Monday, November 15, 2010

Corruption and Aid

One of the questions that we frequently get asked is: "Why do you support giving aid to corrupted countries where the money won't actually reach the people?"

This is a perfectly legitimate question that strikes at the heart of developmental aid. Everyone has heard stories of the corrupt African dictator who lavishly squanders his wealth while his people struggle with sickness and poverty. And of course, no one wants to donate money that they believe isn't going to help the poor.

We have two main responses for that. The first is that we support programs such as the Millennium Challenge Account, which provides specific benchmarks for countries on a variety of objectives (ranging from corruption, to open elections, to open markets) that they must meet before they receive any aid. Nations that fail to meet these standards do not receive aid. Developed by the Bush administration, this has given nations incentives for reducing corruption.

The second response is that there are ways to disperse the money so that the corrupted individuals simply are uninterested. Dictators don't care about bed nets - one of the most effective malaria prevention techniques. They care about money, guns, and food supplies.

For example, USAID has recently begun a program to circumcise males in Zimbabwe in an attempt to reduce HIV infection rates. The money that USAID has pledged to this program (which is funded by Congress, which funds them based on your calls and letters) goes straight to the doctors and nurses administrating the procedure, bypassing government officials.

Thousands of lives saved and Mugabe doesn't see a dime. That's uncorrupted aid at its best.

-Corey Cox

SOURCE: Associated Press