From aid to Global Public Investment: an evolution in international co-operation

DEV-IN-TRANS-BANNER

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


arrows-changeIt 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.

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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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