Ethiopian orthodox church with sunrays in Addis Ababa at dawn

What to expect from the Addis Ababa Financing for Development conference

This article appeared in The Guardian Development Professionals Network on Friday 10 July, 2015.  Development economist Owen Barder gives an insight into what the coming five days of plenaries, roundtables and side events will be all about

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A picture of the National Audit Office

No smoking gun – DFID and the surge in spending

Press reports about the NAO report on DFID budget management in 2013 are wholly misleading. DFID actually comes out of the report pretty well. There is a cautionary tale here for DFID, but it isn’t about the way it manages its budget. It is that the sharks are circling, and they do not seem to be very interested in the facts. Read the full post »
Boy with smallpox on his face

Is aid a waste of money?

If you add up all the aid that all OECD countries have given since they started counting it in 1960, and then assume that the only thing that this aid has achieved was the eradication of smallpox, then the whole thing would still be a bargain, costing less than half what the UK National Health Service spends on average to save a life. Read the full post »
Daron Acemoglu, Jim Robinson, Owen Barder

It’s the politics, stupid

One thing that the public knows, which many development experts apparently do not, is that poor countries are poor because they are badly governed and have institutions which prevent growth and permit a small elite to capture the nation's wealth. According to Why Nations Fail, by Daron Acemoğlu and Jim Robinson, the public is (as usual) basically right. Read the full post »
A pair of headphones wrapped around the globe

Microfinance as an allegory for aid

In the latest episode of Development Drums, David Roodman explains that rigorous evaluations of micro-credit suggest that, on average, it has no effect on poverty. Read the full post »
Women preparing food in mud hut on March 20 , 2014 in Jaisalmer,India

End of year reflections

The Guardian development blog is running a series of end of year reflections on development, including one by me. Many of the articles are upbeat about progress in developing countries, but pessimistic about the short term economic prospects for … Go to to read the rest

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The Guardian's data visualisation

UN summit roundup: three development narratives

Last week’s UN meetings in New York prompted a flurry of papers, speeches, documents, announcements and articles about development in general, and the Millennium Development Goals in particular.  There seem to be three emerging development narratives which are not obviously … Go to to read the rest

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Aid works even if it does not cause development

daughterMy article on OpenDemocracy today discusses whether aid works.

Some supporters of aid have made what seem to me to be extravagant claims that aid should aim to bring about economic and social transformation of developing countries, so accelerating economic … Go to to read the rest

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Who says aid doesn’t work?

The Independent reports Bob Geldof’s recent trip to Ethiopia:

Though 35 per cent of Ethiopian children are malnourished, and 40 per cent are stunted when they start school, the number who die below the age of 5 is down 40

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Does aid promote economic growth?

Here is a new paper by Channing Arndt, Sam Jones, and Finn Tarp on whether aid leads to economic growth. The econometrics are done carefully, and it finds that aid inflows of about 10 per cent of GDP lead to Go to to read the rest

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Aid is a precious lifeline

Says Fr Joe Komakoma:

… I lost my young sister. She died of HIV-related complications. She should still be alive today since she was on ARVs.

But ARVs go hand in hand with good nutrition. My sister could not afford

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Does British Foreign Aid Prefer Poor Governments Over Poor People?

AidWatch lay in to British Government aid for giving financial support directly to governments. They have got their facts wrong, and their arguments are knee jerk reactions. They should do a proper analysis of the advantages and disadvantages of budget support. Read the full post »

Accelerating aid disbursement in a financial crisis

Interesting idea from Homi Kharas at the Brookings Institution

That is why the G20 should consider declaring a development emergency for 2009. They should urge aid agencies to take every step possible to accelerate the disbursement of already approved funds.

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DFID Permanent Secretary on social protection

Here is a very interesting article by Minouche Shafik, the Permanent Secretary at the UK Department for International Development. (For our cousins elsewhere, a Permanent Secretary is the most senior civil servant in a government department, ranking somewhere just below … Go to to read the rest

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The Trouble With Aid – Development Drums podcast

In the latest edition of the Development Drums podcast, I talk to Jonathan about his book, The Trouble with Aid. Read the full post »

Barack Obama on US Aid

In a speech to the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Barack Obama has promised to double aid by 2012 if he is elected President:

For the last twenty years, U.S. foreign aid funding has done little more than keep

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Being Paul Wolfowitz’s girlfriend

According to Murray Waas:

Employees of the World Bank have been “expressing concern, dismay, and outrage” regarding favoritism shown by the bank and the Bush administration towards the one-time girlfriend of World Bank president Paul Wolfowitz, according to an internal

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