By Jonathan Glennie, independent writer and researcher, and Gail Hurley, Policy Specialist on Development Finance at UNDP
This blog is part of an ongoing series evaluating various facets
of Development in Transition. The 2019 “Perspectives on Global Development” on “Rethinking Development Strategies” will add to this discussion
It is time to bring aid to an end.
Gradually, maybe, as a few “pockets of poverty” still persist. But this symbol of global collective action that has lasted seven decades will now, inevitably and as planned, be ended.
That is the common view of almost everyone. Whether you are a member of the general public in a “donor” country, still feeling the effects of an economic downturn, or a citizen of a “recipient” country whose economy feels like it is taking off for the first time in living memory. Whether you believe the aid era has been an unqualified failure and should be ended as soon as possible, or that aid has actually been quite successful in promoting development but has now largely “done its job” and can be rolled back as countries reach “middle income” status. Whether you think the hole left behind by aid can be filled by fairer tax collection or by better-targeted private sector finance, both of which are experiencing growth of historic proportions. Even (perhaps especially) if you are part of the aid industry and are well-practised at repeating the mantra that “our job is to do ourselves out of a job”.
Whatever side of the political spectrum you sit on, you are unlikely to disagree with the notion that aid should be decreased as recipient countries’ incomes rise, bringing to an end an experiment intended to kick-start growth in sluggish contexts, but not to last in perpetuity. With only 34 so-called low-income countries left, the only question left to be discussed is how to manage a good “exit strategy”.
Aid is temporary. Success is when aid is no longer necessary.
That’s what we thought, too. That’s what we were taught. But it’s wrong.