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Rhetoric versus reality: the best and worst of aid agency practices

  • Easterly, William
  • Williamson, Claudia R.

Foreign aid critics, supporters, recipients, and donors have produced eloquent rhetoric on the need for better aid practices— has this translated into reality? This paper attempts to monitor the best and worst of aid practices among bilateral, multilateral, and UN agencies. We create aid practice measures based on aid transparency, specialization, selectivity, ineffective aid channels, and overhead costs. We rate donor agencies from best to worst on aid practices. We find that the UK does well among bilateral agencies, the US is below average, and Scandinavian donors do surprisingly poorly. The biggest difference is between the UN agencies, who mostly rank in the bottom half of donors, and everyone else. Average performance of all agencies on transparency, fragmentation, and selectivity is still very poor. The paper also assesses trends in best practices over time—we find modest improvement in transparency and more in moving away from ineffective channels. However, we find no evidence of improvements (and partial evidence of worsening) in specialization, fragmentation, and selectivity, despite escalating rhetoric to the contrary.

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File URL: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de/39139/1/MPRA_paper_39139.pdf
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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 39139.

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Date of creation: 2011
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Publication status: Published in World Development 11.39(2011): pp. 1930-1949
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:39139
Contact details of provider: Postal: Schackstr. 4, D-80539 Munich, Germany
Phone: +49-(0)89-2180-2219
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Web page: http://mpra.ub.uni-muenchen.de

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  1. Collier, Paul & Dollar, David, 2002. "Aid allocation and poverty reduction," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 46(8), pages 1475-1500, September.
  2. Daron Acemoglu & Simon Johnson & James Robinson & Pierre Yared, 2005. "Income and Democracy," NBER Working Papers 11205, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  3. Brautigam, Deborah A & Knack, Stephen, 2004. "Foreign Aid, Institutions, and Governance in Sub-Saharan Africa," Economic Development and Cultural Change, University of Chicago Press, vol. 52(2), pages 255-85, January.
  4. Svensson, Jakob, 2000. "Foreign aid and rent-seeking," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 437-461, August.
  5. Jac C. Heckelman & Stephen Knack, 2008. "Foreign Aid and Market-Liberalizing Reform," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 75(299), pages 524-548, 08.
  6. Knack, Stephen & Rogers, F. Halsey & Eubank, Nicholas, 2011. "Aid Quality and Donor Rankings," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 39(11), pages 1907-1917.
  7. Harold J. Brumm, 2003. "Aid, Policies, and Growth: Bauer Was Right," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 23(2), pages 167-174, Fall.
  8. World Bank & International Monetary Fund, 2010. "Global Monitoring Report 2010 : The MDGs after the Crisis," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 2444, March.
  9. Boone, Peter, 1996. "Politics and the effectiveness of foreign aid," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(2), pages 289-329, February.
  10. Torsten Persson & Guido Tabellini, 2006. "Democracy and Development: The Devil in the Details," CESifo Working Paper Series 1672, CESifo Group Munich.
  11. Simeon Djankov & Jose G. Montalvo & Marta Reynal-Querol, 2006. "Does Foreign Aid Help," Cato Journal, Cato Journal, Cato Institute, vol. 26(1), pages 1-28, Winter.
  12. Knack, Stephen & Rahman, Aminur, 2007. "Donor fragmentation and bureaucratic quality in aid recipients," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 83(1), pages 176-197, May.
  13. José Cheibub & Jennifer Gandhi & James Vreeland, 2010. "Democracy and dictatorship revisited," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 143(1), pages 67-101, April.
  14. Stephen Knack, 2001. "Aid Dependence and the Quality of Governance: Cross-Country Empirical Tests," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 310-329, October.
  15. Simeon Djankov & Jose Montalvo & Marta Reynal-Querol, 2008. "The curse of aid," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 169-194, September.
  16. repec:cup:cbooks:9780521808187 is not listed on IDEAS
  17. Dollar, David & Levin, Victoria, 2006. "The Increasing Selectivity of Foreign Aid, 1984-2003," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(12), pages 2034-2046, December.
  18. William Easterly & Tobias Pfutze, 2008. "Where Does the Money Go? Best and Worst Practices in Foreign Aid," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 22(2), pages 29-52, Spring.
  19. Emmanuel Frot & Javier Santiso, 2008. "Development Aid and Portfolio Funds: Trends, Volatility and Fragmentation," OECD Development Centre Working Papers 275, OECD Publishing.
  20. Claudia R. Williamson, 2008. "Foreign Aid and Human Development: The Impact of Foreign Aid to the Health Sector," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 75(1), pages 188-207, July.
  21. William Easterly, 2007. "Are aid agencies improving?," Economic Policy, CEPR;CES;MSH, vol. 22, pages 633-678, October.
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