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Local Control Brings Greater Success In Aid Programs - 2003-09-12

A new World Bank report focuses on a different approach to economic development. It says developing countries should be given more control over the aid programs they receive.

The report says local control is often better than donor control. Gregory Ingram is the World Bank’s director-general of operations evaluation.

He says, "Aid programs that are led by the recipient country – that is, where the country takes a direct role in designing, planning and guiding the aid program – where aid programs are run by the country they perform better than in countries where the aid programs are in some sense the sum of what the donors are interested in."

Mr. Ingram says it’s a concept called “country ownership.”

"When this is what the country wants to do, and it comes to the donor and says this is what I would like to do - can you help me – those programs are always very successful. It’s much more difficult to be successful where in some sense the donor comes in and says I’ve looked at your situation and I’ve done a diagnosis and here’s what you should do. Please proceed to implement my plan," he says.

The World Bank official says it’s less a matter of reducing donor bureaucracy and more a matter of human nature.

He says, "If you want to do something and you seek help to do it – perhaps you want to go and get an advanced degree or finish college or something like that – where the interest originates with you performance is often better than where the interest originates somewhere else. That essentially owning the program, taking responsibility for the objective really has a big impact on success and that’s just as true for a country as it is for you and me."

However, Mr. Ingram says if donors are going to relax controls over their aid programs, developing countries must prove they have the capacity to run those programs. This includes fair and honest systems of procurement, accounting and what’s called “fiduciary quality.” In other words, do the records accurately reflect what has been accomplished?

The World Bank report also stresses the need to look at results, not simply on how much money was spent to solve a problem.

He says, "Instead of looking at the expenditures, let’s say, on classrooms or the expenditures on textbooks, you start looking at student performance, you start looking at student completion rates, you start looking at increases in student literacy. Similarly, in the health sector, instead of look at how many doctors there are or whatever, you start looking at measures of disease reduction and measures of health. Essentially looking at outcomes instead of inputs."

The report’s recommendations are based on the Comprehensive Development Framework, or C-D-F. It calls for a “broad and holistic view of development” – one that considers the entire country, not just certain sectors, like education. It also says donors must “provide reliable, predictable financing” and “broaden consultations with legislators, local officials and marginalized groups, such as the very poor.” (