With less than a decade until 2015, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) increasingly seem likely to be just another set of missed development targets. But is it really beyond our capacity to reduce under-fives deaths more rapidly, tackle income poverty and ensure that all children – girls as well as boys – have the chance to attend primary school? Surely these are not unrealistic aspirations? But if we are not currently on track to meet these targets, then clearly we are doing something wrong.
Faddism in development thinking shifts the focus from one issue to another – we need better governance, less corruption, more community involvement, a greater role for the private sector, etc. – though with little apparent success in sustaining improvements in development effectiveness. Perhaps all that was needed all along was more money.
This article first reviews estimates of the resources required to achieve the MDGs, showing that there is indeed a financing gap. Critics argue that more aid will be ineffective. These arguments fall under three headings: (1) negative returns to aid; (2) lack of absorptive capacity (on the part of both donor and recipient governments) and (3) adverse incentives. These arguments are each dealt with in turn. It is concluded that there are no serious constraints on doubling aid, but that the type of aid matters (more of it should be explicitly propoor) and that some attention does indeed need to be paid to the recipient government’s commitment to poverty reduction. But donors need to make changes in the type of aid that they give and the means by which they give it.
This article comes from the IDS Bulletin 36.3 (2005) The Case for Doubling Aid