Its is an accepted fact that in regards to foreign aid offered by the developed countries and agencies to developing countries, some form of regulation has to be present to foster human rights, democracy, development and accountability; this is the cases where the recipient state in question either is actively repressing the citizenry, is pursuing unnecessary armament, is condoning corruption and financial crimes; and is allowing the destruction of the environment at unacceptable rates. Regimes that are perpetrating genocide, ethnic cleansing and other governance issues also fall into this category. In countries of this sort, interventions to withhold aid and assistance; until the point where certain conditionalities are met for the corrections of the ills in the country is justifiable [Hewitt, 1993]. In this paper, I intend to urge that some of the measures of intervention and interference are not only unnecessary based on three arguments; that the interference is an assault to the sovereignty of the country, that some interference is of no benefit to the country and that some measures applied are in fact harmful to the country.
Conditionalities: an assault to sovereignty
Every country in this world that claims to be sovereign has the right to determine through independent decision-making the course of action it wishes to take for the good of its citizenry. However, some of the stipulations placed by foreign governments and aid agencies as a prerequisite for the acquisition of aid are tantamount to imposition of foreign power over that country. The economies of many developing countries are linked to the conditions set by the donors and all financial support to these economies including debt relief and rescheduling; and release of aid are pegged on the implementation of these conditions. Consequently, the government looses a significant amount of independence in making economic policies and in the management of the national economy in an attempt to fulfill the donor requirements [Adedeji, 1995]. This, in my view is a loss of sovereignty. Some of the conditions that are imposed include structural change like introduction of fees for primary schools and hospitals, privatization schemes for industries, adjustment to the value of the national currency and market liberalization. The IMF goes to the extent of dictating a country’s interest rates [Kanbur, 2000].
Conditionalities are useless
The logic that conditionalities to aid will improve the country’s economic policies for the good of the people has been shown to be baseless [Burnside and Dollar, 1997]. Additionally, aid has flown to countries that showed no significant improvement of how the economy is run; for example, between 1961 and 1993, Zambia continued to receive aid that would have allowed its per capita GDP to grow to 30 times what it is today; which of course did not happen [Kanbur, 2000]. The donors are usually faced with the choice of executing the threats stipulated in the conditions after such are not followed; and risking the withdraw of precious services to the poor resulting in life and death situations if such threats were to be executed. In most cases, the funds are released despite gross failures of meeting such conditions [Kanbur, 2000]. Such a move would lead to complete chaos in the economy.
Interference is harmful
It became the habit of developed nations during the Cold war era to support regimes that had poor governance, corruption and gross violation of human rights only because they supported the respective political ideology. This was clearly demonstrated in Zaire and Senegal where the French and the US support of the release funds in the late 80s and early 90s despite obvious failures to meet the minimum requirements for receiving such funds [Kanbur, 2000]. This had obvious negative effects on human rights and freedom in such countries. At the end of the cold war, such support was withdrawn leaving such countries in severe economic constrains. It has also been observed that some of the aid agencies have pursued policies aimed at maintaining a constant flow of aid to developing countries regardless of whether this aid is beneficial or not; this stems from the fact that these agencies need to appear in good light among the developing countries as supporting development in the poor countries so as to secure more funding; in a matter of speaking, they wouldn’t receive any funds if there was no place to take them. The agencies also need to distribute aid as this is the function supporting the livelihoods of the staff and the success of future endeavors. In this light it is therefore safe to conclude that some of the stipulations to aid are aimed not at improving accountability of the recipients but at maintaining the flow of aid; the developing countries have discovered this weakness in the system and have exploited it at the expense of their peoples’ welfare. For example, in 1992, Ghana announced an 80% increase in salaries for all the civil servants and the military as a political concession to these groups; this was contrary to the adjusted programs prescribed by the IMF and the World Bank. As expected the fund were withheld; however, in 1993 the funds were released after the Ghanaian government successfully argued in favor of the increments [Kanbur, 1996].
Undeniably, many developing nations still need a lot of financial support to prevent them from degenerating into failed states. Additionally, it is accepted that some form of accountability measure has to be put in place to ensure that such fund at the end of the day benefit the people. However, such controls have to be formulated in a way that they do not infringe on the sovereignty of the nation; to be actually helpful to the nation and not bring any negative effects to the recipients; otherwise, the whole idea of aid and assistance will be built on a falsehood of progress.
Adedeji, A. (1995): An African Perspective on Bretton Woods: in Mahbub ul Haq et al. (eds) The UN and Bretton Woods Institutions: New Challenges for the Twenty First Century, St. Martin’s Press.
Burnside, C. and D. Dollar (1997): Aid, Policies and Growth: Policy Research Working Paper No. 1777, World Bank.
Hewitt de Alcantara, C., (1993), Real Markets: Social and political issues of food policy reform. Frank Cass/EADI/UNRISD, London.
Kanbur, R. (1996): Prospective and Retrospective Conditionality: Practicalities and Fundamentals: in P. Collier and C. Pattillo (eds) Investment and Risk in Africa, Macmillan.
Kanbur R. (2000): Aid, Conditionality and Debt in Africa: Published in Finn Tarp (ed), Foreign Aid and Development: Lessons Learnt and Directions for the Future, Routledge.