Aid and Development

By Bill Turnbull W.F.

 
Where and how to direct finances and talent is a major problem with aid and development in the Third World. How should aid be given to countries which will help them to develop in the right way for themselves and to assist in bringing out their skills while not making them dependent? It is not easy for a donor or recipient country to judge what is right and it could be asked what role the donor should play in the decision, if any at all.
 
Very often Western governments and aid agencies tell developing countries what is good for them and the direction in which they should go. Aid is given for large prestige projects which benefit a few people while ignoring smaller projects which may help the many. An example of such which springs to mind is the building of large well equipped hospitals - which there is no doubt a need for - when they cannot be maintained nor adequately staffed, in a country where the under five infant mortality rate is 50%. The same amount of money could save a lot more lives if spread out on a greater level but on less glamourous schemes.
 
This is just one example of the problems which face people involved in development work, the choice of where to target the finance and energy. Often Western Governments like to have a physical project, such as a hospital, which can be shown as a result of development aid.
 
In our February-March magazine we saw a little about the debt problem which is facing many African countries. Whether they like it or not each country is part of the 'global market' and to stay afloat they need to trade with other countries. This is the way world economics revolve and there is no possibility of isolation. This is hard enough for developed countries, but is even more difficult for developing countries which have to start from scratch and are dependent, to a great extent, for survival on 'charity' from richer countries, often given in the form of aid.
 
There are many forms of aid given but for the sake of simplification let us just divide it into three major groups: bilateral, multilateral and 'charity and church'. This may also be divided again into immediate (emergency) relief and continual aid for long term projects, though here we will concern ourselves mainly with the latter and try to see how that works.
 
Bilateral aid is from one specific government which gives assistance with loans, gifts, goods or expertise. Organisations such as the Overseas Development Association, in the UK, and USAID, in America, would come under this category and each developed country has a field within which it specialises e.g. the British in finance, the French in water, the Canadians in dairy and farming.
 
Multilateral aid is from organisations such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the European Community where governments pool their resources and the projects are carried out in the name of all.
Charity and church aid, officially known as 'charitable organisations of the third tier', include CAFOD, OXFAM, Red Cross, Volunteer Missionary Movement, Voluntary Service Overseas, Missionary Orders and the different established churches such as us Catholics.
 
A problem which arises with some major development projects is that they can divert resources away from people's basic needs. Often large agricultural projects in Africa tend to be targeted at the production of 'cash' crops which are needed to pay off the country's debt. If too much emphasis is put on this then land, labour and water are taken away from the basic subsistence needs. A balance needs to be found between the two unless a cycle of hunger and local debt is to set in. Despite this the general overall good of such projects is beneficial to many and helps improve farming methods and land use.
 
Four fifths of the poor in developing countries live in rural areas, except in South America where half live in cities. In general they are under-nourished, hungry, overwhelmingly illiterate, lack information and ideas to help them escape poverty, and are more likely to be female than male. The children are the worst off lacking sufficient nourishment and clean water, almost one third dying before the age of five.
 
These 'poor' are caught in a three tier trap; local, national and global. On the local level they face problems of access to land, environmental degradation, health, population growth and corruption. At a national level the local problems are often reinforced by government policies, taxes, development spending and neglect. On a global level they are held down by debt burdens, high interest rates, falling exports, capital flight, trade protectionism, flow of resources from South to North and environmental damage.
 
It is difficult to measure development and various people and organisations view it from different view points. Evaluation is made even harder the further away we are geographically and culturally from the country concerned. The World Bank, in general, equates the well-being of a country's population with its 'per capita gross national product' (GNP), which is the income of a country divided by the total population. UNICEF, dealing with children, uses the under five mortality rate. The United Nations Development Programme suggests that the measure should be three fold based on life expectancy, literacy and standard of living.
 
It is probably impossible to come up with a perfect way of measuring stages of development and the 'quality of life' No matter what criteria is used the result will always be an average figure which hides the wide disparities in the overall population. In all our theorising the fact that all the speculation concerns and is based on living people and their well being should not be forgotten.
 
The figures tabled below are a combination of statistics from various sources highlighting the contrast between some African countries. They show quite clearly the differences, say, between Gabon and Ethiopia in GNP - $2,700 and $130 respectively - or Mozambique and Tunisia on under five mortality rate - 298/1000 as opposed to 83/1000. These give an idea of the developmental status of each country.
 
'No news is good news' or 'Good news is no news' is certainly true for Africa. The picture we receive of the continent is of gloom and despair, with very little positive signs. That is not the case. A great deal is being done with bilateral and multilateral aid all over Africa and there is development - perhaps we want results too fast. There is also a great deal being done by the 'charities and churches' which is not widely reported - there is still hope!
 
A simple example is reported by UNICEF that in the 1980's the number of the developing world's children to be immunised rose by 5% to well over 50%, thus saving 1.5 million young lives and preventing 200,000 cases of polio each year. Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) is now being used in more than 25% of the developing world's families and it saves almost one million lives each year.
 
These two examples in the health sphere are where there is common ground between those working in development, especially people in the field. These are joint operations, amongst others, which bilateral, multilateral and charitable aid is aimed at. It is where all sources of aid converge for the good of the individual and cause a cross-fertilisation of ideas which have grown and can even be seen back in the donor countries where governments and agencies now cooperate and work together.
 
But perhaps the rich governments, the EC, IMF and World Bank can learn further from the 'charities and churches' which are involved in work in Africa. Maybe they can make their aid more 'human' and come around to an ideal which might be similar to the six rules for directing aid which were suggested in an article by Glen Williams which appeared in issue number 126, August 1983, of the 'New Internationalist'. The rules may be summarised as follows.
Rule One: 'Aim at the poorest' - to meet the people's basic needs such as to provide clean water, sanitation, nutrition, education and health care.
Rule Two: 'Mobilise the poor' - help them to form their own organisations.
Rule Three: 'Fit aid to countries' - give aid to where it would be most effective, not following political 'colour'.
Rule Four: 'Rebuild the aid machine' - direct more money to organisations in the Third World, such as trade unions, voluntary agencies, cooperatives etc.
Rule Five: 'Abolish sham aid' - stop funds being creamed off the aid budget to subsidise firms trying to win contracts in developing countries.
Rule Six: 'Have an independent audit' - at regular intervals a check should be made to see how effective aid is.
 

The above are rules which 'charities and churches' put into practice virtually all the time: they work with the poor, mainly on smaller projects, and do so with no strings attached. It can be said that it is good to begin with basic needs. There is no point in talking about the GNP of a country or 'quality of life' if the majority of the population do not have access to clean water, sanitation, health care, good nutrition, land and education. Without the foundation of these essentials the rest of a country's structures cannot be built. It is often in this setting that 'charities and churches' are at the forefront and carry out their work simply and without fuss, with true consideration for the betterment of the people they serve.


U-5 Mortality rate per 1,000 live births *
Years of Life Expectancy *
Adult Literacy percentage *
1989 GNP per capita income in $ +
Official Aid in $ M for 1989 +
Country
Algeria 102 65.1 49 2,230 153
Angola 292 45.5 36 610 140
Benin 150 47 19 380 247
Botswana 87 59.8 70 1,600 162
Burkina Faso 232 48.2 15 320 284
Burundi 196 48.5 42 220 198
Cameroon 150 53.7 48 1,000 470
Cape Verde 58 67 47 500 -
C. African Rep. 219 49.5 32 390 189
Chad 219 46.5 23 90 239
Comoros 129 55 48 370 -
Congo 112 53.7 52 940 91
Djibouti 167 48 14 480 -
Egypt 94 60.3 45 640 1,578
Equat. Guinea 210 47 45 180 -
Ethiopia 226 45.5 50 120 702
Gabon 167 52.5 56 2,960 134
Gambia 241 44 20 220 -
Ghana 143 55 53 390 543
Guinea 241 43.5 17 430 346
Guinea Bissau 250 42.5 30 160 -
Ivory Coast 139 53.4 49 790 409
Kenya 111 59.7 65 360 967
Lesotho 132 57.3 73 470 118
Liberia 209 54.2 32 450 58
Libya 116 61.8 57 5,310 11
Madagascar 179 54.5 77 230 320
Malawi 258 48.1 42 180 394
Mali 287 45 23 270 470
Mauritania 217 47 28 500 195
Mauritius 29 69.6 83 1,990 57
Morocco 116 62 42 880 443
Mozambique 297 47.5 28 80 759
Namibia 171 57.5 73 1,030 44
Niger 225 45.5 22 290 296
Nigeria 170 51.5 43 250 339
Rwanda 201 49.5 45 320 238
Sao Tome 91 65.5 58 280 -
Senegal 189 48.3 32 650 652
Seychelles 21 70 88 3,120 -
Sierra Leone 261 42 13 220 99
Somalia 218 46.1 17 170 440
South Africa 91 61.7 85 2,470 -
Sudan 175 50.8 24 330 760
Swaziland 170 56.8 68 700 -
Tanzania 173 54 52 130 918
Togo 150 54 38 390 182
Tunisia 66 66.7 58 1,260 247
Uganda 167 52 43 250 397
Zaire-Congo 132 53 66 260 637
Zambia 125 54.4 67 390 388
Zimbabwe 90 59.6 62 650 266
UK 11 75.7 99 14,610 -
USA 13 75.9 99 20,910 -

 

Sources: * = United Nations Development Programme, 'Human Development Report 1991', United Nations, Oxford, New York, 1991.

+ = World Bank, 'World Development Report' for 1990 and 1991, Oxford, New York, 1990 and 1991.

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This article first appeared in "White Fathers - White Sisters" (UK), issue 304, of June-July 1992.
It may be published freely with due acknowledgements to the "White Fathers - White Sisters" magazine.

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