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.
Neo-modernisation thinker Jeffry Sachs (2005)
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 also 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 (*)
Wealth creation – provided 68.9 million people, including 35.9 million women, with access to financial services to help them work their way out of poverty.
Poverty, vulnerability, nutrition and hunger – reached 28.5 million children under five and pregnant women through the government’s nutrition-relevant programmes.
Education – supported 11.0 million children, of whom 5.3 million were girls, in primary and lower secondary education.
Health – ensured that 5.1 million births took place safely with the help of nurses, midwives or doctors. The UK has funded the distribution of 47 million insecticide-treated bed nets and is investing in vaccines and drugs, helping contribute to malaria deaths falling by 60% in the last 15 years.
Water, sanitation and hygiene – supported 62.9 million people, of whom 22.2 million were women, to access clean water, better sanitation or improved hygiene conditions.
Humanitarian assistance – reached over 13 million people with emergency food assistance, including 5.5 million women or girls.
Governance and security – supported freer and fairer elections in 13 countries in which 162.1 million people voted.
Climate change – supported 15 million people to cope with the effects of climate change.
Tax and transparency – supported agreement on a new global standard for automatic exchange of tax information, making it easier for governments to tackle offshore tax evasion.
Scientific research – helped the global elimination of rinderpest, a cattle disease which led to famine and poverty, and helped breed a new disease-resistant crop which has increased food security for an estimated 3 million people.
Chapman et al (2016) – A Level Sociology Student Book Two [Fourth Edition] Collins.
*A good example of this can be found in DFID’s 2015 document ‘UK Aid: Tackling Global Challenges in the National Interest’