Easterly Slams Aid Agencies (again)

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in at 10/05/2007 03:32:00 PM
The title of this post is about as surprising as "Cheney Finds Success in Iraq" or "John Lipsky Sees Clear Sailing for the Global Economy." There's a bit of a twist, however. Mr. White Man's Burden William Easterly, who has written in the past for the libertarian Cato Institute, now answers in the negative to the question "Are Aid Agencies Improving?" for the left-leaning Brookings Institution. Dang, I guess it's becoming a more commonly-held view that the West's efforts to aid the rest have done so much ill and so little good, as the subtitle of Easterly's book suggests. To be honest, even if I am more sympathetic to the Easterly than the Sachs argument in the Easterly-Sachs debate, I must say that Easterly is becoming very repetitive. Yes, pretty much everyone now agrees things need to be fixed, but please do give suggestions on how to search for workable solutions. Here is part of the introduction:
For long-time observers of foreign aid, “make poverty history” in Africa and other poor countries has some disquieting signs. The United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF, and the national aid agencies have signed on to an ambitious project called the “Millennium Development Goals,” in which poverty rates, infant mortality, and other key indicators of low development would be dramatically reduced by the year 2015. To achieve this, aid agencies have embraced and advocated a program of large aid increases. There is a long debate about how effective is foreign aid at creating economic development and eliminating poverty, going back to Rostow (1960), Chenery and Strout (1966), Bauer (1972), Cassen (1987), World Bank (1998), the UN Millennium Commission (2005), Sachs (2005), and Easterly (2006). Yet despite sharply contrasting views on the effectiveness of aid, there is a surprising degree of unanimity that the aid system is today deeply flawed and could be much improved.
And here is part of the conclusion:
The record of the aid agencies over time seems to indicate weak evidence of progress due to learning or changes in political support for poverty alleviation. The positive results are an increased sensitivity to per capita income of the recipient (although it happened long ago in the 1970s), a decline in aid tying, and [a] decrease in food aid as a share of total aid. Most of the other evidence--increasing donor fragmentation, unchanged emphasis on technical assistance, litle or no sign of increased selectivity with respect to policies and institutions, the adjustment lending-debt relief imbroglio--suggests an unchanged status quo, lack of response to new knowledge, and repetition of past mistakes.