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The implications of foreign aid fungibility for development assistance


  • Devarajan, Shantayanan
  • Swaroop, vinaya


A foreign aid or foreign lending policy that focuses exclusively on project financing may have unintended consequences, report the authors. New research shows that aid intended for crucial social and economic sectors often merely substitutes for spending that recipient governments would have undertaken anyway and the funds that are thereby freed up are spent for other purposes. If the aid funds something that would have been done anyway, traditional ways of evaluating the aid's effectiveness are not really accurate. Ifaid funds are fungible and the recipient's public spending program is unsatisfactory, project lending may not be cost-effective. If the recipient's public spending program is satisfactory, perhaps the donor should finance a portion of it instead of financing individual projects. One solution to the problem of fungibility, then, is that donors could tie assistance to an overall public spending program (in the recipient country) that provides adequate resources to crucial sectors. To make this kind of reform operational, the authors propose a new lending instrument: a public expenditure reform loan (PERL). A PERL would tie an institution's lending strategy to the recipient country's achievement of mutually agreed-upon development goals. Everyone agrees that better donor coordination is needed, but it has been difficult to achieve because some donors tend to prefer projects (usually with the national flag flying over them). By agreeing on a public expenditure program and financing a portion of it, the World Bank credibly ask other donors to do the same.

Suggested Citation

  • Devarajan, Shantayanan & Swaroop, vinaya, 1998. "The implications of foreign aid fungibility for development assistance," Policy Research Working Paper Series 2022, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2022

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Pack, Howard & Pack, Janet Rothenberg, 1990. "Is Foreign Aid Fungible? The Case of Indonesia," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 100(399), pages 188-194, March.
    2. Hausman, Jerry, 2015. "Specification tests in econometrics," Applied Econometrics, Publishing House "SINERGIA PRESS", vol. 38(2), pages 112-134.
    3. Pack, Howard & Pack, Janet Rothenberg, 1993. "Foreign Aid and the Question of Fungibility," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 75(2), pages 258-265, May.
    4. Khilji, Nasir M. & Zampelli, Ernest M., 1994. "The fungibility of U.S. military and non-military assistance and the impacts on expenditures of major aid recipients," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 43(2), pages 345-362, April.
    5. Cashel-Cordo, Peter & Craig, Steven G., 1990. "The public sector impact of international resource transfers," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 32(1), pages 17-42, January.
    6. Devarajan, Shantayanan & Swaroop, Vinaya & Heng-fu, Zou, 1996. "The composition of public expenditure and economic growth," Journal of Monetary Economics, Elsevier, vol. 37(2-3), pages 313-344, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Stephen Howes, 2014. "A Framework for Understanding Aid Effectiveness Determinants, Strategies and Tradeoffs," Asia and the Pacific Policy Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 1(1), pages 58-72, January.
    2. World Bank, 2000. "Guatemala : Expenditure Reform in a Post-Conflict Country," World Bank Other Operational Studies 15481, The World Bank.
    3. Boriana Yontcheva & Nadia Masud, 2005. "Does Foreign Aid Reduce Poverty? Empirical Evidence from Nongovernmental and Bilateral Aid," IMF Working Papers 05/100, International Monetary Fund.
    4. Katarina Juselius & Niels Framroze Møller & Finn Tarp, 2014. "The Long-Run Impact of Foreign Aid in 36 African Countries: Insights from Multivariate Time Series Analysis," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 76(2), pages 153-184, April.
    5. Hans-Rimbert Hemmer & Andreas Lorenz, 2003. "What determines the success or failure of german bilateral financial aid?," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 139(3), pages 507-549, September.
    6. World Bank, 2010. "Malawi - Country Economic Memorandum : Seizing Opportunities for Growth through Regional Integration and Trade - Summary of Main Finding and Recommendations," World Bank Other Operational Studies 2954, The World Bank.
    7. Jan Pettersson, 2007. "Child Mortality: Is Aid Fungibility in Pro-Poor Expenditure Sectors Decisive?," Review of World Economics (Weltwirtschaftliches Archiv), Springer;Institut für Weltwirtschaft (Kiel Institute for the World Economy), vol. 143(4), pages 673-693, December.
    8. Lukasz Marc, 2012. "New Evidence on Fungibility at the Aggregate Level," Tinbergen Institute Discussion Papers 12-083/2, Tinbergen Institute.
    9. Sanjeev Gupta & Catherine A Pattillo & Smita Wagh, 2006. "Are Donor Countries Giving More or Less Aid?," IMF Working Papers 06/1, International Monetary Fund.


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