After some weeks of teaching a summer course at Peking University, I'm back at the blog. (For the curious, virtually all Google-hosted sites are blocked in China, including this one.)
(Coincidentally, this is the second Rolling Stone article this week suggested by longform.org that I've liked. The other was Matt Taibbi's piece on how the SEC disposes evidence from preliminary investigations. I would blog about that article too but I think I need to just sit down and write the "credibly committing to bad information" paper that I've already mentioned.)
I actually don't have too much to add to the discussion, especially considering Felix Salmon's nice post on the article.
- High proportions of aid being spent on external NGO overhead.
- Lack of NGO/External Government/Domestic Government/Citizenry coordination.
- Disproportionate focus on donor, rather than recipient needs.
My favourite anecdote for sheer ridiculousness concerns toilets and US building codes. USAID officials turned down a proposal to build composting toilets in new housing because they didn't comply with US building codes. This was despite the fact that the area did not have the sanitation capacity to handle US style toilets. Of course, when you spend more money on flush toilets you build fewer houses.
I understand that managing development aid well is very difficult, especially in countries that have just had massive natural disasters. However, the problems listed in Janet Reitman's article read like a parody of a 1980s development project. My question:
Why is there such a large disconnect between the lessons learned in the academic literature and how development aid is actually implemented?