Sunday, 1 April 2012

Evidence that bilateral aid is wasteful?


Not that it's a surprise:

Documents recently made public by the UK government reveal the cost of poverty reduction in the Millennium Villages Project, a self-described “solution to extreme poverty” in African villages created by Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Sachs. The project costs at least US$12,000 per household that it lifts from poverty—about 34 times the annual incomes of those households.

In fact, as this author makes clear, the level of dissembling by the DFID on these projects is even greater:

Can the Millennium Villages Project permanently triple the incomes of many people, or even any people, at the sites where it works? We can’t even say whether or not that has happened temporarily, much less permanently, because the project has never released any data about what has happened to the incomes of the people it experiments on. The project has been collecting income data for the past seven years. But hasn’t released any data about how incomes have changed over time. It has chosen to release other data on changes in non-income social indicators, but not the income data.

Can we guess that this high profile project promoted by a celebrity academic and funded by the British government simply isn't working?  Indeed the project appears to be little different from simply handing over cash:

The Millennium Villages Project is probably causing short-term improvements in things like access to clean water and skilled birth attendance at the sites it works in. My co-author and I showed this in a paper (available here, peer-reviewed version here), while we revealed that the project typically says those short-term effects roughly twice as large as they really are. But causing short-term improvement of some kind with charity does not make a development project successful.


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