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“Development aid is not developing solutions”
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“Development aid is not developing solutions”

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Andrew LarkinsEvery day a multitude of resources is spent tackling poverty and standard of living in developing countries all over the globe, writes Andrew Larkins, 26, a Correspondent from Australia, who questions whether the billions spent by governments on grants, loans, technical expertise, and debt relief is the right answer.

According to The Economist, this foreign aid is worth roughly $130 billion US each year. Most of this aid is purely monetary and often comes with a hidden political agenda. If you asked Claudia Williamson of Mississippi State University about this figure, she would claim that “aid goes to middle-income countries that are also poorly governed”. Is this the really the right target for foreign aid?

With gross global aid levels falling since the start of this millennium, is it not time that developed countries change focus to resource creation and maintenance, rather than just the supply of resources? Surely with this decrease in aid to developing countries, now is a better time than any to make sure what is donated does as much good as possible and is sustained as long as possible.

Former Israeli President Shimon Peres was also skeptical about foreign aid, even though Israel has been one of the largest recipients of US aid in recent years. He claims that, “We take money from poor people in rich countries and give it to rich people in poor countries”. This comment may well hold true as you look to nations throughout Asia that have managed to significantly reduce rates of poverty and increase standards of living with comparatively smaller contributions of foreign aid.

China and India were two of these countries stooped in poverty before the turn of the century. These two countries received notably less aid compared to other developing countries at the time, but managed to raise standards of living through increased economic development. The World Bank calculated that between 1981 and 2010, the number of poor people in the world fell by roughly 700 million. Over that same time frame, China managed to reduce the number of poor people by 627 million. With the tables turned, China distributed $3.4 billion in aid last year alone. Is this not the prime example of how pure monetary foreign aid is not the only answer? There needs to be something else.

If you look to sub-Saharan Africa, where monetary aid has been a focus for decades, a quarter of countries in the region are poorer now than they were in 1960.

Countries such as Liberia, who received a large proportion of this aid, still have unacceptable levels of poverty. In 2011, official development aid to Liberia totaled $765 million, and contributed 73 per cent of the gross national income. This amount was even larger in 2010. In 2013, every single student of the 25,000 who sat entrance exams for the University of Liberia failed.

Education is one of the core institutions that is required to help build countries out of poverty. Either this Liberian aid has been placed into longer term objectives that we are yet to see the benefits of, or clearly the aid provided has not been utilised efficiently, sustainably and for the right reasons.

This article is not designed to discourage readers away from foreign aid as a whole. Rather it is designed to encourage us to look more closely at the aid that we are giving. Foreign aid is a crucial pillar in a global world and does fantastic work to support individuals all over the world. We do however, need to look at how this aid is distributed and implemented so that its effects can be felt to the largest degree.

David Cameron was a notable Commonwealth leader who urged the world to “stop speaking simply about the quantity of aid”. He wanted world leaders to “start talking about what I call the ‘golden thread’, which is you only get real long-term development through aid if there is also a golden thread of stable government, lack of corruption, human rights, the rule of law, transparent information.”

This ‘golden thread’ is idealistic, simplistic and may well be impossible. However, surely it is time developed countries begin to keep this ‘golden thread’ in mind as they continue to hand out billions of dollars of political foreign aid at will.

Reach me on Twitter @ALarkinsVet.

Photo credit: Santeri Viinamaki Euro banknotes in wallet via photopin (license)

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About me: I am a 26-year-old veterinarian from Australia. I currently work as a locum mixed animal vet in the UK and Australia, along with spending time volunteering with various veterinary charities. My interests lie in global health, animal welfare and food security. I am currently completing a Masters of One Health through the university of Edinburgh. Outside of this I love spending time in the water, playing sport and listening to music.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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