Competitive Proliferation of Aid Projects: A Model
The proliferation of aid projects may overburden recipient governments with reporting requirements, donor visits, and other administrative overhead, siphoning off scarce domestic recipient resources, such as tax revenue or the time of skilled government officials, from directly productive use. But greater oversight may also improve the administration of projects, increasing development. I present a model of aid projects that reflects both sides of this coin. It posits a distinction between national-level governance and project-level governance. A donor can raise project-level governance above the baseline national level by requiring oversight activities of the recipient, although the benefits from doing so are less where national-level governance is already high. The model assumes that larger projects demand proportionally less oversight activity from the recipient. Comparative statics analysis suggests that to maximize development, projects should be larger where aid volume is higher, to avoid overburdening recipient administrative capacity; where recipient resources are scarcer, for the same reason; and where national governance is good, since the marginal benefit of oversight is then lower. A multi-donor generalization shows how donors that are imperfectly altruistic, caring most about the success of their own projects, will tend to sink into competitive proliferation, in which each donor subdivides its aid budget into smaller projects to raise the marginal productivity of the recipient’s resources in those projects and attract them away from other donors. The inefficiency arises from the lack of a market among donors for recipient resources. In a Nash equilibrium, competitive proliferation reduces overall development. But the smallest (selfish) donors can gain. This would discourage them from cooperating with other donors to contain competitive proliferation.
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