Early modernisation theorists believed that it was essential to inject aid into countries to establish infrastructure and change attitudes. From the 1950s to 70s aid programs seemed to have a positive effect on many developing countries as both economic and social development increased, however this progress seamed to stall from the late 1970s.
Contemporary supporters of aid believe that aid is not necessarily a bad thing, but aid needs to be targeted, its effects monitored and accountability measures need to be in place, so that aid money doesn’t go astray, like the $10 billion lent to Indonesia during General Suharto’s rule between 1965-1995.
NB Official Development Aid is only one type of aid, for an overview of all types of development aid, please see this post: different types of development aid.
The advantages of Official Development Aid
In the ‘End of Poverty’ (2005) Sachs notes that large scale aid can work when it is practical, targeted, science based and measurable. He believes in aid as ‘one big push’ to sort out specific problems. He points to the following evidence to support his view that aid works:
- Firstly, aid aimed at improving health has been particularly successful. Aid money has led to mass immunisation of children against diseases such as smallpox and measles, polio, diphtheria. Smallpox was practically wiped out with $100 million of very targeted aid aimed at vaccinating those most at risk. Today, Barder (2011) points out that every year foreign aid pays for 80% of immunisations and saves 3 million lives a year.
The recent sharp decline in Malaria deaths is largely due to targeted immunisation, paid for by international aid, a cause championed by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation
- Secondly – The Green Revolution – In the 1960s, Western Aid assisted in the green revolution in China, India and South East Asia which saw rice yields increase by 2-3 times, leading to surplus rice being produced for export. Such countries were then able to use the income generated by these cash crops to diversify and grow their economies, transforming into Newly Industrialised Countries (The Asian Tiger Economies). The video below outlines the case for the Green Revolution.
(NB – as a counter criticism you should check out ‘The Mythology of the Green Revolution, featuring Vandana Shiva – basically a ‘post-development perspective on the green revolution.)
- Thirdly, Numerous countries, known as the International Development Association (IDA) graduates have gone on to ‘drive to maturity’ following large injections of aid money. Riddel (2014) argues that there is a substantial body of evidence that South Korea, Botswana and Indonesia have all benefited economically from Official Development Assistance.
Aid can support the Interests of Developed Countries (*)
According to Marren (2015), there is plenty of evidence that aid is shaped by the self-interest of the donor countries:
- Aid may be used as a ‘sweetener’ to gain access to resources and markets and foster better trade links. The USA has used aid to guarantee access to scarce resources such as oil, while the increased donor activity of China in recent years may be linked to its need for raw materials. This goes some way to explaining why more aid money goes to lower-middle income countries rather than low-income countries – put simply, donor countries stand to gain more from giving aid the slightly better off rather than the very poorest.
- Aid may be a way stimulating the donor economy. Some countries attach conditions to aid stipulating that a proportion of the funds must be spent on goods manufactured in the donor country. This is known as ‘tied aid’. The UK banned this kind of aid in 2001, although research conducted by The Guardian newspaper found that only 9 out of a total of 117 major DFID contracts (worth nearly £750 million) had gone to non-British companies.
- Aid may be a way of strengthening political links and securing strategic interests. Countries which are viewed by the Americans as allies in the ‘War against Terror’ are generously rewarded with aid. A recent study of U.S. Aid since the 2000s showed that the main destinations were Afghanistan, Iraq and Egypt. Similarly, UK aid is increasingly being spent on military objectives.
Statistics on the Benefits of UK Aid (*)
The majority of UK aid spent between 2015-2019 was spent in Africa, and you can get a detailed breakdown of expenditure by sector and region in the most recent DFID report linked below (NB DFID has now merged with the FCO, so whether future reporting will be the same remains to be seen!)
Combatting malnutrition – From 2015-2020 DFID reached 55.1 million children under 5, women of childbearing age and adolescent girls through our nutrition-relevant programmes.
Water, sanitation and hygiene – Between 2015 and 2020 DFID has supported 62.6 million people to gain access to clean water and/or better sanitation.
Education – Between 2015 and 2020 DFID supported at least 15.6 million children to gain a decent education.
Jobs and Income – From 2015/16 to 2019/20 DFID supported 5million people to raise their incomes or maintain/gain a better job or livelihood.
Family Planning – Between April 2015 and March 2020, DFID reached an average of 25.3 million total women and girls with modern methods of family planning per year
Health – Immunisations – From the start of 2015 until the end of 2018, DFID support immunised an estimated 74.3 million children, saving 1.4 million lives.
Access to Finance – Between 2015 and 2019 DFID supported 69.2 million people to gain access to finance, including 35.4 million women, representing 51% of the total
Energy – From 2015/16 to 2019/20 DFID installed 771 KW hours of clean energy capacity.
Of course there is a question mark over how effective the aid spent in the above statistics has been, which is one of the many criticisms made of Official Development Aid, which you can read about in this post here.
Chapman et al (2016) – A Level Sociology Student Book Two [Fourth Edition] Collins.
For more posts on Global Development, please see my page of links on globalisation and global development.