Try Something, Anything: Aid Ideas and the Gulf Oil Spill
There is an entertaining debate going on in the aid wonk-o-sphere. The Center for Global Development published a book in March proposing a new idea for aid effectiveness, “Cash on Deliver Aid”:
“COD Aid is a funding mechanism that hinges on results. At its core is a contract between funders and recipients that stipulates a fixed payment for each unit of confirmed progress toward an agreed-upon goal. Once the contract is struck, the funder takes a hands-off approach, allowing the recipient the freedom and responsibility to achieve the goal on its own. Payment is made only after progress toward the goal is independently verified by a third party.”
Then, in the Africa Issue of the International Affairs Forum, economist Owen Barder wrote an open provocation letter to aid critics telling them to get on board or get out of the way. [Here is the PDF. I am interviewed in the same issue, talking utter nonsense. Don’t read that part. Please]
Then the twitterites had at it.
[Don’t understand any of that twitterese? Have your intern translate. No intern? Ask your kids. No kids? It’s too late for you, the future is going to eat you alive.]
Which prompted famed aid curmudgeon Bill Easterly to write a surprisingly funny piece of satire on his blog. Which led to even funnier satire in his comments page.
And the heresy that led to all this sound and fury? “Should we dare to try untested ideas in aid when so much is at stake?” Well, consider the Gulf oil spill.
It’s a horribly ongoing disaster. To fix it, we’ve tried one thing after another. Blow-out preventers, top hats, straws, chemical dispersants, junk shots, mud shots, top kills, and containment caps. Each one fails and we try something new. Because when its this bad, it’s not just a question of trying anything. We have to try everything.
Imagine the oil spill as a metaphor for Africa. We’ve been trying junk shots for 50 years. It ain’t working. Time to try something else. So why not pilot the “COD Aid”? We’ve got too much to lose if we don’t.