Since this debate rages on - I am going to be really mean and publish my last comment received as a new post and my response to it and see what you think: (sorry neil).
I dont agree with your article (see previous post) because it confuses many different types of aid or charity and the practitioners.
You move from consultants at DFID, but base your comments on benefits which are available to permanent employees, to charities, about which you simply assert that money does not reach those who need it and that it makes things worse. Both these are assumptions, born of prejudice, fuelled by the outrage built-up in your opening paragraphs with regard to some who I admit may seem over-paid, under-worked and hopelessly priveleged.
You argue that the situation is too complex to be affected by indivuals giving small amounts of money, without mentioning that most larger international non-governmental organisations work on the basis of combining those contributions into programmes, including elements of advocacy, policy change and campaigning, that have been effective, and have been proved to be effective, in saving and improving many current and future lives in many different situations.
You say that most projects last less than five years, without realising that this is not in itself a good way of measuring what impact or sustainability a particular project may have.
You seem unaware that most of UKAID is not in fact spent on the employment of practitioners - only a tiny proportion - with most going either to governments in the form of budget support or to non-governmental organisations who in turn run the programmes and are held to account for the results and the cost.
I would not deny there is waste, or that things could not be done better: an analysis of the UK funding of the free primary education in Kenya is a case in point; but your post is flawed by the polemical approach you take at the start and return to periodically throughout.
Having talked about charities you then seem to equate all of them with what you have witnessed in relation to those established by westerners in Kenya, ignoring that there are many different types, specialisations, sizes and origins of charities, including indigenous; and,one could hazard, good and bad, or more or less efficient and effective?
Lastly there is no evidence that aid has created a hand-out culture in developing nations; this is a common myth, and is a disservice to ordinary people in developing countries who I doubt would feel dependent upon foreign aid. A cursory glance at the total amount of money spent by DFID in Kenya vis a vis the overall Kenyan Government budget would tell you this.
Arguing from the particular (that people in DFID are overpaid in your opinion) to the general (that UKAID is a waste of money and should be cut) is rather missing the point.
I think that the UK Government, which has the reputation of being the best government donor on many counts (such as untying all aid so that it can be spent most effectively) should be commended for continuing to increase its UKAID budget.
By all means call for greater scrutiny, and further improvements on how aid is delivered; but please base your arguments on a more critical analysis and less personal anecdote.
Africa Expat Wife said...
Thanks for your feedback.
Having been fairly open and honest about my position, I wonder, are you a Dfid employee, or involved in the aid industry or politics on a broader level?
While my blog post is admittedly peppered with anecdotes, I feel that your comment seems to be based more on theory than practise? Correct me if I'm wrong.
I will agree that attacking Dfid consultants and charities in general in Kenya is too vague an approach. Apologies for that.
However, the whole point of this piece was to draw attention to the fact that THERE IS A MAJOR PROBLEM HERE!
Since independence, the majority of Kenyans have got poorer so clearly something is not working.
On June 3rd, the local papers reported that Shs500 million earmarked for IDPs, (Kenyans left homeless by post-election violence) turns out to have been stolen by provincial administration officials and senior government officials. Looking at the comments online, ordinary Kenyans are once more outraged ... and helpless.
This story may not be directly linked to Dfid funding(the primary education fund scandal was)but it is yet another example to illustrate that the hand-out culture (and there most definitely is one!) is being vastly abused - regularly - from top to bottom.
Pilfering from government funds is made easier by aid money pouring into the country year after year, with not enough checks and balances in place. It's all too easy to milk the system and lets face it, Kenyan politicians and people in authority have got very good at it. They seem to have no qualms about stealing from the less fortunate and most steal with impunity.
Sadly, these news headlines are by no means rare. New scandals/stories of theft from public finances come to light monthly. I can hardly bear to read them.
Plus, I'd like to point out that in Kenya, NGOs are considered by many (Kenyans) as a joke, since they come and go with startling regularity and the majority acheive very little. A friend who lives in Kibera said,
'We see these big, shiny NGO vehicles coming to Kibera, there's an important man, they set up an office, then a couple of years later the office disappears and we people have seen no benefits. For us, life in Kibera just stays the same.'
To go to your last point, I did not say that people in developing nations feel dependent on foreign aid. Far from it - I think that people in developing nations feel crippled by foreign aid because it's holding back the country's development.
On the other hand, foreign investment and trade with favourable terms helps development.
The UK government throwing aid money at Kenya is a mess, so unlike you, I do not commend them for doing this continually. The money is NOT spent effectively and by all accounts has never been.
Years ago my father-in-law was told by a friend in UK government, 'we know that 85% of aid money sent to Africa goes astray - but we do it because at least some of it is getting through.' As a teacher working very hard in a Kenyan university just after independence, he was furious at this shockingly wasteful attitude.
My argument is that Claire Short and Tony Blair were wrong. A new approach is drastically needed to lift Kenya away from grand scale corruption abuses and poverty.