- Advances in New Institutional Analysis series
Chapter 4: Can Foreign Aid Promote Development?
4. Can foreign aid promote development? The preceding chapters described how institutions emerged to support increasingly open access to economic and political activity and allowed the specialization and innovation that were critical to the evolution of today’s wealthy, developed countries. These crucial institutions are weak or missing in today’s underdeveloped countries. Instead, poor societies are characterized by high transaction costs, corrupt and ineﬃcient bureaucracies, weak enforcement of laws, lax protection of property rights, and the absence of mechanisms to hold bureaucrats and politicians accountable for their actions. Access to economic opportunities, rule of law, and protection of property and persons are privileges available only to elites. Can foreign aid change these damaging circumstances and help nurture the institutions that promote development? Is it fair to ask whether foreign aid can promote development? Much aid is dedicated to reducing the immediate misery of people in poverty, not to development. But improving the lot of direct beneﬁciaries by distributing food, shelter, health care, or money is not the only mission of aidgiving agencies. Aid organizations are also dedicated to the proposition that underdevelopment can be eliminated and poverty eradicated. The World Bank mission statement is emblematic: “Our dream is a world free of poverty.” Increasingly aid agencies also recognize that development requires improved institutions, as these quotes show: ● ● “Addressing the challenge of building eﬀective institutions is critical to the Bank’s mission of ﬁghting poverty.” (World Bank 2002, p. iii) “Sustainable and equitable development requires a democratic, modern and e...
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