Organisation - March 24, 2011

Restricting Dutch aid: a shabby decision?

The Rutte cabinet wants to restrict its development aid to fifteen countries. The revised list and the names of the countries the Dutch are pulling out of were leaked recently. It looks like a random selection if it is compared to the criteria, according to some Wageningen development experts.

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Gerard Verschoor, development sociologist:
'To start with, I would like to make the point that development aid is now the victim of the mess made by the bankers. On top of that, I don't think it is at all clear how the criteria have been applied in selecting the countries. If you take poverty eradication, you could include Bolivia and the Congo and exclude Ghana, Mozambique or Uganda, as those countries are doing relatively well. Among fragile states you could consider Pakistan and Egypt. So I don't see any logical explanation for the choice. Columbia is not really a developing country any more, and nor is Indonesia. Yet they are still on the list, presumably because we have lots of projects and connections there. And why is South Africa still on the list? In that sense I am amazed that Suriname has been kicked off the list. These look like political decisions made behind the scenes.'
'Ten years ago the same game was played under Eveline Herfkens. Then the number of countries went from 150 to a fraction of that number. The process is being repeated now. The logic behind these decisions will probably be revealed in 20 years' time, when someone opens some record or other.'

Maja Slingerland, Professor of Plant Production Systems:
'I am glad that Mozambique and Indonesia are on the list, because I work there a lot. But I do not grasp what motivations are behind the selection. There are many African countries on the list. From the point of view of poverty eradication I would have expected more South-East Asian countries, because that is where there is the most hunger. In India, for example. There are a lot of rich people living there too, so you could say that there is an internal food distribution issue there. But we are not involved in India, whereas we are in Indonesia, where there are very many rich people too. We are staying in Ghana. Ghana is doing fine: it is just a 'donor darling'. Ethiopia is being pampered by the Netherlands too. These are all countries with which we have had relations for a long time in the field of development aid. That is not bad in itself. Development cooperation is a long-term business. Politicians think in terms of interventions, with the idea that you can create the society you want like that. But flying in experts is not very effective. The problem is that co-financing organizations have multi-annual agreements with countries that are now being scrapped from the list. They cannot simply pull out just like that, and yet they are expected to stick to the list. A bad business.'

Rudy Rabbinge, university professor in Wageningen with several positions in the field of development aid:
'I am not unhappy with the list. I was asked by the ministry to look over the shoulders of the civil servants when they made the selection for sub-Saharan Africa, with agriculture and food security in mind. Six countries were selected in which pilot schemes will be carried out with clear input from the business world. These are Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Mozambique, Ghana and Mali. They were selected by looking at the poverty index, at whether the country has an 'enabling environment' for development and whether private investors would be able to participate in projects there. That is not an entirely objective selection but it is certainly not random either. It is the results which count: where can you have the biggest impact on food security and economic development? The choice of food security meant opting for Africa, because the problems are biggest there. These pilot countries are now on the list.'
'I was not involved in the selection of countries. There is a group of unstable states on the list: Southern Sudan, Burundi and Afghanistan. I am not displeased with the choice of countries to pull out of, except perhaps for Tanzania and Burkina Faso. You have to bear in mind the capacities of developing countries. It is time to run down the long-term cooperation with emerging economies such as Indonesia and Vietnam.'

Gerrit van Vuren, professor of Irrigation and Water Engineering
'Those of us working in the fields of water and agriculture don't come out of it too badly. We are working in Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique, Yemen, Bangladesh, Vietnam and South Africa. And Mali, Indonesia and Kenya offer good prospects. So nine of the eighteen countries are of interest to us. But why doesn't the cabinet concentrate much more on themes so as to work on them in more countries? That way you can stimulate south-south cooperation much better. Take the Nile river basin. I see Ethiopia and Sudan on the list but not Egypt. That way you cannot do much at river basin level. But there is hope: Egypt might get onto the list through a parliamentary campaign. That would be a nice democratization bonus! I would also like to see the effectiveness of the aid included as a criterion.'
'Latin America is completely out of the picture. That strikes me as a great pity. It makes our presence in the region more difficult. And that makes it harder to find internship placements for students. And that Benin is still on the list is extraordinary. There are rumours that it is still to do with rewarding Benin for accepting a group of train hijackers from the Netherlands. Yes, that goes all the way back to the nineteen seventies. Diplomacy has always been a world of its own...'

Marco Verschuur, project leader at Van Hall Larenstein in Wageningen
'I see that Eastern and Central Europe are not allowed to be part of things any more. That is acceptable. But Latin America has been ruled out too, and I think that is a pity. Why do Bolivia and Nicaragua not belong under the UN Millennium Goals for poverty eradication? They are still two of the poorest countries in Latin America. Columbia is on the list, but we don't do much there any longer.'
'Looking at fragile states, it seems remarkable to me that Congo is no longer on the list. You could easily collaborate with a cluster of East African countries. Congo would fit in very well alongside Rwanda and Burundi, as would Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Even Ethiopia and Southern Sudan fit well into that East African cluster. That would be a meaningful choice, which would mean that you would push Benin and Mali off the list. And why is there a transition arrangement for countries such as Vietnam and Columbia? Of course that is because of existing commitments. Are those the ongoing education projects of Nuffic? In that case, Tanzania should definitely still be on the list too. In short: whichever argument is given, there are noticeable inconsistencies.'
The development aid list
* Benin, Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique, Rwanda, Uganda (because of the Millennium Goal of poverty eradication)
* Afghanistan, Burundi, Yemen, Palestinian territories and Sudan (fragile states)
* Bangladesh, Ghana, Indonesia and Kenya (expansion countries)
There will be transition arrangements for Columbia, Vietnam and South Africa.
Scrapped from the list: Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Congo, Egypt, Georgia, Guatemala, Kosovo, Moldavia, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Senegal, Suriname, Tanzania and Zambia.

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