Time to do away with dependence on foreign assistance


Editorial, NewAge, October 3, 2007. Dhaka, Bangladesh

The observation of the law and information adviser to the military-driven interim government, made at a World Habitat Day seminar at the Public Works Bhaban in the capital on Monday, that foreign assistance has thus far only obstructed development and encouraged corruption in Bangladesh definitely has some merit. He rightly criticised foreign assistance for not contributing to a wholesome development of the country. It is needless to say that foreign assistance, in the form of grant or credit, has long ceased to be an important factor in terms of its amount and contribution to the economy. It has been argued across the world, as well as in these columns, that foreign assistance hardly contributes to the development of the recipient countries. Nor does a reasonable proportion of the received foreign assistance reach the apparently intended beneficiaries – the poorer sections of the populace. Instead, almost three-quarters of these funds find their way into the pockets of politicians, bureaucrats, foreign contractors and designated consultants in the form of consultancies, job contracts and commissions.

Moreover, financial assistance from such lending agencies as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund hardly envision development, as is proclaimed. On the contrary, these agencies seek to further the corporate interests of establishments based in the North by promoting economic liberalisation and thereby increasing consumerism. With such an end in view, foreign aid, in fact, has ended up breeding inefficiency and encouraging corruption. Therefore, when there is an investigation of high-profile corruption as regards external assistance, the role of lending agencies and organisations should be scrutinised along with that of relevant politicians and bureaucrats. There have been reports that an overwhelming proportion of the fund disbursed by the lending agencies is lost because of corruption or being made to regimes that have been branded as corrupt. Also, such aid, it is reported, has long been used as a political tool to gain support of different regimes in different parts of the world where the North has vested interest.

Given Bangladesh’s graduation to a trade-dependent country from an aid-dependent one and the stupendous growth of remittance by its overseas workers, the country may very well leave out external assistance from its development equation. As the government itself has realised that foreign assistance has done more harm than good, it should seriously consider its position vis-à-vis loans and grants from international financial institutions or other lending agencies. The nations that have emerged as economic giants today and are decidedly on their way to becoming leading economies of the world have done so with virtually no help from international financial institutions or lending agencies. If we really look forward to emulating their success, we should do away with whatever dependence that we have on foreign assistance and concentrate more on efforts to develop home-grown, equitable and pro-poor strategies to harness the full potential of our economy and available human resources.


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