Nepali Times
Aid and influence

Aid & Influence Do donors hinder or help? Stephen Browne Earthscan, London, 2007 ISBN 1-84407-202-9
Except for emergency humanitarian assistance, no aid is completely altruistic. Overseas development assistance always has a geo-political, military or commercial motive. Some of this influence is harmless, but much of the aid in the past 50 years has ended up benefiting the donor rather than the recipient. Just like war is politics by another means, foreign aid is foreign relations by other means.

Seeing 'Gift of the Government of India' painted in large letters on the sides of the commuter buses for the employees of the Constituent Assembly secretariat it is clear that aid is also public relations, and most donors want to make a big song and dance about having been so generous.

Veteran international civil servant, Stephen Browne, in his book Aid & Influence: Do Donors Help or Hinder? takes a somewhat cynical look at foreign aid over the ages, highlighting the ivory tower planning of non-participatory aid policy. But Browne also presents solutions: promoting neutral and beneficial schemes like fair trade, debt-cancellation, peace-building and improved governance.

Developing countries also have plenty of in-country examples of where aid has worked and lifted communities out of dependency. Countries of the south can also learn from each other with successes in social mobilisation and community participation in development. Browne also makes a suggestion that may be pertinent for Nepal: the government should be more choosy about aid and not just take everything that comes along.

The book has a chapter on donors from the South, looking at the little-examined subject of regional powers which are major recipients of western development assistance themselves projecting 'soft power' through aid for infrastructure and development in neighbouring poor countries. The OECD estimates that ten per cent of aid (up to $10 billion a year) is between countries of the south.

The Economics of Development Assistance Japan's ODA in a Symbiotic World Nishigaki Akira and Shimomura Yasutami (translation) LTCB International Library Foundation 1998 ISBN 4-924971-05-7
Although published 10 years ago, The Economics of Development Assistance: Japan's ODA in a Symbiotic World is still a useful overview of Japanese development assistance. Japan overtook the United States to become the world's largest donor on a net disbursement basis in 1992. What is dramatic is that in 1965 Japan ranked second only to India as the largest borrower from the World Bank.

Authors Nishigaki Akira and Shimomura Yasutami are Japanese ODA experts with past experience in government and have made a thorough academic study in this translation of their book. They examine the shifts of Japan's aid policy from the 'tied aid' on large infrastructure projects in the past to a more sophisticated approach towards aid policy and the aid fatigue that accompanied an economic slowdown in Japan.

The philosophy of Japanese aid shifted along the way to promote self-help efforts, which the authors say are rooted in Japan's own post-war modernisation process. The authors do try to either play down or justify the 'tied aid' component of Japanese development assistance, saying that 80 per cent of Japanese aid in 1993 was already 'untied' compared with only 30 per cent for France, UK and the United States in that year. The proportion of Japanese companies that win yen loans for infrastructure assistance has gone down in the past decade, but larger projects are still Japanese-dominated.

Kunda Dixit

Living beyond one's means - FROM ISSUE #420 (03 OCT 2008 - 09 OCT 2008)
Aid doesn't reach the ultra-poor - FROM ISSUE #420 (03 OCT 2008 - 09 OCT 2008)

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)