Foreign aid

Johnson (2000) defines aid as flows of resources aimed at encouraging economic development or alleviating short-term crisis. The phrase suggests a gesture of goodwill from rich countries to poor countries to help achieve the mentioned goals however the assistance mostly comes with strings attached. (Hoy, 1998). Aid is apparent in a number of different forms. Specifically, project aid is assistance provided for the creation of a specific outcome, for example the construction of a hospital.

Program aid is a more general form, and through loans with certain policies imposed by the donor, attempts to achieve certain economic conditions in the recipient country. Another type of aid is technical assistance; this provides equipment and/or experts for a specific outcome. A team of UN engineers sent to a developing country to set up a water supply is an example of this. Humanitarian aid is usually provided in response to emergencies, where food and other essentials to life are made available. Finally there is military aid, supplied in order to strengthen the military establishments of developing countries.

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(Hoy, 1998). The reasons for providing these different types of aid are varied but it is suggested that ‘foreign aid is driven purely by humanitarian reasons. ‘ I will discus whether or not this is the case with reference to various donors and implementers. The concept of foreign aid was introduced by President Truman in his Point Four Program in 1949. He was in favour of introducing measures to help the less developed countries, where he claimed, over half of mankind was living in sickness and wretchedness (Bauer, 1991) This has been the basic and underlying principle for aid but since then other motivations have evolved.

Environmental degradation, contagious diseases, political instability and population growth (Hoy, 1998) are issues that can have an impact on the world stage and it is in everyone’s best interest if these problems are reduced. Since Truman’s time though, the United States reasons for the bestowal of aid have altered somewhat. The primary objective of U. S. foreign aid is now to preserve its own territorial and political security. Foreign aid is also provided to ensure the political security and cooperation of the United States’ strategically important allies (Hoy, 1998).

Locally, the New Zealand government provides a large proportion of its foreign aid to a number of Pacific Island countries. The government takes the view that a major factor influencing countries poverty is their level of participation in the global economy. Further they recognise that basic education is a vital element of economic development. Based on those foundations New Zealand grants the largest slice of its aid to education, health and population (Webster, 2000). This seems to be fairly selfless and tilts toward simply humanitarian motivations.

Another example of western donors is those of the Nordic countries. These nations are commonly perceived to have the most progressive aid programs and have some of the highest rates of contribution per capita in the world. The monies are directed toward different sectors depending on the particular countries’ area of interest and expertise. The aid is supplied on the premise that representatives of the developing nations will be directly involved in the decision-making and implementation of any aid supported project.

Aid beneficiaries are looked upon as partners and usually only a few are chosen. Recently though, as globalisation becomes more widespread, some have begun to question whether commercial interests are now threatening the ‘purity’ of Nordic aid. Economic growth has certainly received greater attention and prominence in recent years, while the social aspects of development have been neglected somewhat (Hoy, 1998). The donors discussed so far contribute their official assistance directly to the government or an internal group of the country concerned.

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