McCully's Op-Ed is here.
In it he states that:
And he holds the view not uncommon in the aid industry that the business of handing out taxpayer funds should be reserved for so-called "development specialists" who are beings of superior intellect, attested to by development degrees from Massey University, who should not be accountable to the public or their elected representatives.
I would put it to the Minister that if he had one of those degrees he would know the following:
1. That the aid programme was actually already accountable to the public. Civil Society met with the aid programme all the time. Letters and OIA's from the public were dealt with in a timely manner. The agency coms staff presented information on aid to the public via a number of fora. And the agency was subject to all the standard checks and balances that other govt. departments face (work with Treasury, Audit Office etc.)
2. He would also know that the two 'scathing' Audit Office reports he refers to were actually part of a series of reports that highlighted problems but then also showed them being addressed, culminating in favourable reviews. And he would be aware that the situation even at the time of the first Audit Office report still represented a considerable improvement from the last time a National Government ran our aid programme. A review of the aid programme as it was at that time is full of illuminating snippets such as the following, a quote from a staffer back then:
‘I inherited a major mess on the desk - mispayments, underpayments, no desk file, no filing system to track projects, no list of projects funded, documents were lost, there were basically no systems or records. It took months to find the files. When I raised my concerns, I was told to just make decisions and get on with it. It took me a year to work out what was going on.’ (p81)
The agency was light years beyond this by the time I arrived in 2008.
3. And he'd probably be aware that the aid programme he inherited was already involved in economic development, and the Pacific (the distribution of aid between different parts of the globe has, in fact, only changed minimally under McCully). The poverty 'subsidisation' that he sneers at, sounds like benefit payments or something, but in reality this was mostly:
(a) Work on education and health. Both good things in their own right but, if growth's your yardstick, they're also notable contributors to increased productivity.
(b) Attempts to improve governance. Because, at the end of the day, as McCully would know had he ever spoken to a small business-person in the Pacific, it's very hard to run a business in state where the government is dysfunctional.
(c) Livelihoods work, i.e. helping people to provide for themselves and to produce commercially on a small scale.
I haven't studied development at Massey University so can't speak from experience as to the quality of their programme, but I'm pretty confident that their graduates leave literate, informed and capable of coherent argument. On the basis of McCully's latest effort he really should consider enrolling.
The original agreement was .7% of GNP but now it's put in terms of GNI (Gross National Income) which is effectively equal to GNP.
The aid programme is approx $500m. I had govt revenue as approx $50B. So that's where my figure came from.
$500m is a lot of money true, but it's still only 1%. Or, to put it another way, not so much when you know how much is actually out there.
Thanks for the JSM quote Andrew :)
Fionnaigh, good question, I mused on this at DevPolicy a while back: http://devpolicy.org/right-turn/
...where the power is still on, at least for now.
Someone mentioned the UK Conservative party up thread, and I was going to say that it's interesting to compare what's happened to the UK's aid programme under the Conservatives with what's happened in NZ under National. My own personal politics are left leaning, and I generally think that centre-left parties are better for aid, but that being said, by most accounts, the UK Aid programme is doing reasonably well under their current minister. In the case of Australia aid got worse in the early Howard/Downer years but did then improve. And I can think of several National MPs who'd probably do an ok job with our aid programme. So some of the current mess really does seem to be about personality not politics.
oh - and someone's just pointed out to me a typo in paragraph 5. The last sentence should read:
"The programme wasn’t perfect but, had you inquired in 2008, you’d have struggled to find anyone who knew anything about aid who thought it needed a drastic overhaul."
Thanks everyone for your comments. On recent form that power will likely go off here shortly, taking with it my internet access, but a couple of quick points.
You're absolutely correct, some of the Minister's desired indicators of aid success are liable to be completely unreliable once one takes into account issues of attribution. It's not just other country's aid (NZ's total contribution to global aid is much less than 10% btw) but also the impact of domestic political changes, fluctuations in the global economy, trade deals and so one, which are all out of our hands.
I agree about media coverage. The perennial challenge with aid is that it's complicated and that it takes place overseas, mostly out of sight. (And everyone - please do read the Peter Adams Op-Ed that Ewan links to.)
The trouble with the Commitment to Development, QUODA (another CDG index) and similar indices is that much that matters with aid doesn't get captured within them. So, in the case of boomerang aid, the formal tying of aid will register but more subtle ways of using aid as a slush fund for your own businesses won't be shown at all.
George and others,
If you're interested I have a couple of posts up on ANU's Dev Policy blog looking at the relationship between growth and development more generally.
I didn't mean to imply he wasn't a god guy
Phew - that's a relief. We wouldn't want any atheists in parliament ;)
As I noted yesterday, I have some qualms about Locke's unwaveringly negative views about interacting with China. Sometimes it seems like the acceptable face of xenophobia.
For what it's worth I was in a panel discussion/debate with Keith Locke last year on the subject of sweatshops in developing countries. While we disagreed on quite a lot, one thing I didn't sense at all was sinophobia (China featured in the discussions, of course).
Also, at least as long as I've been interested in this area, Keith Locke has been consistent and dedicated on human rights issues wherever they take place. Be it a largish rally on Falun Gong (sp?) persecution and Tibet or tiny March on Zimbabwe, he always seems to be there to meet it at parliament.
I'm not defending everything he's ever said or done, or even the Green's position on trade agreements - all I'm saying is that, best I can tell, he has a genuine and admirable commitment to human rights internationally. And I'm pretty sure that that is the motivation for his current actions.
typos - grrrrrrrr