‘Making Development Work’
Acton Institute Powerblog

‘Making Development Work’

A wide ranging piece in Policy Review by Robert W. Han and Paul C. Tetlock examines current aid practices, suggests the implementation of “information markets,” and looks at how such markets might impact current policy analyses like the Copenhagen Consensus and the UN’s Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDG are the nearly exclusive focus of the ONE Campaign, and the failings of the MDG as such become closely tied to the failings of the ONE Campaign.

The authors write of the MDG in “Making Development Work,”

At this point, the MDG represent little more than a wish list specifying what some well-intentioned practitioners would like to see happen. The goal setters do not appear to have paid significant attention to the benefits and costs of different options before setting goals; nor does it appear that the goal setters paid sufficient attention to real budget constraints so that they could provide a realistic assessment of the feasibility of meeting the goals. It also does not appear that the goal setters have given much serious thought to putting proper incentives in place to assure that maximum benefits will be achieved for a given level of expenditures. Instead, hundreds of countries and organizations have signed on to support the goals without any clear rewards if they are reached or penalties if they are not.

A move to a performance-based policy arrangement, linked to well-functioning information markets, would have the ability to transform the vagaries and ineffiencies of traditional aid programs, like the MDG, into a system that “encourages accountability. It also encourages openness, because the information gained in evaluating the effectiveness of projects and paying for results could be made public.”

One other possibility is that “because the performance-based policy framework increases accountability and transparency, it may prove to be part of the solution to the corruption problem as well.”

Jordan J. Ballor

Jordan J. Ballor (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is director of research at the Center for Religion, Culture & Democracy, an initiative of the First Liberty Institute. He has previously held research positions at the Acton Institute and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and has authored multiple books, including a forthcoming introduction to the public theology of Abraham Kuyper. Working with Lexham Press, he served as a general editor for the 12 volume Abraham Kuyper Collected Works in Public Theology series, and his research can be found in publications including Journal of Markets & Morality, Journal of Religion, Scottish Journal of Theology, Reformation & Renaissance Review, Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Faith & Economics, and Calvin Theological Journal. He is also associate director of the Junius Institute for Digital Reformation Research at Calvin Theological Seminary and the Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity & Politics at Calvin University.