Debating international aid

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Andrew Natsios gave this speech in October and then announced his retirement from USAID in November. He has now published a revised version of his speech as ‘Five Debates on International Development: The US Perspective.’ On the MDG debate:

No one can possibly argue about the desirability of achieving these goals. It is a bit like arguing against ‘motherhood and apple pie’. What is not being debated is the fact that some MDGs are more important than others to the development process, and yet they are all treated as though they are of equal weight. Moreover, a list of goals, however desirable, does not speak to a strategy to achieve them. Nor is the 0.7% funding benchmark any hard and fast guarantee that what is set out will be accomplished. Adequate funding for development is necessary, but it is far from being a sufficient condition of success. It is also the case that generous aid, when misdirected or misappropriated, can in itself be damaging to transformational development in recipient countries.

The MDGs are also heavily weighted towards social services… In overemphasising these particular goals, we risk underemphasising the importance of equitable economic growth, good governance, and democracy, without which, we cannot produce the tax revenue to sustain the social services that the MDGs embrace. What is needed is a proper emphasis on economic growth as a necessary condition for social services, instead of vice versa.

Read the whole thing for some strong comments about US aid policies, the role of multilateral organizations, the ‘highly centralized’ EU-style aid system, how to increase aid effectiveness and the much debated goal of ‘transformational development’ and the interaction between development and politics.

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