Aid is a term that is used to refer to help or assistance. In international relations, aid (also known as international aid or foreign aid) involves provision of help willingly by one country (donor) to another (recipient), given with the aim of benefiting the country in need (recipient). It can be available in many forms (Branczik, 2004, p. 1). These include:
- Program aid which refers to aid that is given to help a specific sector, for example, providing funds to cater for educating individuals in a developing country.
- Budget aid which is a special project that is meant to support the financial system of the country in need.
- Untied aid which is used to refer to a type of aid which the country in need can use as it finds it necessary; for example, if it has some difficulties with the monetary form, the state can spend the money to support that sphere.
- Tied aid which refers to a situation whereby the aid provided is used to buy products from the donor country.
- Technical assistance which is an aid provided in form of skilled personnel that go to the developing countries to take part in some development programs.
- Unilateral aid which is meant to be an aid given by the donor country specifically to assist the targeted country.
- Joint aid which is considered to be an aid that is given through an intermediate channel; for example, the World Bank may gather donations from several donor countries which they then distribute to the recipients.
- Food aid which involves a situation whereby the recipient countries are provided with foodstuffs to lessen hunger, especially after a natural disaster, such as famine or drought.
International aid programs on developing countries
Foreign aid programs have been effective in a number of cases, for example, in Europe when it helped to rebuilt it after the Second World War. With respect to development, aid helped in curbing various aspects in the world, like in eradication of polio and reduction in small pox incidences, thus, increasing life expectancy (UN enable 1982,.p 1). Foreign Aid also helps to provide public programs in developing countries which include education or transportation systems, clean water and waste disposal facilities, etc. However, because of the lack of the necessary number of funds, developing countries fail to provide all of them. Moreover, their economic rate of return is so uncertain that private sectors do not prefer giving them a large scale of money despite the fact that those actions are essential for the countries’ development. Therefore, foreign aid acts as substitute capital to help to invest in public services and goods which would be otherwise supplied to them at a higher interest rate by the international capital market, hence, being unaffordable.
In cases of natural disasters, like famine or drought, international aid helps to lessen the severity brought about by these natural calamities by encouraging improved farming activities, and providing drought resistant strain of crops, thereby increasing production. However, despite having been effective in meeting some of its goals, there is shred of evidence that shows that international aid has ultimately helped in solving problems in the developing countries in terms of stability and growth. Most parts of Latin America, Africa, Asia and the Middle East are economically worse today than they were years ago. This is attributed to international aid provided to these countries and more to the third world countries which are over-dependent in aid (Majewski, 1987, p. 1). This dependency on foreign aid has led to lack of self confidence, creativity and pride among citizens and leaders of a developing country. It has led to the lack of governance among African leaders, especially in Africa.
Although food aid helps in decreasing severity of hunger, this assistance can also lead to social breakdown. This was evident in Somalia as it was witnessed by a relief worker, Michael Maren, who came to the conclusion that this relief food aid was killing as much citizens as it had saved. Instead of the aid being used to curb hunger. It turned out that the Somali soldiers were selling the provision to gain extra income at the expense of their fellow ordinary citizens while those at the liberation front used the food as rations to enable them to attack Ethiopia. These massive aid flows led to the loss of self-sufficiency in food and agricultural production, thus enhancing central government control over the people (KIRIN, 2011, p. 1).
Donors are not usually concerned with the well being of the people in the developing countries, but they normally have motives for giving the aid from which they will benefit in the long run. There have been a lot of discussions whether financial organizations, such as World Bank, really help people in the developing countries to solve their problems or they just find new areas for business. Besides being condemned for using the wrong intentions, aid may be viewed as ineffective in that it does not help those who it is meant to support. This is referred to as economic criticism of aid. According to statistics, there is no connection between monetary growth and international support, that is why nothing seems to prove that international aid boosts growth.
International aid enhances the creation of a corrupt government since local politicians distribute it. This was observed by James Shikwati, a Kenyan economist, in Zambia bureaucracies during the reign of Dr. F. Chiluba. This in turn deteriorates the local economy. In another example, Shikwati argues that when aid comes to Kenya in form of food, fro example, corn, part of it is distributed on tribal grounds by corrupt politicians or sold at the give-away prices that undercut the local food producers. If the aid is in terms of clothing, the citizens will not use the services of the local tailors harming their business as a result. John Stossel demonstrated (IMF, 2011, p. 1) that other developing countries also establish secret government bank accounts in which financial aid from developed countries aimed at maintaining projects is hidden. Such measures result in stagnation of the projects.
Though foreign or international aid has been discovered to be so wanting, it has not helped much in solving problems in the developing countries, especially in terms of promoting self-sustaining economic development. There are also no reasons to suggest any correlation between international aid and economic growth. For those developing countries which have succeeded economically, there is a shred of evidence, if any, to prove the cause of their success. International aid, especially in the Sub-Saharan Africa, has negligible impact due to the misuse and abuse of foreign help as well as corrupt governments that channel it to the wrong projects. International aid should be given for a limited period to enhance self-reliance and economic independence in the developing countries.
- Branczik, A. (2004) Humanitarian Aid and development assistance. The Beyond Intractability Project.
- IMF. (2011). Lending by the IMF. Web.
- KIRIN. (2011). Helping developing countries solve their food problems. United Nations
- University-Kirin Fellowship Program.
- Majewski, J. (1987) Third world development: foreign aid or free trade? Foundation for economic education.
- UN enable. (1982) World program of action concerning disabled persons. Development and human rights for all.