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In the face of continuing development challenges in the world's poorest countries, there have been new calls throughout the donor community to increase the volume of development aid. Equal attention is needed to reform of the aid business itself, that is, the practices and processes and procedures and politics of aid. This paper sets out the shortcomings of that business on which new research has recently shed light, but which have not been adequately or explicitly incorporated into the donor community's reform agenda. It outlines seven of the worst "sins" or failings of donors, including impatience with institution building, collusion and coordination failures, failure to evaluate the results of their support, and financing that is volatile and unpredictable. It suggests possible short-term practical fixes and notes the need ultimately for more ambitious and structural changes in the overall aid architecture.
This paper considers what role pull instruments or challenge programs (such as the World Bank's Poverty Reduction Support Credits or the United States' Millennium Challenge Account) could play within the overall framework of foreign aid, asking how they could be designed to function as effective and efficient incentive instruments and how they could best complement other aid modalities.
Time to put to rest the stale debate over whether the World Bank should disburse grants or loans to the world’s poorest countries. It is critical that the Bank provide more of its funding as grants, but in a more rational manner than has been the case to date. A third Bank window should distribute grants – and grants only – to very poor countries, for example, with incomes below $500 per capita. Shifting to grants-only for the very poorest countries would ensure they never again find themselves with unpayable debt burdens, and would allow them to re-invest resources into their own economies rather than repay the Bank.