Is aid necessary for development and should one make a distinction between short term and long term aid? How does one judge the effectiveness of aid?

According to the world poverty facts and figures, out of 7 billion people on the Earth, more than 3 billion are living in poverty, which represents almost half of the world population. The report by UNICEF shows that 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. In 2005, 72 million of primary school age children in developing world were even not enroll to any school. Today around 40 million people are living with HIV/AIDS in the world. Every year there are 350–500 million people affected by malaria. 1.1 billion People don’t have access to drinking water and 2.6 billion people lack basic sanitation. (Shah) This list of poverty situation goes on and on. What can be done to deal with some of very extreme poverty situations around the world? One of the recommended solutions by NGOs is development aid, but aid has become a controversial topic among intellectuals and higher authorizes because of its uncertain role in reduction of poverty.

The former CEO of Millennium Challenges Corporation, John Danilovich says that, “One of the best ways countries can combat poverty is to use development assistance to promote a growing private sector, in which the poor can fully participate.” (Danilovich) On the other hand Jacqueline Novogratz the founder and CEO of Acumen Fund, a non-profit global venture fund which aims to solve the problems of poverty says that, “Despite the hundreds of non-governmental organizations and the continued outpouring of foreign aid, East Africa remains as a region overwhelmed by extreme poverty” (Novogratz) Two very contradictory statements made by CEOs of non-profit organizations which nearly work on the similar issues around the world. This is just an example to many other intellectuals who have disagreements about foreign aid. A lot of people on the globe are confused about the contradictory opinions about the foreign aid made by intellectuals and higher authorities. Now the biggest dilemma regarding development aid is that how much development aid contributes towards the development of especially poor and marginalized people. Though there is not a sharp answer to address this problem. But to dig the root problems to understanding this alarming issue one needs to know that when, how and where development aid worked and when, how and where it was failed to achieved its promises. In addition to this, one should know that the outcomes from short term development aid and long term development are completely different. The aid providing agencies should consider the appropriate aid plans according to the needs, requirements and requests of the local people.

First of all, is it reasonable enough to say that aid is the best way to combat the poverty situations?  Let see some of the examples around the world where aid was successful. We will analysis the various factors which contribute towards success of aid in that particular region. Marshall Plan is one of the examples of successful foreign aid. Marshall Plan is formally known as European Recovery Program, sponsored by the US to rehabilitate the economies of the European countries in order to create stable conditions for democratic institutions and for well being of its people (C. Marshall). The Marshall plan was successful to achieve its goals within Europe. The economic growth in the countries assisted by Marshall Plan was tremendous.  Now, one needs to know that was it only the economic assistance from the US which helped Europe to become a Europe today or there are some other factors which work hand by hand with foreign aid to cause economic prosperity of Europe. The aim of Marshall Plan was to rebuild Europe after World War II. Here the term “rebuild” is used which refer that Europe was already a build up strong region. Due to war its infrastructure, industries, academic institutes, trade and economy was broken. So the basic structure, good governance, rule of law, experience and manpower was already available in European countries. At that particular moment they were just in need of some economic assistance to rehabilitate and rebuild their asset. Thus, ones these countries got enough of economic aid they invest it on their industries which create more job opportunities and enhance trade with other European countries and with the US. So if we relate Marshall Plan with Chinese proverb, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” in case of Marshall Plan, it actually provides a fishing rod (foreign aid) to a trained fisherman (Europe), that was the reason Europe able to boost its economy within a short period of time.

Here are some other success stories of development aid. The world’s leading expert on economic development and the fight against poverty, Jeffrey David Sachs, while supporting the debate, “Can Foreign Aid Reduce Poverty?” says that, Asia has gained the biggest success because of foreign aid. For instance, the Economic growth in China, India, Korea, and many other Asian countries have enormously enhance the living standards along with different investments in health, education, and infrastructure after getting foreign assistance (Sachs). Furthermore, development aid is also successful in the following programs. The Asian Green Revolution: This program was aim to reduce extreme hunger in developing countries. Smallpox Eradication: Today smallpox is eradicated from world through smallpox eradication aid.  Family Planning: It helps to control the explosive growth rate in developing world. Treatment for AIDS, TB, and Malaria is also successful in developing countries especially in African. (Sachs) Moreover, in small level many other development aid programs work very well for the betterment of poor and marginalized people.

Even though development aid has played a vital role in the reduction of extreme poverty and hunger, improve health, control population growth, and helped some countries to boost economic growth. Then why a considerable number of people don’t support development aid and ask for alternative solutions. George Ayittey is an economist and president of the Free Africa Foundation in Washington DC claims in the debate, “Can Foreign Aid Reduce Poverty?” that “more than $450 billion foreign aid—the equivalent of six Marshall Plans—has been pumped into Africa since 1960, with negligible results.”  African Union report claimed that “Africa loses an estimated $148 billion annually to corrupt practices.” (G. Ayittey) In addition to this, following are some of the huge development aid projects in Africa which were failed to achieve their goals. According to the ABC News, “The Chad-Cameroon Oil Pipeline to the Atlantic Ocean Project” was funded $ 4.2 billion by world Blank. This project was aim to spend money on development of people but due to corrupt governance and lack of monitoring this money is now use to buy weapons by government. “The Lake Turkana Fish Processing Plant”, this project was funded $22 million by Norwegian government to create job opportunities in Turkana Africa, but local people are nomads and they even don’t eat fish. This project was shut down after few weeks (ABC News). I wonder what makes Norwegian government think to create a fish pond in a desert for nomads. Such projects are like throwing money into the fire. The list of failed projects is pretty long and most of the time projects are failed because local needs are not considered by donors. The donor organizations just come up with projects like Turkana Fish Plants which are completely out of context for that region.

According to the intellectuals there are many reasons particularly in African countries due to which foreign aid is not productive. In the interview “Is Aid Killing Africa?” with Dambisa Moyo an international economist and author of “Death Aid” to ABC News says that, “during 1970 only 10% of Africans live in poverty and now 70% and in some countries as high as 80% of  people live in poverty when the aid model is become so dominant.” (Moyo)  When she was asked if not aid then what can be a solution. She says that, the local market should given chance to invest money and produce its own goods. Only development aid will not work because there is no money in the African markets like other Asian countries.  Moyo claims that corruption is not the problem due to which development aid doesn’t work rather she believes that aid money causes corruption. According to Moyo “aid money makes good government bad and bad government worst” because it is free money and the feedback mechanism for foreign aid is also weak. Moyo states that aid money is transfer of money from rich countries to the rich politicians of the poor countries. The poor people of African countries are incentives to get aid therefore politicians didn’t want to improve the livelihood of its people. She argues that, ones aid will stop to Africa the African government will work on local productions which will create job opportunities and it will help people in long run of economic growth. Moyo claims that to get out of extreme poverty situation “African people needs jobs not aid”. (Moyo)

From here we can see that only pouring money to any country really doesn’t work. In order to get a productive result from any development aid program, aid organizations need to consider  political condition, available resources, needs and demands of local people, corruption rate, and above all a sustainability of the development aid in that area. Spoon feeding in the form of development aid can’t help people to come out of extreme poverty. Aid is not a sustainable way to enhance economic growth of any country, rather it escalates the dependency on others. Even local productions get diminishing in the long run of continuous foreign aid which causes unemployment. The development aid was successful in European countries because they were not wholly dependent on foreign aid, but in case of African countries most of the government budget is development aid. Other reason behind aid failure in Africa is that most of the development programs treat all African countries equally. Africa is not a country, it is a continent and there are 53 countries in the continent. Most of them have very different economic growth, needs and poverty situation. So “one fit all” plans can’t work for Africa. Instead, development organizations should come up with such projects which are feasible in that particular country which is given foreign aid.

The other important thing about development aid is the duration. The development organizations usually come up with two types of plans: long term development aid programs and short term development aid programs. Long term development aid is aim to broaden a country’s progress. It enhances the change of development for the upcoming days and open novel ways for the people to savor the better life and to become more self-sufficient. (What is Aid?) Short-term or relief aid are the aid programs use to address the emergencies, such as natural disasters, floods, cyclones, earthquakes etc. It is also use to help war effected people and refuges. It gets funds from different countries across the globe to help effected people in need. (What is Aid?) Most of the world’s aid is use for mega projects such as building roads, schools, and small to big industries, hospitals, immunization programs for larger communities and many more. A good number of these programs are working in developing world. The main aims of these mega projects are promising a better future for the citizens of developing world and boost the economy. Long term development aid becomes controversial in terms of achieving development in developing countries. Many of the intellectuals like Moyo and N. Ayittey consider aid in general and long term development aid in particular as the biggest thread for development. They believe that aid creates dependency on foreign countries and local productions are most of the time shut down. As a result, unemployment and poverty increases among low income and poor people. On the other hand economists like Jeffrey Sachs and others claim that development aid especially the long term development aid plans helpful for developing countries to come out of poverty. They believe that long term development programs create job opportunities while providing enough economic help to under privilege communities who may otherwise have no any chance to improve their living standards.

In contrast, the short term development aid or relief fund is given to countries which face a sudden disaster either natural disasters or man-made disasters by international community. Most of the time relief funds including very basic needs for human beings for instance, food, drinking water, first aid, temporary shelters, mobile hospitals. The aim of short term development aid is to safe as many lives as they can from affected areas. Addition to addressing sudden unpleasant events some of the short term development aid also provides scholarships for students, provides health assistance for disease outbreak for short time periods and other small level development projects to small communities. Like, micro finance, opening of village level business projects for rural people and they also ensure the participation of local people in these projects. Almost all intellectuals, economists and ordinary people support short term development aid and especially the relief funds to lessen the harmful effects of adversities. In fact, very less or virtually no opposition for short term development aid and relief funds is recorded till now. It is mostly because short term relief funds are aim to safe lives in curious situations. In addition to this, relief funds are for short term, are specific in amount and given directly to the deserving people. Though some of the relief funds may be misuse by corrupt management due to lack of proper monitoring. Mainly, the relief funds have positive outcomes. After having a brief comparison between long term and short term development aid plans one can say that it is a duty of every human being to help others in need. Short term development aid plans are more successful because without it survival for affected people will be very difficult and causality rates will be very high in affected areas. Further one can see the outcome from short term development plans in a short span of time in contrast to the long term development plans which mainly focuses on the better future. While working to achieve the long term goals many plans lack to follow up and many of the programs are shut down due to lack of monitoring and effective evaluations.

Consequently, most of the economists don’t favor long term development plans. In fact, none of us know that what will happen to us in very next moment and anyone at anywhere can face a natural or man-made disasters. Therefore, denial for short term development aid especially for relief funds has no any tangible reason. Long term development aid may also be beneficial if it will plan according to the needs of local people and ensure the involvement of local people for better outcomes. I think long term development aid should be feasible, practicable and should be for a specific time period rather than pouring money for years and years without any solid results.

To judge the effectiveness of an aid a regular feedback is the integral constituent to evaluate the progress and proper performance of the development aid. A constructive feedback also accentuates the strengths and weaknesses of the development plan. It helps to improve the overall performance of the project and reduces the chance of redundant errors in the plan. According to the article, “Aid Effectiveness: The Myth of NGO Superiority” published by the Global Policy Forum says that the aid provided by NGOs is essential in many ways but the, “allocation [of aid] has hardly been mapped” because they don’t want critical analysis which may expose their failures. (Global Policy Forum) On the other hand, the Analyst in Foreign Assistance Marian L. Lawson in her research paper, “Does Foreign Aid Work? Efforts to Evaluate U.S. Foreign Assistance” says that the methodologies, aid evaluations processes and policies differ from organization to organizations. The purpose of aid evaluation is to appraise the “accounting for resources, informing policymakers, and building local oversight and project design capacity.” (Lawson)  To have a proper monitoring in all above mentioned fields is not a cup of tea for any organization. According to Lawson there are other challenges like, “unclear aid objectives, emphasis on accountability for funds, methodological challenges, compressed timelines” (Lawson) and many more make it difficult to have a momentous aid evaluation. Thus, many of the NGOs refrain to have a proper aid evaluation. Though we acknowledge the challenges faced by NGOs and other aid development organizations. Yet, NGOs should not exempt from having a constructive feedback mechanism to get a meaningful evaluation for future help and to analyze the progress. One of the important step to have a constructive feedback should be the post and per surveys and analyze the data to see the effects of aid program. In such surveys local people should asked about the performance of aid and should take their suggestions to make the aid helpful. After conducting the survey aid policies should be amended according to the findings. These surveys should be affordable, feasible and should focus on the whole program rather than on individuals.

As a result of above discussion on the foreign aid this paper comes to the conclusion that effectiveness of foreign aid varies among countries due to presence of different resources, economic status, political conditions, corruption rates, nature of the foreign assistance, level of dependency on foreign aid and the purpose of aid given by the foreign communities and organizations. Most of the time Foreign aid is failed in countries which are almost fully dependent on foreign aid, especially those countries whose annual budget includes more than 50% foreign aid. On the other hand foreign aid is helpful for those developing countries which have comparatively stable political conditions and growing economies. Often, long term foreign aid programs are not successful. However, the short term development aid programs and relief funds have played a vital role in human growth and development during unpleasant conditions. Lastly it has been noticed that most of the NGOs don’t have a proper feedback mechanism due to various intricate procedures and incomprehensible challenges to monitor the performance of development aid. Due to which NGOs usually fail to strengthen their positive outcomes and to improve the required needs to achieve the aim of development aid. In fact, it is essential to have a constructive feedback to evaluate the progress.




Works Cited

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Report for Congress Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress Does Foreign Aid Work? Efforts to Evaluate U.S. Foreign Assistance.” Congressional Research Service. CRS Report for Congress, 13 Feb. 2013. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.

Moyo, Dambisa. “Is Aid Killing Africa? Dambisa Moyo Talks about Dead Aid on ABC.”

YouTube. ABC News, 4 May 2009. Web. 1 Dec. 2015

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Nunnenkamp, Peter. “Aid Effectiveness: The Myth of NGO Superiority.” Global Policy Forum, Apr. 2008. Web. 25 Nov. 2015.

Sachs, Jeffrey, and George B. N. Ayittey. “Poverty.” Can Foreign Aid Reduce Poverty? (2009): 1-31. Congressional Quarterly Inc., 2009. Web. 2 Dec. 2015.

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