Recently I read an article on the African BBC News about the effectiveness of development aid. Experts are arguing that it is trade not aid that brings people out of poverty. With the time ticking down until 2015 when poverty is supposed to be halved, the debate is more than necessary. Some want to argue that more aid is not needed, but I would say these people are more interested in using their excess money for self-interest than to use it to help others. Trade and not aid? Trade is dominated by wealthy countries and the corporations within those countries, aid is also dominated by the wealthy countries.
A book released by an NYU economics professor, William Easterly, calls into question the role of international aid bureaucrats. Easterly writes that there are ‘searchers’ and ‘planners.’ ‘Searchers being the people who struggle and strive to make a living through the market and ‘planners’ being the army of aid bureaucrats such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF), UNICEF, the World Health Organization *WHO), and various development banks.
These planners attempt to create ‘grandiose’ plans and try to do too much, which in the end leads to doing nothing. Easterly says that aid agencies should act more like private companies to satisfy their customers. These customers being the world’s poor. If aid agencies think of the those they help as customers instead of human beings in desperate need then I believe we are in trouble. Calling the world’s poor customers is taking away the basic human emotion and essential element of compassion. I feel that the real problem is bureaucracy. These large aid agencies are all in the business of setting regulations and standards which do more harm than good for the world’s poor and those most in need of the agencies help. However aid encompasses both large aid agencies and small non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Professor Easterly is less critical of the NGOs than he is of the aid bureaucracies. The key to aid development to to cut regulations and standards of large bureaucracies and governments. It has been proven to expand and foster dramatic economic growth. Isn’t there an old saying that less is more. Easterly says, “The best tonic for poverty is growth, and the growth has come where the government has de-controlled and allowed competition and enterprise to flourish.” I would also agree with Professor Easterly when he says that he would rather see rich countries give monetary aid to private NGOs and let them run effective programs than to see the rich countries give money to governments.
What is the underlying issue of aid? What is the real solution to the aid dilemma? I can’t say that I am an economics major or that I am an expert in the way of development for the world’s poor, but I can say that I have a fair understanding of how aid should be administered and where it should go. Through my experience I have found that small scale NGOs that work on the ground are key to creating growth and sustainable development of communities in poverty. Large aid bureaucracies are not concerned with people and are more concerned with presenting a false picture of real aid success when in reality people are not being helped. Those who are on the ground doing the hard work need to be funded properly instead of large aid agencies and governments because the small NGOs are the ones who will create the real and lasting change and will impact people in the communities that most need the help.