Increased Aid: Minimising Problems, Maximising Gains

Edited by: James Manor

September 2005
Volume 36 Number 3

A major increase in the amount of aid to less developed countries is widely anticipated, by or soon after late 2005, to bolster efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. The sums involved may not be as substantial as expected, and they come mainly from Europe, but we are still likely to see a significant enhancement of funds for development. With them will come both opportunities and dangers – which the articles in this collection analyse. We give more attention to the dangers, because we seek to minimise them. Our main concern is to anticipate problems so that they can be tackled. This is crucial because if a major increase in aid yields disappointing results, the future of development assistance could be called into question – it could make aid, not poverty, history. This IDS Bulletin discusses issues that must be addressed to maximise constructive impact. Some contributors oppose additional aid, though most offer less negative views while recognising attendant problems. Recipient governments’ efforts to promote fiscal discipline and export-led growth already face serious impediments, and may be unhinged altogether with additional aid. Fragmentation of donor efforts may also undermine governments’ absorptive capacity. Governance reforms, perhaps crucial for effective use of additional aid, may be damaged if they are accelerated in direct response. Such issues should be taken seriously, since steps can be taken to deal with them; many articles here offer suggestions. If problems are not addressed, they could provide ammunition for those who claim incorrectly that aid cannot work, and discredit the case for generous aid flows. We want aid to be made history – but for the right reasons.