Hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis. These words, like fire, evoke a sense of fear and destruction. Whole cities and towns wiped out by natural disasters. Homes shattered, families torn, lives lost. To the naked eye, it seems irreparable. But in the case of some cities in the west, a sense of normalcy was regained within a few years.
Malaria, HIV/AIDS, hunger. To the unexposed western eye this evokes pity and shame. The idea that hundreds of thousands a day die from these disasters in Africa is out of reach. Except, upon deeper scrutiny, one would notice that the climatic conditions favor the breeding of the Malaria-spreading parasite, and the scorching nature of the sub-Saharan heat threatens droughts and famine. If this is the case, isn’t natural disaster a more befitting name?
It is easy to dismiss the notion of foreign aid on the grounds that poor countries simply need to be self-reliant and only receive aid for humanitarian problems. But if humans are dying daily of disease and the popular solution is to have governments ‘look within themselves and improve healthcare’, then humanity in itself is lost.
If it took a western city with a deep-pocket budget like New Orleans almost 3 years to regain a sense of normalcy after hurricane Katrina, how can we then expect a country where 70% of the population lives on under a dollar a day to simply ‘get its act together’. More so, if this country is faced with its own versions of Hurricane Katrina daily?
The economic principle of capital markets follows that individual savings and taxes (public financing) make up the capital market. Now in a country stricken with hunger, the population barely makes enough to eat and survive, let alone save or pay taxes. The truth of the matter is that, a government cannot tighten its spending and divert into investing in public goods when there is nothing to tighten. But let alone this.
Using corruption as a crutch against foreign aid perpetuates this false notion. A government may be corrupt. However, millions of people need not suffer because of this. Intuitively, an uneducated population cannot tell the difference between sound policies and empty promises. At the same time, power-hungry politicians are not exactly racing to admit that they are corrupt.
This is where foreign aid comes in.
Aid should aim to fill this gap in education to prevent a country from putting into power under-qualified candidates on the basis of tribal lines/caste. In doing so, power is transferred from the hands of the governments to the people who can rightly weigh what works and doesn’t work for them.
The aim of Foreign Aid shouldn’t be to replace or do a government’s homework. Nor to police a government- that would be imperialism.
The aim, if nothing else, should be to supplement the already existing resources in a country to enable it access to the economic ladder. Not by means of an influx of money to the government -whose accountability could be rightly questionable, but investments in the population.
This is not a Band-Aid solution but rather a double knotted stitch which will repair the torn systems.