An abundance of natural resources is both an opportunity and a challenge for developing countries. A number of resource-rich, low-income countries receive amounts of foreign aid that are similar to or larger than their actual or potential revenues from natural resources. A new policy research working paper by Octave Keutiben and me develops a growth model to look at some ways in which the donors may help governments of such countries to use their resource revenues productively and minimize the magnitude of risks created by resource rents. The paper’s key conclusion is that making aid countercyclical helps to achieve higher economic growth, and so does conditioning disbursements on enhancement of public capital.
Natural resources are being discovered in more countries, both rich and poor. Many of the new and aspiring resource exporters are low-income countries that are still receiving substantial levels of foreign aid. Resource discoveries open up enormous opportunities, but also expose producing countries to huge trade and fiscal shocks from volatile commodity markets if their exports are highly concentrated. A large literature on the "resource curse" shows that these are damaging unless countries manage to cushion the effects through countercyclical policy. It also shows that the countries least likely to do so successfully are those with weaker institutions, and these are most likely to remain as clients of the aid system. A new World Bank policy research working paper by Anton Dobronogov, Fernando Brant Saldanha, and me considers the question of how donors should respond to their clients' potential windfalls. It discusses several ways in which the focus and nature of foreign aid programs will need to change, including the level of financial assistance.
Donor countries are routinely confronted with the problem of how to allocate the aid budget. The debate on aid allocation has called for various types of indicators including institutional capacities and governance but in the practice of aid allocation a multitude of factors, such as strategic geopolitical interests, budget constraints and internal political considerations, still play an important role in most countries. However, if we focus on welfare indicators and on current practices of aid allocation, there are two monetary indicators that have gained prominence over the last few decades: GDP per capita and the poverty rate. GDP per capita is a natural choice of an indicator that is well understood and widely available. The poverty rate is a more recent choice explained by the new status that poverty acquired as a development objective. For a combination of events such as the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the publication of the World Development Report on poverty in 1990 and the establishment of the Millennium Development Goals in 2000, multilateral organizations have increasingly adopted poverty reduction as the overarching development goal. This new focus on poverty and the increased availability of expenditure surveys worldwide have also enabled the use of poverty measures to rank countries and allocate aid.
The latest Global Monitoring Report analyzes the impact of recent food price spikes on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), paying particular attention to the negative consequences that temporary food price shocks may have on nutrition.
Nutritional outcomes are directly linked to the MDG on hunger (MDG 1.c) and indirectly to most of the remaining development targets, through its effects on cognitive skills of young children and consequently on human capital accumulation. Unfortunately, progress in fighting undernourishment is considerably lagging across nearly all developing regions (figure 1).
The Global Monitoring Report 2012 reports on the remarkable growth in Official Development Assistance (ODA) over the decade through 2010, despite the global financial crisis centered in high-income donor countries. Net ODA reported to the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rose from 0.22 percent as a weighted average of donors’ gross national incomes (GNI) in 2000 to 0.32 percent in 2010 and reached a record high of $127.3 billion in 2010 (at 2009 prices)—very close to the target of $130 billion set at the G-8 Gleneagles Summit in 2005. There is some evidence that international coordination, notably the commitments made at Gleneagles, contributed to the rise in aid disbursements.
Last week, President Zoellick gave a speech at George Washington University in which he outlined his vision of how the aid agenda should adapt to what he described as “shifting tectonic plates,” which has seen the world change dramatically since 1944 when the Bretton Woods system was established. This shift has created a world in which developing countries are now the drivers of the world economy while the developed world is facing severe economic headwinds.
In Zoellick’s vision of a “world beyond aid,” international assistance would be “integrated with—and connected to—global growth strategies, fundamentally driven by investment and entrepreneurship. The goal would not be charity, but mutual interest in building more poles of growth.”
'Development aid’ is always surrounded by questions. Some argue whether it shows results, and some worry about the way it is spent. And the imminent question is, where does it go? Well, it does have some impact. According to the latest UNESCO report ‘Financing Education in Sub-Saharan Africa’, development aid accounts for 50% of the government education budget in some countries of Africa. “Over the last decade public spending on education in Africa has increased by more than 6% each year”, says the report. However, much remains to be done to distribute it well between primary and higher education, as often requirements of the primary education system suffer. Thus, cutting aid is definitely not a smart move as explained by Liz Allcock and Jimmy Kainja in their post ‘Cutting UK aid to Malawi will hurt the poor, not the leaders’.