Thursday, December 17, 2009

Five Second ... Barder

The Center for Global Development is proposing to give additional aid money to countries that show real progress in education and other development goals. This idea is not particularly new, but it shows several improvements over the usually imposed conditionalities proposed to deal with aid fungibility. Owen Barder discusses:
My own view is that linking aid directly to results will help to change the politics of aid for donors. Many of the most egregiously ineffective behaviours in aid are a direct result of donors’ (very proper) need to show to their taxpayers how money has been used. Because traditional aid is not directly linked to results, donors end up focusing on inputs and micromanaging how aid is spent instead, with all the obvious consequences for transactions costs, poor alignment with developing countries systems and priorities and lack of harmonisation. If we could link aid more directly to results, I think donors will be freed from many of the political pressures they currently face to deliver aid badly; and it would be politically easier to defend large increases in aid budgets.
He also characterizes (caricatures?) oppositions to CoD as a desire to defend professional aid workers' privileged positions, opines that giving successful national governments more ownership of development process will improve outcomes, and has this to say about those who become public servants (whether through politics or aid):

Nearly all politicians [and aid professionals] enter politics for the noblest of motives: to contribute to the improvement of the society in which they live. To a very large extent they retain those values through their political career. But over time there can be a gradual erosion of the distinction in their minds between their own interests and the service they give to others: some politicians gradually come to think that increasing their own power is the service of others, because they believe that they will exercise that power better than anyone else. Politicians are, of course, at their most dangerous when they can no longer distinguish their own interests from the interests of the people they are meant to serve.
At a dinner this week celebrating my graduation last year, a possibly apocryphal story was told of an upstart challenger who argued that the incumbent had spent his first term giving benefits to his family, his next to his extended family, and his most recent to all his friends. The time for change had come. The storied response of the senior political figure was that, yes, he had done as the young fellow claimed. That meant that he had now paid his dues and could finally serve the public, while the challenger would have to make these same concessions in his turn.

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