International aid has come in for a lot of criticism recently and with the debate on the federal budget just beginning, U.S. funding for aid is on the chopping block. With a rising deficit, and a struggling economy, many are asking why the United States chooses to continue funding international, or foreign, aid. People of faith are often caught in the middle of the debate on whether international aid should or shouldn’t be cut, along with the role the state should play.
In International Aid and Integral Human Development, Philip Booth, Editorial and Programme Director at the Institute of Economic Affairs, addresses the problems with international aid, the role the state should play in funding it, and how international aid should be funded to most effectively benefit those who receive it along with ensuring that the aid is founded on the correct moral principles.
Booth articulates that aid needs to focus on true development, which can be understood as a more well-rounded development. Aid that fosters true development will encourage moral development, will ensure that those benefiting from the aid will not become slaves to consumer goods, presents an opportunity to own property and save, respects openness to God, the natural world and human rights.
In this new monograph, Booth explains why he thinks that our current structure of international aid is failing. He offers a timely example:
Estimates of the size of the fall in the number of very poor in China over the last two decades or so range from 50 to 400 million, and other Asian countries such as Vietnam have also seen astonishing declines in absolute poverty. Such Asian countries account for the greats share of the reduction in absolute poverty in recent years, yet they are not among the top thirty recipients of U.S. foreign aid between 1996 and 2006.
Later in his monograph, Booth discusses the problems with the current top-down process of international aid. He conveys how aid currently benefits the governing elite who have used their power to keep their people poor. Corrupt governments prevent the aid from going to those who need it the most. Booth also says that, “Aid changes the lines of accountability in government. Governments become accountable to those from whom they receive aid—either through other government or institutions—and not to their own people.” From his evaluation, Booth explains history has proven poor countries can develop without aid, and countries that receive aid do not tend to develop.
In a recent article appearing in The Telegraph, Booth further expands upon his ideas laid out in International Aid and Integral Human Development by showing that fair trade is not the answer to solving poverty. Instead, we should be looking towards free trade. In order to truly help a country, he argues, we must make sure they develop a sound economy that does not rely on aid. Booth explains in his column that fair trade is not the answer and is counter productive to its goals:
Fair trade is supposed to bring better working conditions to poor producers, together with higher prices and better social infrastructure. Questions have been asked about whether monitoring in the supply chain is sufficiently robust, and examples of unsatisfactory practice have been found. Furthermore, there are costs for producers. Poor farmers have to pay considerable sums to join up and often have to organise their businesses in particular ways: it is not suitable for all producers, especially in the poorest countries.
Booth later demonstrates how “fair trade is not capable of pulling 400 million people out of absolute poverty as free trade has done.”
In his monograph, Booth goes on to explain basic preconditions that are necessary for countries to develop, and where direct aid is appropriate. He brings in principles from Catholic social teaching, and explains that the common good requires basic conditions for humans to be able to flourish. In International Aid and Integral Human Development, Booth gives very timely advice, and provides insightful recommendations for international aid while still abiding by the principles founded in Catholic social teaching.