Why $50 Billion Less in Foreign Aid Would NOT Be a Good Idea

Congressman Ed Royce has certainly latched onto Dambisa Moyo’s new aid-indicting book (even if he spells her name wrong). I’m gonna have to go ahead and disagree with Royce’s cry of foul on this one though:

Congress may be gearing-up for a rewrite of the foreign aid law. Rewrite supporters are certainly correct that our foreign aid system is broken. They point to the mushrooming number of objectives, priorities, and directives that slice the foreign aid pie. Yet those saying the system is broken are usually also campaigning to double foreign aid. As Moyo points out, “calls for more aid to Africa are growing louder, with advocates pushing for doubling the roughly $50 billion of international assistance that already goes to Africa each year.” President Obama’s budget proposes to double foreign aid spending over five years. Double down on a broken system? That doesn’t square.

Reforming foreign aid and increasing foreign aid are not mutually exclusive propositions. Even granting an Easterly-like critique of the negative ramifications of aid (which, Paul Collier would argue, is “something of a sideshow” to the real questions of African underdevelopment), I can’t concede that scrapping the whole system would be a good idea. Western assistance is certainly not a long-term solution for Africa, but deployed correctly, and with sufficient attention, it can help alleviate the predicament of the millions of people on the continent living in poverty.