Exploring the Failure of Foreign Aid: The Role of Incentives and Information

DRI Working Paper No.63
By Claudia R. Williamson

The stated purpose of foreign aid is to promote economic and human development. Recently, the ability of foreign aid to achieve its goals is called into question. Widespread conceptual and empirical literature suggests that foreign aid is ineffective. This paper explores the failure of foreign aid relying on the role of both incentives and information. The success of aid depends on incentives faced by all parties in donor and recipient countries. In addition, both donors and recipients must obtain the necessary information to actually target and achieve desired goals. This analysis provides a double-edged sword to explain why foreign aid fails to achieve development goals.