Aid for a Purpose: Show Me the Goal, Then Show Me the Money

March 02, 2011

The current process for writing annual budgets, as exercised by the State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Congress does a poor job of linking aid resources to the purposes of the aid. It relies on carving up a pie by sector—agriculture, education, water, health, and so on—rather than letting objectives guide resource allocation. This has implications for policy sustainability, reliability, and success. If the objectives of U.S. aid are not clearly identified and articulated, the means (actual aid programs) risk being misdirected and rendered unsustainable, with little impact on the ends (the outcomes we seek to achieve).

In this paper, Connie Veillette presents the problems that beset the existing process for budgeting and resource allocation, and argue that the process is backwards. Instead of using baseline budgets and existing resources to dictate objectives, policymakers should clearly define and articulate the purposes of aid up front; then a process for matching resources to objectives can begin.


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