Extensive thought has been devoted to aid and development and to migration and development. We have thought less however about whether migration could replace development aid, how far and in what conditions. In a book I have just written called, “Development Without Aid: The Decline of Development Aid and the Rise of the Diaspora” (Anthem Press) I try to provide answers.
The principal objection to the replacement idea is that, predominantly, migrant remittances go to private consumption not to investment in public goods. Yet there is much evidence that aid itself has done a poor job on public goods and gets diverted into (conspicuous) consumption, whereas a diaspora can, in fact, provide public goods, while the consumption it generates goes more to basic needs.
My instincts about the problems of development aid grew up with me in British Colonial Nyasaland; deep down therefore the book is based on hunch as much as evidence. But there is much evidence - manifested in well-documented problems of aid fragmentation, dependence, the breakdown of links between governors and governed, clientelism and inducement to corruption. Other systemic issues arise such as the Resource Curse whereby high Aid-to-GNI ratios bid up exchange rates and undermine exports. But beyond these issues the problems of aid are fundamentally about power relationships and ‘ownership’.