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This is a joint post with William Savedoff.

Of course we agree with NYTimes development columnist par excellence Nicholas Kristof that our proposal for Cash on Delivery Aid should be tried.  So we are sorry to quibble, but on a couple of points cannot resist.

First Kristof wrote:  “The basic truth of foreign aid is that helping people is far, far harder than it looks.” And he’s right. But a big part of the difficulty is with us, not them. 

Kristof highlights how our proposal for Cash on Delivery Aid would create incentives for countries receiving aid to improve education outcomes.  Yes, true.  But a key aspect of our proposal is first and foremost to help aid agencies and philanthropies focus their money on outcomes – more learning, lower mortality – and less on inputs and budget execution – also known as obsessive tracking of aid agency money. In our research on the foreign aid community, we found that everyone involved wants money to flow more effectively toward results, but aid agencies find it incredibly difficult to change the institutional machinery to focus on results and measure them, rather than on proving that funds were used for inputs.

Second, what Kristof didn’t say.  The idea of COD Aid is to help aid agencies find a way for their aid to make the government recipients accountable to their own citizens rather than to the aid agencies – back to tracking the money and not worrying about results or outcomes.

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CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD does not take institutional positions.