Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

One World Conservatism

Around the same period as DFID publishing its new white paper on development, the Conservative Party launched its international development Policy Green Paper “One World Conservatism A Conservative Agenda for International Development outlining the Tory vision for international development. Its main focus is to fight against poverty by increasing aid effectiveness and promoting wealth creation through the development of the private sector.

The Conservatives plan to increase aid effectiveness by directly linking aid to results (independently audited by an aid watchdog) on the ground. Central to this strategy is the ‘Cash On Delivery’ policy that will give more aid to countries considered to have met specific measures of progress and less to those where the progress is slow. The same approach will be extended to aid channelled through multilateral organisations with DFID expected “to cut funding to multilateral organisations that fail to demonstrate real results on the ground”.

Corruption as discussed in the BBC news report in Jayne’s earlier post, will be tackled by designating an ‘anti-fraud officer’ on all DFID country programmes. Although in the BBC report this is not the issue, as Dominic O’Neil, the DFID country representative, and Ernest Bai Koroma, the Sierra Leone President are aware of corruption implying the policy focus should be on ways to stop graft rather than gimmick hotlines.

Other conservative policies to increase aid effectiveness include, making three-year rolling aid commitments and giving indicative ten-year projections for aid, carrying out a root and branch review of the 108 countries that receive aid from DFID (more aid will be targeted toward Commonwealth countries), and increasing aid transparency and taxpayer involvement in how and where aid is spent.

Overall many of the policies outlined in the document are light and suffer from some deficiencies. For example, while much is made about linking aid to results on the ground, not much of a policy is forwarded for achieving development that is non-measurable in scientific terms.

With the ‘Cash On Delivery’ policy, countries that most need aid (i.e. those countries that are unable to achieve the set measures of progress) will get less aid, while those that demonstrate signs of being able to support their own development will be given more aid.

The emphasis on quantity (which in development may only be an indicator of short-term success or failure) rather than quality (which if achieved has more long-term development effects) is myopic.    

The ‘My Aid Fund(£40 million in its first year) that gives taxpayers a chance to vote on where and how aid is spent is a gimmick and trivialises development.

On more long- term sustainable development, the green paper advocates wealth creation through the private sector, but is sketchy on how the private sector can be developed in recipient countries and its limits as an instrument of national development.



Blogger Jayne said...

OK, so explain to me what the problem is with linking successful development with more aid? Surely that is better than just chucking out the money whether they get on with it or not?

And also; I'm glad it's detail light on a lot of these things. Isn't the point that developing countries are all different? So different strategies will be required. I see the move away from a one size fits all fix for development as a positive thing.

From a quick look, it's a whole lot better than the Labour one. (Did I really just say that?!)

And thank you for getting Pa Koroma's name right.

04 August, 2009 15:26  
Blogger Robert Meks said...

There's nothing wrong with linking aid to numbers on the ground. But like I point out in the post, when it comes to development, numbers may be short-term indicators that don’t fully capture development in its broadness. See Amtya Sen's Capability approach

I am also not a greater believer in aid. My general view on development is similar to that expressed in Obama’s speech to Ghana’s Parliament. Better governance, institutions and trying to develop a private sector. “We must start from the simple premise that Africa's future is up to Africans” Change from within and not from the outside.

Re light on detail: It doesn't have to be light on detail. Detailed policy can be prepared by country groupings i.e. least developed countries, middle income countries, conflict states etc and tweaked around to suit individual countries.

04 August, 2009 17:38  

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