The Vicious Cycle of Aid

A sustainable economy absolutely needs a transparent and accountable government who can provide the necessary public goods to ensure the well being of their citizens. One of these public goods, if not the most important, is healthcare. Unfortunately, most of these countries are too poor to support themselves and it certainly helps to have outside help. However, how is this help being applied and utilized? I have always been of the opinion that foreign aid given to poorer countries of the world is a two edged sword. It both bolsters and undermines its function at the same time. Don’t get me wrong, these countries could do with the aid, matter of fact quite a good number receive 100% of their government revenue in foreign aid. It is reported that over the last 60 years, nearly $1 trillion has been transferred from the west to Africa, yet more than 50% of the population lives on less than $1 a day.
There is palpable evidence that shows that the culture of foreign aid in sub Saharan African countries has made the poor poorer and has significantly slowed growth in these regions. The incentive for innovation and self investment in these countries has been replaced by incoming funds from richer countries. It has also fueled a sustained culture of corruption in the governments of Africa who spirit away money meant for development I to their personal bank accounts. One would think that with the level of expertise in economics and international development, the world would have figured out a better way to approach this issue. Certainly, aid that supports girl education and access to vaccines are very welcome, and does a lot of good in communities, but that’s assuming that the aid makes its way to the intended.
To start with, aid should only be given to pilot foundational healthcare programs, programs that can build upon themselves and can be sustainable in the long run. There is too much emphasis on cure, with little attention being given to prevention, and even less attention being given to the social determinants of the outcomes of health in poor countries. There has to be a system of accountability that ensures that aid being given is used primarily for the intended reasons. Being from Africa, it saddens me to say that our governments need to be forced to want only the best for our countries. As irresponsible as it seems, there has to be an incentive for governments to do their job! Such a system, in my mind, would require quotas and deadlines set by donors to be met by recipients. It would also call for significant cuts in aid to countries that do not meet the requirement, and cannot show transparency in the distribution of funds and resources. The culture of continuous transfer of aid money to deal with the consequences and not the causes, as well as funds without specific functions attached to them needs to stop in other to see any significant progress.

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