked African economies, but use it to nuture accountability rather than undermine it.
If we focused aid on the most capable countries (like Botswana, that Jonathan favours) we would reduce relatively speaking aid to the poor and on countries that need it most. Aid allocation models would sgguest more aid for fragile states like DRC, which have huge numbers of poor. Even though governance and aid effectiveness is lower, it is not so much lower that shifting more aid to the fragile states away from the emerging market and best governed ones, would be a good move from the overall poverty reduction impact.
Growth does not always lead to poverty reduction in the short run as inequality can increase, but in the long run growth is ususally seen as key – accounting for 80% of poverty reduction according to an oft cited paper by World Bank economists. Dutch disease needs to be managed but even the IMF agree that it is not a stumbling block to achieving the MDGs.
Fundamentally those that are skeptical should consider how we can accelerate development without aid. Trade, migration, and subsidies are all important but are they really alternatives, and will they deliver the sort of transofrmation that we need?
Not everyone agrees with Jeff Sachs, but I think he has a point that it does take some resources to achieve the MDGs and it is impossible to genereate the revenues needed if your GDP is $300 per person or less, leaving typically about 15% or $45 dollars per person to do everything (not just deliver the MDGs, which have been costed at more like $100 per person). What sort of health system can you deliver for $8 per person per year which is not untypical?
African countries face great challenges – more land-locked, terrible infrastructure, enormous health problems including HIV/AIDS, increadibly weak institutions. I agree with Owen that aid has actually been little rather than a lot, particularly given the context.
But Jonathan makes lots of good points – eg to focus on climate change, capital flight etc. Why can’t he (or better still, Bill Easterly) write a book on “how to develop Africa” rather than “the trouble with aid”. Get on to the positive agenda/focus on solutions. Is it because this gets less media attention and sells fewer books?
(Although I work for DFID these are personal comments).
Great job Owen – my comments are rather superfluous to the good arguments you made, but I thought it worth trying to stimulate some active debate.
MJPC blames the Congolese Government for the Deteriorating Situation in East Congo(DRC)
“There is no excuse for missing to pay salaries to soldiers in lawless eastern Congo for six months”
Following the deteriorating situation in east Congo, the MJPC called today for the Congolese Government to urgently pay the salaries to thousands of soldiers who have not been paid for over six months in eastern Congo, take swift action to enforce the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) warrant against Bosco Ntaganda and to hold accountable perpetrators of sexual violence against women for their acts.
“Failing to hold accountable individuals who commit war crimes and crimes against humunity continues to be the leading cause of widespread and systematic sexual violence acts against girls and women in the easten Congo” said Makuba Sekombo, Community Affairs Director of the Mobilization for Justice and Peace in the DR Congo (MJPC).
Mr. Sekombo again criticized the government of Congo for not only the continuing failure to protect women and young girls from sexual violence, but also for “encouraging conditions that create opportunities for sexual violence to occur”. “There is no excuse for missing to pay salaries to soldiers in the lawless eastern Congo for six months” said Sekombo. The MJPC has also renewed its call for the Congolese government to take urgent needed action to end human rights abuses in east Congo, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure reparation for the victims of sexual violence.
The MJPC has been urging the Congolese government to compensate the victims of sexual violence in order to also help combat impunity in eastern part of Congo where sexual violence against women and children has been widely used as weapon of war for more than decade. The MJPC online petition calling for help to put pressure on Congolese Government to compensate victims of sexual siolence in Eastern DRC can be signed at http://www.gopetition.com.au/online/26180.html
MJPC works to add a voice in advocating for justice and peace in the DRC particulary in the east of DRC where thousands innocent civilian including children and women continue to suffer massive human rights violations while armed groups responsible for these crimes go unpunished
For more information about the MJPC and its activities, visit http://www.mjpcongo.org. or call Makuba Sekombo @ 1-408-8063-644 or e-mail: email@example.com. The online petition calling on the Congolese Government to put urgently in place a comprehensive program of compensation for the victims of sexual violence in eastern Congo can be signed at http://www.gopetition.com.au/online/26180.html
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