Reinventing Foreign Aid

July 31, 2008

Enhancing aid effectiveness requires a holistic approach. This outstanding book provides rich food for thought, with expert contributions spanning the range from evaluation to institutional design and new approaches in providing aid. A must-read for all scholars and practitioners interested in making aid work.,

Holger Wolf, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

It is ironic that, at a time when aid flows to the poorest countries of the world are reaching unprecedented scale, and when the challenge of generating resources to fight world poverty is receiving unprecedented public attention, the question of what actually works in making aid effective has become extremely controversial. Fortunately, a new generation of development researchers has turned its attention to this question, bringing to bear a variety of innovative and refreshingly convincing new empirical techniques. This volume edited by William Easterly brings together contributions from many of the leading lights in this field, providing a rich menu of perspectives not only on what has been learned through this new work, but also on how much remains to be learned. It is an accessible must-read not only for students and academics, but more importantly for those in the policy world who will participate in making the critical decisions on how aid will be administered, as well as for the citizens who will hold them accountable for those decisions.

—Peter Montiel, Fred Greene Third Century Professor of Political Economy, Williams College

This book is topical, academically rigorous, and wide ranging. A high quality collection!

—Christopher Scott, London School of Economics

The urgency of reducing poverty in the developing world has been the subject of a public campaign by such unlikely policy experts as George Clooney, Alicia Keyes, Elton John, Angelina Jolie, and Bono. And yet accompanying the call for more foreign aid is an almost universal discontent with the effectiveness of the existing aid system. In Reinventing Foreign Aid, development expert William Easterly has gathered top scholars in the field to discuss how to improve foreign aid. These authors, Easterly points out, are not claiming that their ideas will (to invoke a current slogan) Make Poverty History. Rather, they take on specific problems and propose some hard-headed solutions.

Easterly himself, in an expansive and impassioned introductory chapter, makes a case for the "searchers"—who explore solutions by trial and error and learn from feedback—over the "planners"—who throw an endless supply of resources at a big goal—as the most likely to reduce poverty. Other writers look at scientific evaluation of aid projects (including randomized trials) and describe projects found to be cost-effective, including vaccine delivery and HIV education; consider how to deal with the government of the recipient state (work through it or bypass a possibly dysfunctional government?); examine the roles of the International Monetary Fund (a de facto aid provider) and the World Bank; and analyze some new and innovative proposals for distributing aid.

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