Thursday, April 22, 2010

Policies of aid

Recently, UN opened a website aiming to allow a better follow-up of the ways in which the aid for Haiti is directed and used. A good initiative, but it is only a start in order to offer a bigger transparency and, finally accountabiliy of the ways in which the financial support for countries in need is used - and, sometimes, abused.

The current policies of aid is often in center of debates contesting the lack of efficiency and the contribution in increasing corruption and poverty. The critiques are mostly referring to Africa, and one of the last references I´ve read recently is the book of Dambissa Moyo, Dead Aid. Why is not working and how there is another way for Africa.

There are many food for thought information and data regarding the desperate situation from Africa and the lack of consistency of the sustained Western effort in delivering lots of aids and financial incentives to the continent. And, very important, that you need to have a serious support and background in these efforts coming from the region, as the local ownership might be an incentive in creating responsibilities and increasing the efficiency in using the money. In other words, an "anti-colonialistic" and "anti-orientalistic" frame in reconsidering the Western perspectives on Africa, beyond the more or less "entertainement" frame where pop stars are promoting their social profiles using the poverty from the region as a paravan.

Some paradoxes, confirmed by the data used in the book, are rising various questions regarding the lack of efficiency of the last decades efforts directed to Africa - in comparison, for example, with the post-WWII Marshall Plan, for example. For example, between 1970 and 1998, when the aid flows to Africa were at their peak, the poverty rate rose from 11 to 66%. The continent became fully depend on the foreign aid: "Presenty, Africa receives development assistance worth almost 15% of its GDP - or more than four times the Marshall Plan at its high. Given Africa´s poor economic performance in the past fifty years,while billions of dollars of aid have poured in, it is hard to grasp how another swathe of billions will somehow turn Africa´s aid experience into one of success" (p.36). In addition, the system disfunctionalities apparently were nurtured by the foreign financial support, with rampant corruption, political instability and institutional vulnerabilities.

The books do not provide solution(s) and it is rather a general evaluation of the situation, focusing more on general examples than on a case-by-case analysis of the situation. In many respects, I felt the need of more information and reports and economic references. An interesting solution outlined, but not too much developed further is to use the policy of bond market, which I find a creative alternative, but in order to emit bonds, you need a reliable market, a case not very sure for many African countries. The final pledge for more creativity is welcomed, but in the case of political science, you need more stable elements in order to create long term perspectives for institutional and, not less important, economic development.

In fact, my feeling after reading this book was that I agreed with many ideas regarding the failure of the policies of aid and I had more insights about the scale of the lack of achievements, but I am still moving around understanding how it is possible to go beyond the current level of underdevelopment. Maybe an approach based on investigative journalism skills will reveal more about the scale of lack of success and, by identifyng clearly - and not only rhetorically - the main actors - will be possible to build up further reliable scripts for new perspective(s).

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