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Volatility of Development Aid: From the Frying Pan into the Fire?


  • Bulír, Ales
  • Hamann, A. Javier


Summary The paper, building on the authors' previous analysis, examines the relative volatility of aid flows into developing countries and their domestic revenue, using new data, and three alternative measures of aid instability (relative volatility vis-à-vis fiscal revenue, unpredictability of aid disbursement relative to commitments, and failure of aid to smooth fluctuations in aggregate income). It finds that the volatility of aid flows is still much greater than that of domestic revenue and that this difference is not decreasing. Especially in very poor, aid-dependent countries, this high volatility of inflows makes the macroeconomy hard to manage. Further, the influence of aid has been procyclical and not countercyclical: aid has failed to act either as a stabilizing force or as an insurance mechanism. We argue that, to counter these unwelcome trends, donors need to be able to respond more speedily and effectively to large adverse shocks, and their conditionalities need to become more flexible--possibilities explicitly discussed elsewhere in this Special Section.

Suggested Citation

  • Bulír, Ales & Hamann, A. Javier, 2008. "Volatility of Development Aid: From the Frying Pan into the Fire?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(10), pages 2048-2066, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:wdevel:v:36:y:2008:i:10:p:2048-2066

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pallage, Stephane & Robe, Michel A, 2001. "Foreign Aid and the Business Cycle," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 9(4), pages 641-672, November.
    2. Valerie Cerra & Sweta Chaman Saxena, 2008. "Growth Dynamics: The Myth of Economic Recovery," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 439-457, March.
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    4. Robert Lensink & Oliver Morrissey, 2000. "Aid instability as a measure of uncertainty and the positive impact of aid on growth," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 36(3), pages 31-49.
    5. Torsvik, Gaute, 2005. "Foreign economic aid; should donors cooperate?," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 77(2), pages 503-515, August.
    6. Bulír, Ales & Hamann, A. Javier, 2008. "Volatility of Development Aid: From the Frying Pan into the Fire?," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 36(10), pages 2048-2066, October.
    7. Fielding, David & Mavrotas, George, 2005. "The Volatility of Aid," WIDER Working Paper Series DP2005/06, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    8. Sanjeev Gupta & Benedict Clements & Erwin R. Tiongson, 2004. "Foreign Aid and Consumption Smoothing: Evidence from Global Food Aid," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 8(3), pages 379-390, August.
    9. Stephane Pallage & Michel A. Robe, 2003. "On the Welfare Cost of Economic Fluctuations in Developing Countries," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 44(2), pages 677-698, May.
    10. Sanjeev Gupta & Catherine Pattillo & Smita Wagh, 2006. "Are Donor Countries Giving More or Less Aid?," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 10(3), pages 535-552, August.
    11. Griffin, Keith B & Enos, J L, 1970. "Foreign Assistance: Objectives and Consequences," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 18(3), pages 313-327, April.
    12. Nancy Birdsall, 2004. "Seven Deadly Sins: Reflections on Donor Failings," Working Papers 50, Center for Global Development.
    13. Sanjeev Gupta & Catherine A Pattillo & Smita Wagh, 2006. "Are Donor Countries Giving More or Less Aid?," IMF Working Papers 06/1, International Monetary Fund.
    14. Ale Bulir & A. Javier Hamann, 2003. "Aid Volatility: An Empirical Assessment," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 50(1), pages 1-4.
    15. Stéphane Pallage & Michel A. Robe & Catherine Bérubé, 2006. "The Potential of Foreign Aid as Insurance," IMF Staff Papers, Palgrave Macmillan, vol. 53(3), pages 1-5.
    16. Cogley, Timothy & Nason, James M., 1995. "Effects of the Hodrick-Prescott filter on trend and difference stationary time series Implications for business cycle research," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 19(1-2), pages 253-278.
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