The Trouble with the MDGs: Confronting Expectations of Aid and Development Success
The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are unlikely to be met by 2015, even if huge increases in development assistance materialize. The MDGs are a set of quantitative, time-bound targets for indicators such as poverty, education and mortality in developing countries adopted unanimously by the UN in 2000. However, the rates of progress required by many of the goals are at the edges of or beyond historical precedent. At the same time, there appear to be limits to the degree to which aid can contribute to development outcomes. Estimates of the ‘cost’ of reaching the MDGs are nevertheless frequently misinterpreted to mean that a certain quantity of aid—such as the oft-cited $50 billion—could cause the Goals to be met. Despite many benefits of the MDGs, there has been little discussion so far of potential costs of the specific form taken by these goals, especially the creation of unreasonable expectations about what is achievable in a short time frame and about the role of aid in the development process. Many countries making extraordinarily rapid progress on MDG indicators, due in large part to aid, will nonetheless not reach the MDGs. Unrealistic targets thus may turn successes into perceptions of failure, serving to undermine future constituencies for aid (in donors) and reform (in recipients). This would be unfortunate given the vital role of aid and reform in the development process and the need for long-term, sustained aid commitments. Though goal-setting can be useful, these particular goals might be better viewed not as practical targets but instead as valuable reminders of the stark contrast between the world we have and the world we want, and as a call to redouble our search for interventions to close the gap more rapidly.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Michael Clemens, 2004.
"The Long Walk to School: International Education Goals in Historical Perspective,"
37, Center for Global Development.
- Michael A. Clemens, 2004. "The Long Walk to School: International education goals in historical perspective," Development and Comp Systems 0403007, EconWPA.
- Patrick GUILLAUMONT & Lisa CHAUVET, 1999.
"Aid and Performance: A Reassessment,"
- Thorbecke, Erik & Charumilind, Chutatong, 2002. "Economic Inequality and Its Socioeconomic Impact," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(9), pages 1477-1495, September.
- Collier, Paul & Dollar, David, 2001.
"Can the World Cut Poverty in Half? How Policy Reform and Effective Aid Can Meet International Development Goals,"
Elsevier, vol. 29(11), pages 1787-1802, November.
- Collier, Paul & Dollar, David, 2000. "Can the world cut poverty in half ? how policy reform and effective aid can meet international development goals," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2403, The World Bank.
- David Dollar & Craig Burnside, 2000.
"Aid, Policies, and Growth,"
American Economic Review,
American Economic Association, vol. 90(4), pages 847-868, September.
- Kraay, Aart, 2004.
"When is growth pro-poor? Cross-country evidence,"
Policy Research Working Paper Series
3225, The World Bank.
- Sahn, David E. & Stifel, David C., 2003. "Progress Toward the Millennium Development Goals in Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 23-52, January.
- World Bank, 2004. "Strategic Framework for Assistance to Africa : IDA and the Emerging Partnership Model," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 15179, March.
- Dollar, David & Kraay, Aart, 2001.
"Growth is good for the poor,"
Policy Research Working Paper Series
2587, The World Bank.
- Michael Clemens & Steven Radelet & Rikhil Bhavnani, 2004.
"Counting Chickens When They Hatch: The Short-term Effect of Aid on Growth,"
44, Center for Global Development.
- Michael A. Clemens & Steven Radelet & Rikhil Bhavnani, 2004. "Counting chickens when they hatch: The short-term effect of aid on growth," International Finance 0407010, EconWPA.
- Enrique Delamonica & Santosh Mehrotra & Jan Vandemoortele, 2001. "Is EFA Affordable? Estimating the global minimum cost of 'Education for All'," Innocenti Working Papers inwopa01/15, UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre.
- Kenny, Charles, 2005. "Why Are We Worried About Income? Nearly Everything that Matters is Converging," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(1), pages 1-19, January.
- Pritchett, Lant, 1995.
"Divergence, big time,"
Policy Research Working Paper Series
1522, The World Bank.
- Devarajan, Shantayanan & Miller, Margaret J. & Swanson, Eric V., 2002. "Goals for development : history, prospects and costs," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2819, The World Bank.
- Lensink, Robert & White, Howard, 1999.
"Are there negative returns to aid?,"
99E60, University of Groningen, Research Institute SOM (Systems, Organisations and Management).
- Fay, Marianne & Leipziger, Danny & Wodon, Quentin & Yepes, Tito, 2005. "Achieving child-health-related Millennium Development Goals: The role of infrastructure," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 33(8), pages 1267-1284, August.
- Filmer, Deon & Pritchett, Lant, 1999. "The impact of public spending on health: does money matter?," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 49(10), pages 1309-1323, November.
- Carl-Johan Dalgaard & Henrik Hansen & Finn Tarp, 2001.
"On the Empirics of Foreign Aid and Growth,"
EPRU Working Paper Series
03-13, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics, revised Sep 2003.
- Shantayanan Devarajan & William R. Easterly & Howard Pack, 2002.
"Low Investment is Not the Constraint on African Development,"
13, Center for Global Development.
- Devarajan, Shantayanan & Easterly, William R & Pack, Howard, 2003. "Low Investment Is Not the Constraint on African Development," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 51(3), pages 547-71, April.
- Gustav Ranis & Frances Stewart, 2001. "Growth and Human Development: Comparative Latin American Experience," Working Papers 826, Economic Growth Center, Yale University.
- Desmond McCarthy & Holger Wolf & Yi Wu, 2000. "The Growth Costs of Malaria," NBER Working Papers 7541, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Easterly, William, 2005.
"National Policies and Economic Growth: A Reappraisal,"
Handbook of Economic Growth,
in: Philippe Aghion & Steven Durlauf (ed.), Handbook of Economic Growth, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 15, pages 1015-1059
- William Easterly, 2003. "National Policies and Economic Growth: A Reappraisal," Working Papers 27, Center for Global Development.
- Deon Filmer, 2007.
"If you build it, will they come? School availability and school enrolment in 21 poor countries,"
Journal of Development Studies,
Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 43(5), pages 901-928.
- Filmer, Deon, 2004. "If you build it, will they come? School availability and school enrollment in 21 poor countries," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3340, The World Bank.
- William Easterly, 2003. "Can Foreign Aid Buy Growth?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 23-48, Summer.
- Lant Pritchett & Lawrence H. Summers, 1996.
"Wealthier is Healthier,"
Journal of Human Resources,
University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 31(4), pages 841-868.
- Marianne Fay & Danny Leipziger & Quentin Wodon & Tito Yepes, 2003. "Achieving the Millennium Development Goals : The role of infrastructure," Policy Research Working Paper Series 3163, The World Bank.
- Edward Miguel & Michael Kremer, 2001. "Worms: Education and Health Externalities in Kenya," NBER Working Papers 8481, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Charles Kenny, 1999. "Why aren't countries rich?: Weak states and bad neighbourhoods," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 35(5), pages 26-47.
- Pritchett, Lant H. & DEC, 1994. "Desired fertility and the impact of population policies," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1273, The World Bank.
- Filmer, Deon & Hammer, Jeffrey S & Pritchett, Lant H, 2000. "Weak Links in the Chain: A Diagnosis of Health Policy in Poor Countries," World Bank Research Observer, World Bank Group, vol. 15(2), pages 199-224, August.
- Hicks, Norman L., 1982. "Sector priorities in meeting basic needs: some statistical evidence," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 10(6), pages 489-499, June.
- Simon Maxwell, 2003. "Heaven or Hubris: Reflections on the New 'New Poverty Agenda'," Development Policy Review, Overseas Development Institute, vol. 21(1), pages 5-25, 01.
- Easterly, William & Kremer, Michael & Pritchett, Lant & Summers, Lawrence H., 1993.
"Good policy or good luck?: Country growth performance and temporary shocks,"
Journal of Monetary Economics,
Elsevier, vol. 32(3), pages 459-483, December.
- William Easterly & Michael Kremer & Lant Pritchett & Lawrence H. Summers, 1993. "Good Policy or Good Luck? Country Growth Performance and Temporary Shocks," NBER Working Papers 4474, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Easterly, William, 1999. "The ghost of financing gap: testing the growth model used in the international financial institutions," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 60(2), pages 423-438, December.
- Hansen, Henrik & Tarp, Finn, 2001.
"Aid and growth regressions,"
Journal of Development Economics,
Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 547-570, April.
- Lucia Hanmer & Robert Lensink & Howard White, 2003. "Infant and child mortality in developing countries: Analysing the data for Robust determinants," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 40(1), pages 101-118.
- Timothy Besley & Robin Burgess, 2003. "Halving Global Poverty," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(3), pages 3-22, Summer.
- William Easterly & Ross Levine & David Roodman, 2003. "New Data, New Doubts: Revisiting "Aid, Policies, and Growth"," Working Papers 26, Center for Global Development.
- Richard A. Easterlin, 2000. "The Worldwide Standard of Living since 1800," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 14(1), pages 7-26, Winter.
- Paul Mosley & John Hudson & Arjan Verschoor, 2004. "Aid, Poverty Reduction and the 'New Conditionality'," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 114(496), pages F217-F243, 06.
- Kenny, Charles & Williams, David, 2001. "What Do We Know About Economic Growth? Or, Why Don't We Know Very Much?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 29(1), pages 1-22, January.
- Peter S. Heller & Sanjeev Gupta, 2002. "Challenges in Expanding Development Assistance," IMF Policy Discussion Papers 02/5, International Monetary Fund.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:35:y:2007:i:5:p:735-751. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Zhang, Lei)
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.