The thinking about the actions of the donors on budget support has been around for quite a few years. It has been very clearly explained in two books on aid:
Easterly argues that budget support functions more as subsidy for corruption than for the development of the country or support for the population. He proposes to channel all foreign aid through NGOs rather than governments, and that governments need to keep their house in ordeer by themselves. This idea is very attractive as NGOs are more cost effective than our government. But the amount of monies channeled by the biggest donors to Malawi cannot be absorbed by NGOs alone. This means that only about half the traditional budget support is now coming into Malawi via NGOs.
Calderisi argues that donors talk a lot about good governance and their support for it, but that they keep on giving aid to those regimes that do not practice good governance. He assumes this will motivate governments to practice good governance. In Malawi this appears not to be true: government refuses to do anything other than “business as usual”.
When these books came out a few years ago, their ideas seemed quite good to me, and I wondered why donors would not read them and practice that. Of course these donor machines are very slow to react to new ways of doing things, but now they are clearly practicing the ideas in these (and other) books.
If our government wants to regain donor support, they can read in these books what needs to be done in the longer term. (the short term has been outlined by the donors themselves in a secret 20 point document, which we as the population do not get to read, which undermines the basis of democracy. How do we know who to vote for, if we do not know which requirements have not been met by our democratic representatives in government.
I have a strong hunch that government is not reforming for two different but related reasons:
- The government system has been corrupted for so long and to such a degree that reform is going to be difficult. Reform of any organization is difficult, there is always conservatism. Reform that goes against the immediate short term interests of those involved (the corrupt) is even more difficult. An organization that is as corrupted as the Malawi Government has resistance top to bottom. On top of this it is very difficult to take measures against non-performing civil servants, hindering a hard approach to those who sabotage reform. In government there is so little management capacity that these reforms are difficult to implement.
- Many of the people responsible for the reforms are benefitting themselves from the chaos through corruption, and are not inclined to improve the way the government organization functions.
Our predicament is this: donors can channel their funds via other channels, and fund NGOs and such. But we as the tax payer are stuck with a corrupt and non-performing government machinery that takes our money but does not provide the services for which we are paying tax.
We are in a difficult predicament. Who knows a solution is invited to contact me to implement it.