Everyone Should Be Responsible...(except the aid agencies)

Today, I foist a new blog called Aid Watch on the blogosphere. The objective is to be brutally honest when aid is not helping the poor, but also praising it when it is. Alas, there is far to go. Take World Bank President Robert Zoellick’s oped (A Stimulus Package for the World) in last Friday’s New York Times and another one in today’s Financial Times (It is Time to Herald the Age of Responsibility).

The more you promise, the more you are telling us you don’t expect to be accountable for promises

In the NYT, President Zoellick requests an additional $6 billion from the US in foreign aid, which will “speed up global recovery, help the world’s poor and bolster [America’s] foreign policy influence…facilitate fast and flexible aid delivery…create jobs while building a foundation for productivity and growth…increase demand for American-made equipment...[and] limit the depth and length of the international downturn, prevent the contagion of social unrest and help save a generation from a new poverty trap.”

The more actions you list, the less you are serious about each action

Right after saying “priorities” for actions in poor countries (NYT), President Zoellick manages to touch on agriculture, health, education, nutrition, infrastructure, banking systems, small-and-medium-enterprise development, microcredit, global warming, and private sector development. Mr. Zoellick (FT) also wishes for international action on the Millennium Development Goals, the Doha trade round, the Copenhagen climate change agreement, humanitarian food supplies, energy conservation, and more G20 meetings to agree on fiscal expansion and reopening credit market agreements.

It’s not about aid money to reach objectives, aid money IS the objective

NYT: “The United States could begin by pledging some $6 billion…0.7 percent of its stimulus package.” FT: “How we respond to the crisis…will set the course.” The “first step” is to give more aid.

President Zoellick does mention briefly the critical issue in both the NYT and FT: some “safeguards to ensure that the money is well spent,” which don’t currently exist. In the FT, he makes the inspirational call for an “Age of Responsibility,” but the Responsibility seems to apply only to rich donors, there is nothing about holding the World Bank responsible.

If you are not accountable for promises, if you try to do everything and focus on nothing, and if you obsess about aid money raised rather than results achieved, haven’t you already told us that the money will not be “well spent”?