Persistent myths about foreign aid

No, we do not spend 28% of the budget on aid. The actual figure is less than 0.7% (eg less than 1%). There's no shortage of polls that demonstrate just how uninformed people are on a range of everyday topics. I certainly might bump the stats against Americans myself if interviewed. But a curious myth that just won't die is how much of the budget Americans think goes to foreign aid. With so many clarifications across news and edutainment sources, why do people hold on to the belief that foreign aid is bankrupting the country?? No, foreign aid is not all about altruism. There must be hundreds of (google-able) essays on the objectives of foreign aid, and it isn't about helping the poor. Perhaps people on the ground, like me for … [Read more...]

Democrats and Republicans on Foreign Aid

A useful article on the differences between the platforms on US foreign aid. Especially interesting for my field is the debate on where to park Obama's signature Global Health Initiative. This year a decision was made to maintain its diplomacy focus by parking it in the State Department (versus transferring it to USAID, the USG's development agency). The discussion is an interesting one because it explores the nature of US foreign aid, which is managed by multiple USG agencies. … [Read more...]

Foreign aid contribution as a percentage of your taxes

After all the rumblings over the years, it's surprising how it's still so little-known that foreign aid makes up less than 1% of the budget. To see how it impacts the average person, here's a breakdown of where Jane Q. Taxpayer's taxes go, from the IRS website: … [Read more...]

Budget cuts by hatchet or scalpel?

The excerpt below is from PBS's Need to Know. Read the entire piece, Budget Cuts by Hatchet or Scalpel, written by Joshua Foust. Follow him on Google+. This weekend’s “debt deal” in Congress, which raised the debt ceiling and agreed to some cuts in the future, contains a change in how the international affairs budget is calculated within the federal budget. In Section 102 of the bill, Function 150 budgets are reclassified as “security.” This means foreign assistance and development programs — USAID, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and lots of State Department programs — are now in the same budget category as the Departments of Defense, Homeland Security and the National Nuclear Safety Administration. It might seem like a … [Read more...]

Review: Wrike (web-based project management tool)

The context of this review is at the end of this post. Other useful reviews I've found, some which echo a few points below, are here (reviewed against LiquidPlanner, 2010), here (reviewed against BaseCamp, 2007), here (comments from 2009), and here (2007). My main complaint is the inconsistency problem in user experience: between users, within each user's experience in using the same function, and then our team's experience conflicts directly with what Wrike says its platform can do. What could this be from? The caching? The firewalls? We already all use the same version of Chrome. Basic functionalities I expect from a project management platform: 1. Buffering between dependencies is unreliable – sometimes the buffer periods stick, … [Read more...]

the good news on maternal mortality, and the politics of aid

A good discussion in the Columbia Journalism Review on science versus advocacy, on the heels of The Lancet's piece on declining Maternal Mortality Rates (MMR) worldwide (using new, more rigorous modeling on countries with estimates available): On Wednesday, The New York Times gave its lead front-page slot to a study published in the medical journal The Lancet, where, “For the first time in decades, researchers are reporting a significant drop worldwide in the number women dying each year from pregnancy and childbirth, to about 342,900 in 2008 from 526,300 in 1980 … The study cited a number of reasons for the improvement: lower pregnancy rates in some countries; higher income, which improves nutrition and access to health care; more … [Read more...]

Where does aid money come from?

This interactive map with accompanying document shows the source of aid by country, and maps other interesting information such as corruption, natural disasters, security risk areas, etc. (If aid map is not the default, click the scroll-down map to 'aid'.)Aid began after WWII in the new international economic system. Supporting insufficient capital flows in developing countries became part of the Cold War politics. OECD collects data on Official Development Assistance, which does not include funds from philantrophic sources, private foundations, or NGOs.To address poverty, in a 1970 UN resolution, industrialised nations committed 0.7% of their GNI towards international aid. Of the 22 OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries, … [Read more...]

Foreign Aid and Development

It's difficult not to be cynical given the futility and waste of many aid programmes, no matter the intent of individuals. The constraints of procurements, lack of transparency and accountability, coupled with donors' foreign policies, often lead to inefficient and ineffective efforts. All for the sake of creating viable markets out of lagging economies?The impact of foreign aid and development has received increased visibility and debate among the mainstream media lately. There's a downloadable podcast on NPR's Intelligence Squared, which hosts an Oxford-style debate on many topics. Is Aid to Africa Doing More Harm Than Good?, broadcast on 12 Dec 2007, offers interesting insights from both sides of the issue.And the following is a foreign … [Read more...]