The lost secret of aid efficiency

By Simon Scott, Counsellor, OECD Statistics Directorate

Wilson Schmidt
Wilson Schmidt (1927-81). Photo courtesy of Lisa Hill Corley and George Mason University

In 1963 John Pincus of the RAND Corporation suggested redefining aid to reduce all forms of aid to their value as grant or subsidy, and in 2014 the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) agreed to his suggestion. (See an earlier post about this evolution.)

Of course, in the meantime, DAC members had not just been sitting around for 51 years. In 1969 they used Pincus’ “grant equivalent” method in a Recommendation to soften the terms of aid, and in 1972 they used it again to decide which loans were soft enough to count as official development assistance. The World Bank and the IMF also used the method in measures to keep the lid on developing countries’ debt, and the Paris Club used it to equalise creditors’ efforts under different debt relief options.

Yet one potential use of grant equivalents has been thoroughly neglected. Ironically it was the very application of the method that was most discussed 50 years ago, namely its potential to ensure the most efficient use of aid funds.

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