So Much Aid, So Little Development: Stories from Pakistan

Sakuntala Narasimhan reviews Samia Altaf's book in Dawn:

ScreenHunter_06 Nov. 18 11.10Poverty persists in the developing regions; the gap between the haves and the have-nots has in fact widened in the wake of globalisation over the last two decades. Despite substantial growth in GDP, those on the lower economic rungs in these nations (India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and many countries of Africa and South America) have seen their lifestyle parameters worsen.

Maternal mortality is still unacceptably high in these regions (the Asian subcontinent accounts for a quarter of global maternal deaths). Infants are dying in unacceptably large numbers, of illnesses that are preventable. So why haven’t the massive doses of aid from overseas succeeded in delivering what they set out to address?

A candid answer to that question can be found in a new publication, titled So Much Aid, So Little Development written by Samia Waheed Altaf, a Pakistani specialist in public health who was a member of an international team that oversaw the Social Action Programme (SAP) in Pakistan during the 1990s. She has observed and chronicled the way decisions are made, in disbursing aid from multilateral agencies.

Using real life stories of aid recipients and beneficiaries, the book describes how giving and receiving aid has become an end in itself — the donor agencies have the satisfaction of putting on record that so many millions were spent on such-and-such projects, while the receiving country pats itself on its back on the inflow.

Invariably, however, the American or European ‘experts’ who fly in to devise, and advise on, health projects, have no idea of the local constraints, and come up with strategies that guarantee failure in terms of real improvements in ground realities.

More here.