Diana is one of my favourite people at GDI, always ready to ask difficult questions about how to do things better for the ultimate beneficiaries of our policy advice and research. She was kind enough to sit down with me for GDI’s In Conversation podcast, that you can listen to below.
Value for Money (VfM) sounds eminently reasonable. It represents the kind of due diligence we expect from modern liberal states: accountability to taxpayers’ demands that governments keep an eye on how public funds are spent, assurance that these funds are, in fact, employed for their stated purposes, and transparent management of public funds are all necessary for avoiding corruption and waste. In that light, VfM is not only reasonable but perhaps even morally desirable.
However, not all areas of public policy are equally amenable to the same calculations and standards of proof. When procuring bricks to build a school, for instance, we can easily compare the costs and estimates of different providers in order to choose the most economic, efficient, effective, and cost-effective option. As we move to less tangible goals, however, the simple logic of VfM begins to unravel, and at a certain point the demand for hard evidence does not necessarily lead to accountability. And, as we know, many development assistance goals are of the less tangible variety. Continue reading The banality of certainty (Book excerpt)
While writing Why We Lie About Aid I enjoyed the singular advantage of standing on the shoulders of pretty gigantic intellects. If you check out the back cover you will find endorsements by four big names in development debates: David Booth, Brian Levy, Nic van de Walle, and Tom Carothers. Instead of copying here their praises for me, I though that the right thing to do would be recognize the efforts that made my book possible. Continue reading A dwarf standing on the shoulders of giants
[Reposted from the GDI blog]
Why We Lie About Aid is a book born out of bafflement, and not a little bit of frustration. Continue reading Why We Lie About Aid – in defense of hopeful pragmatism
Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt has warned recipient governments that they face cuts in UK aid if they don’t “put their hands in their pockets”. Her warning is grounded on a claim of public concern: “Nagging doubts persist for many people, about what we are doing, why we are doing it … especially when there are domestic needs and a national debt to address.” It is a compelling point but, as it turns out, one for which there is actually very little evidence.
The most recent YouGov/Times survey poll asked Britons what issues they considered most important among those facing the country: Brexit, health and the economy topped the list. The potential misuse of foreign aid funds, as one would expect, did not even register.
Surveys on public opinion about aid are scarce and often contradictory. While a Telegraph poll in April 2016 found that 57% of people opposed the commitment to spending 0.7% of national income on foreign aid, a Eurobarometer survey later that year found that 55% of respondents in the UK thought aid commitments should be kept and 14% believed that they should be increased. “Nagging doubts”, it would seem, are in the eye of the beholder. Continue reading Gesture politics and foreign aid: evidence vs spin
You can now listen to my rants, while you commute or exercise, for free!