Aid to Ethiopia (Le Monde)

In Le Monde, David Martin has a rather intelligent piece about aid to Ethiopia:

Major operators such as Difid, the British government arm, and USAid play a cat-and-mouse game with the government (GoE) because Meles is sensitive about external pressures in an environment in which domestic critics are almost silenced and expatriate websites blocked. Yet donor aid contributes at least 20% of GNP to a precarious economy, so cash can’t be turned away.

Donors are aware of their power and responsibility. With the Ethiopian opposition parties in disarray (1) they are the only real curb on Meles. Big-time donors (the World Bank via the International Development Association, UNDP, the US, the UK, international NGOs) work through GoE to agreed MDG objectives set out in the government’s plan for accelerated and sustained development to end poverty (PASDEP). Cash goes to approved projects administered by Ethiopians.

I do wonder about the role donors should play when the domestic political opposition does not exist or, as in this case, is in disarray. It is tempting for donors to step in to the gap and provide the necessary checks and balances. But in the end this undermines the space for parliament and opposition parties to hold the government to account.

So my view is that donors should avoid playing this role: not because I don’t think it is important to hold governments to account but because I do.

2 thoughts on “Aid to Ethiopia (Le Monde)”

  1. I don’t think there’s any way for Donors to avoid playing a ‘checks and balances’ role anywhere where they’re providing direct budget support and where the government has an oversight monopoly. The reason is that if there’s no domestic opposition then the chance of decent oversight is small, so we shouldn’t be giving budget support if we’re not prepared to put pressure on the government to achieve minimum standards and results.

    I agree that playing a role that domestic actors should be playing is dangerous; but if we agree we shouldn’t do it, then direct support should be off the agenda.

  2. I’m tempted to think that if we don’t think that minimum standards and results will be delivered unless we play a checks and balances role, then we probably should not be giving it budget support at all.

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