17 September 2010

Why DFID should still give aid to "India"

   1. Just because the Indian government doesn’t need UK aid (as demonstrated by the space program, nuclear program, and its own overseas aid programs), doesn’t mean that some of the millions of individual Indian people living in extreme poverty with chronic malnutrition would not benefit from foreign assistance.

   2. India is cheap. This means that in general aid given to Indians can go much further than aid to Africans. The same amount of money will feed more people, build more schools, or pay more nurses in India than anywhere in Africa.

   3. Because India is so big, we don’t have to worry so much about aid distorting the economy, or government accountability to citizens, or government spending decisions. The government (and the economy) don’t even notice. But those poor individuals certainly do.

Not that I’m totally convinced by any this, but it does seem that we too often lazily confuse a country (“India”) with its government and/or its people. Countries are abstractions, they are not actors which take decisions. And we should not confuse governments with people.

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