True Confessions: I'm still unable to conclude whether aid does more harm than good

Margaret Wente  in Toronto Globe and Mail perceives a growing backlash against humanitarian aid, that it may be doing more harm than good in Africa (she concentrates on seemingly everyone's (including ours) recent favorite example of Ethiopia). I'm quoted in the article accurately. Contrary to some perceptions (not in Wente's article) however, I have never made a general argument that aid does more harm than good, or called for aid to be abolished or even cut. I said aid "has done so much ill and so little good" in the subtitle to the White Man's Burden. The "ill" is well covered in Margaret Wente's column and is similar to the recent posts on this blog about aid financing autocrats and political repression, with similar examples in my book.  However, I have also given examples of aid successes, particularly in health (vaccinations!) It is very hard to conclude what the net effect of the ill and the good is, and I've never attempted to do so.

Instead I think the viable arguments are that (1) aid's record is sufficiently disappointing that it is unlikely to ever be the main driver of successful development, (2) if aid were more accountable it would do less ill and more good.