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Forum for the Future of Aid

Southern Voices for Change in the International Aid System Project

The Forum on the Future of Aid is an online community dedicated to research and opinions about how the international aid system currently works and where it should go next

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The Need to Break the Disproportionate Power Imbalance of the Current Aid Regime

By Opa Kapijimpanga, Institute for Policy Studies, Lusaka, Zambia

The current aid regime is characterized by a disproportionate feeling of ‘power over” by donors in relation to African governments. This expresses itself in donors continuing to impose their understanding of how African economies must be run. As an example, the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF) is essentially an instrument which the IMF uses to define macro-economic parameters. For example the government wage bill is limited by the MTEF to 8% of GDP. This then sets the limits; including how many nurses or teachers Zambia can employ in a given year. The IMF denies this! Donors have also shown reluctance to directly deal with resolving the development constraints that they also visibly see. Their unwillingness to commit to meeting the MDGs is somewhat unacceptable.

The nature and character of the aid regime must therefore change. Some of the processes that might help in doing so include the following:

a) Donor support should be directed at supporting national development plans. The MTEF, a rolling three year framework must be the instrument for securing that plan targets are being met;

b) The relationship between donors and the recipient country should be based on an Aid Policy and Strategy drawn up by the recipient country. Such an Aid Policy should define the modalities for aid and also include a framework for evaluating the Donors

c) Donors, as a group, have to express their commitment to the Plan and Aid Policy through a Joint Assistance Strategy. This will help harmonize their behaviour and procedures; towards a more responsive aid regime;

d) Aid must be directed at resolving development constraints. And these are always clearly visible in any given reality. An assessment of how these are being resolved should be made on an ongoing basis.

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