Development critique: Blight in donor’ed Bangladesh

Donor agencies regularly charge their host governments and bureaucracies of corruption, but what about the lack of accountability of the agencies themselves? In Dhaka, the donor elite is beginning to be taken on.

With the debate on development attaining a certain maturity and international funding practices having come under the microscope like never before, three conclusions are emerging. Firstly, the impact of aid on recipient countries is largely undocumented and even when it is done, the results remain unpublished; secondly, the way international aid is currently managed, with little or no accountability or coordination, it is little wonder that it often fails to achieve its ends; and thirdly, if things are to improve, greater accountability has to be worked into the system.

Critics of foreign aid, both from the left and the right, challenge the efficacy of aid with multiple arguments. From the left perspective, one of these is that foreign aid gives rise to a 'dependent bourgeoisie' that sustains itself on Western grants, support and scholarships, as well as on the lucrative jobs that donor agencies offer to trained people of the South. Meanwhile, the right holds that aid gives governments in developing countries excessive control over the economy, allowing resources to be distributed as political favours, one effect of which is the diminishing of private capital flow into the national economy. The point at which these two arguments overlap is in bringing into focus the bureaucracy as it affects and is affected by aid. Three recent court cases in Bangladesh concerning the alleged abuses of a United Nations development agency and a Bretton Woods lending organisation illustrate an empirical convergence of these critiques.

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Himal Southasian