It’s Not a Question of Less Or More Aid But of Efficient Aid – Nicole Chakraborty

In today’s world we have a lot of big problems such as poverty, public health, lack of sanitation, lack of education, etc. Logically, it seems obvious that such big problems should need big solutions or a “big push”. This seems to be the source of the conflict between Sachs and Easterly. However, if you look more closely at their arguments there are striking similarities and common concerns. Which leads me to wonder if maybe actors (international development organizations or countries) need to place more emphasis on greatly efficient projects, it’s the simple idea of ‘quality over quantity’.

Typically, international development organizations are concerned with collecting as much funding as possible to meet their goals. For that reason, they clearly fit within the Sachs argument, which supports large budgets and that would increase donors’ contributions. Sachs states that while foreign aid can’t be the “sole driver of economic development”, it makes a difference when paired with “sound economic policies, transparency, good governance, etc”. Sachs does a great job of supporting the importance of foreign aid with the case of malaria and net distribution in Africa.  However, what he fails to do is to explain what makes aid an uniquely important aspect of development. For example the first case of real success concerning Malaria occurred in Kenya because of Kenya’s government increase in distribution of nets to its citizens.  It is this failure that allows Sachs argument to compliment Easterly’s.

Easterly is seemingly Sachs’ opposite, since he supports no aid. However, his reasoning for rejecting aid falls into Sachs’ description of what are necessary components of successful aid. For example, Easterly explain that international organization’s “big plans always fail to reach the beautiful goal”.  In Sachs list of important aid program qualities, he specifically cites the importance of realistic and measurable goals. Both authors are concerned with the same type of flaws that international development organizations typically run into.  This is important to aid because goals often determine how aggressive policies and projects of the organizations are.  Furthermore they determine what kind of funding the organization receives.  With unrealistic goals there are inefficiencies that can be solved with two solutions, the first is Sachs’ that prescribes the creation of realistic goals. And the second is Easterly, which says to get rid of international organization’s aids and allow countries to help themselves.

At first look, Sachs’ solution is much easier to accept than Easterly. However I think that potentially either could work, just not at the same time.  Easterly shows convincing evidence of countries being best able to help themselves.  They are more efficient since they are closer to the “demand”. For example, with the IMF loans countries that bailed themselves out tended to reach better long-term levels of growth.  Another example, is that poor countries are “best at saving themselves” and developing countries have steadily reached annual growth rates of 2.5%. We shouldn’t forget about Sachs’ evidence either however, which shows a 51% drop in malaria’s mortality rate of children under 5 or the overall 9.6% decrease in Africa’s poverty rate. So obviously between the two arguments the international organizations will always support Sachs view to ensure their survival however I am convinced that because of the similarities between the two, if either option were exclusively employed it would be successful so long as efficiency is emphasized.


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