March 2, 2010.
As calls for a “Marshall Plan for Haiti” continue to make headlines, an increasing number of reports are beginning to ask: is aid the answer? A recent report from PBS interviews a number of aid supporters and critics, asking them if a massive aid program to Haiti is the best option.
A couple of notable quotes from the report:
In regards to the complexity of foreign aid programs, Bob Abernethy, the PBS correspondent, says,”In Washington, responsibility for foreign aid is spread over 12 departments, 25 agencies, and 60 offices, each with its own priorities.”
“Every dollar that we appropriate for food aid, more than 50 cents goes to transportation and administration,” says Pastor David Beckmann President, Bread for the World. “It’s partly because there is a small group of shipping companies —they are US-flagged shipping companies, and the law says they get to ship that food. They are very well-positioned to lobby Congress, and they push that all that money that is supposed to go help the poorest people in the world should go to food that they are going to ship. It’s a scandal.”
“On balance, the sad news is that it really hasn’t worked,” says Professor William Easterly of New York University. “Most of the success stories did not get a lot of aid, and most of the countries that did get a lot of aid are not success stories.”
“Corruption is a really disappointing story in aid, because a lot of aid did go to very corrupt governments, and it was, frankly, just stolen, so it did not reach the poor,” says Mr. Easterly. “Unfortunately, the record shows that we really don’t know much about how to fix governments from outside.”