The Roles of Aid in Politics Putting China in Perspective



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Mason, Edward S. (1964), Foreign Aid and Foreign Policy, New York: Harper.

Conclusion (pp. 107-112)

A discussion of the relation of foreign aid to foreign policy necessarily assumes that foreign aid programs are shaped to a substantial extent with the interests of the aid-dispensing countries in mind. I have seen no reason to doubt the validity of that assumption. There is, however, a considerable variety of interests influencing the amounts, the terms, and the form of aid within the aid-giving countries and among them. Domestic economic concerns, the promotion of foreign trade, and security interests vie for priority with a humanitarian desire for the well-being of others. In the United States this variety is suggested byte he names of the agencies that, in one form or another, participate in foreign aid: the Agency for International Development, the Peace Corps, the Food for Peace Program, the Export-Import Bank, to mention only the principal participants. The changes over time in the title of the principal U.S. foreign assistance agency also suggest shifting purposes and, perhaps, a certain ambiguity of purpose. The Economic Cooperation Administration (E.C.A.) gave way to the Mutual Security Administration (M.S.A.) which, in turn, was followed by the International Cooperation Administration (I.C.A.) and, now, by the Agency for International Development (AID). There is a strong current of feeling in Washington that the initials of the present agency, AID, give un unfortunate and misleading interpretation of its real purpose; there is some disposition to return to a former name, Mutual Security Administration. Certainly the debates in Congress would indicate that mutual security is and should be the prime concern of our foreign assistance program.

Military assistance, a substantial part of defense support, and of expenditures from the contingency fund are obviously directed to security objectives. It is less clear what interests of the United States are served by economic development assistance. If such assistance is to be assessed in terms of its contribution to mutual security, it becomes necessary to form a judgment, first, on the extent to which external aid can, in fact, advance the economic development of less developed countries; and, second, on the question of what changes in political structure and behavior can be expected to accompany the process of economic development. Although the evidence is far from adequate, it is easier to arrive at a sensible judgment on the first question that on the second. Of a number of less developed countries to which aid flows in quantity, it can be said that access to foreign exchange is the limiting factor to economic growth. Some of these have already reached a stage of self-supporting development, and others are not far from attaining it. When, however, external assistance is only one of the conditions necessary for sustained growth, assessment of the contribution becomes more difficult. There also intrudes the bothersome question of the extent to which the leverage of aid can and should be used to bring about changes in domestic policies considered to be propitious to economic development. Still, in the thirty-some less developed countries to which the bulk of U.S. economic aid is directed, it can be said with some confidence that the prospects of development are substantially improved by the availability of foreign assistance.

It does not follow from this that the less developed world is rapidly approaching a condition in which growth can be sustained without external assistance. In fact, it seems probable that in many counties to which we are heavily committed, a continuation of the growth rates of the recent past will require substantially more rather than less external assistance. Those to whom this is a distasteful, and even alarming, prospect would do well, however, to reflect on the difference between the nominal size of the aid burden now shouldered by developed countries and the real sacrifice it represents. When all the terms, limitations, and conditions surrounding the flow of aid are taken into account, the $6 billion a year estimate of the total outflow of public funds from the advanced to less developed countries shrinks to a grant equivalent of perhaps $2.5 billion. This can hardly be considered a monumental sacrifice. If economic development assistance can and does in fact contribute to the emergence of a world in which it is somewhat easier for the developed countries in general, and the United States in particular, to live, it appears to be at small cost.

This, of course, is the crucial question that confronts any analysis of the relation of foreign aid to foreign policy. What can economic development, assuming it can be assisted by foreign aid, be expected to bring about in the area of political development and foreign policy in the aid-receiving countries? Is there in fact a social process called political development that can be described objectively and, if so, how is it related to economic growth? Economists, it is true, cannot tell us much about the origins or causes of economic development, nor can they attribute with conviction indubitable welfare consequences to economic growth. But they can offer a fair description of the economic development process in terms of a set of arrangements producing an increasing flow of consistently related inputs that over time will result in greater outputs of goods and services. And these inputs and outputs allow at least rough measurement.

Discussions of political development, on the other hand, customarily stress two significant strands of the process that do not appear to be necessarily related. One is concerned with an increasingly ability of the organs of government to order human behavior to serve whatever goals the holders of political power choose to have served. If economic development is an important goal, ability of the government to govern is both a necessary condition and a consequence of economic growth. When General Ayub came to power in Pakistan in 1958, the direction of the activities of the citizenry was substantially increased, and the prospects of economic development commensurately improved.

The second strand emphasized in discussion of political development is concerned with a broadening of public participation in the process of decision-making. Citizens whose voice is heard only in local affairs may over time come to be consulted in affairs of state. A government in which political power has rested in the hands of an elite may in the course of development enlarge the size of the group whose views are considered. This development may or may not lead toward parliamentary democracy. A single party system that, as in Mexico, provides for consultation of a wide spectrum of opinion made be deemed to be more politically advanced than a system closely controlled by a small group.

While there is some connection between the ability of a government to govern and the admission of the citizenry to consultation, the connection is obviously very complex. Some degree of consent of the governed is necessary to any effective ordering of human activities though there have been and are apparently efficient regimes relying heavily on force and terror. On the other hand, examples are not lacking of regime in which a broadening participation of citizens in the process of government has been accompanied by a notable decline in the efficiency of government.

If foreign aid is to be used as an instrument of foreign policy and if the promotion of economic development is not an end in itself, what kind of political development in the aid-receiving country is sought to be achieved? Should assistance be denied to dictatorial regimes and be made available only to those governments capable of establishing their democratic bona fides? What if democratic countries show themselves incapable of putting into practice the domestic policies essential to economic development and without which economic assistance is wasted? Reflection on these considerations in Latin America and elsewhere leads one to the opinion, I think, that doctrinaire views on the direction and use of foreign aid are unlikely to be effective. Under certain circumstances we may have to sacrifice a desire to promote a wider participation of the governed in order to preserve a modicum of effective government. On the other hand it is clearly useless to try to support governments who assert their anticommunism but lack the effective support of their citizens.

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The manuscript of this small volume was completed early in November 1963. Between that date and the present writing, late January 1964, a number of things have happened to the AID program. These include the Congressional vote on appropriations for fiscal year 1964 and the submission of the administration’s budget request for fiscal 1965; the establishment of the Inter-American Committee on the Alliance for Progress; the appointment by President Johnson of a Special Assistant who is concurrently Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs and U.S. Coordinator of the Alliance for Progress; and within the administration a serious reconsideration of the organization of the Agency for International Development.

Congress, eight months after the beginning of hearings and six months after the beginning of the fiscal year, voted AID appropriations of $3 billion for fiscal year 1964. This compares with $3.9 billion appropriated in the previous year and with $4,525 million requested by President Kennedy. Of the appropriation, $2 billion represent economic assistance and $1 billion, military assistance. Together with carryovers and recoveries from the previous year it makes possible an economic assistance program for fiscal year 1964 of $2,473 million. For fiscal year 1965 the President has requested $1 billion for military assistance and $2,392 million for economic aid. Together with expected carryovers and recoveries this would provide programs for fiscal 1965 of about the same magnitude as for 1964. What effect the reduction in size of the U.S. aid program will have on the contributions of other D.A.C. countries is problematic, but is seems certain that the persuasiveness of American arguments for an increase will, to say the least, be somewhat blunted.

At the meetings of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council in November 1963, it was voted to establish an Inter-American Committee on the Alliance for Progress. This Committee will consist of six members, of which one will be a permanent U.S. representative and five will be representatives on a rotating basis of Latin American countries. The Committee is intended to have an interlocking relationship with the Committee of Nine and will be served by the Secretariat of the Economic Section of the O.A.S. This action represents at least a beginning of an attempt to “Latinize” the Alliance for Progress. The President has also attempted to unify more effectively the U.S. contributions to the Alliance by appointing as his Special Assistant a joint Co-ordinator for the Alliance for Progress and Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs.

In its report on the aid program for 1964 the Senate Committee of Foreign Relations suggested a thorough-going re-examination of the organization of AID before the submission of budget requests for fiscal year 1965. In response to this suggestion the President appointed a mainly governmental committee under the chairmanship of the Under-Secretary of State to examine the affairs of this much reorganized agency. After rejecting on the one hand a suggestion that the Agency be merged into the Department of State and, on the other hand, that it be broken into a number of parts (on the theory apparently that Congress would not be able to see the woods for the trees), the committee and President Johnson have settled for a further tightening up of the existing organization. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose – as indeed it must if AID is to continue to be an effective agency for economic development. It is, perhaps, time to recognize that U.S. foreign policy has serious responsibilities in the less developed world and that no amount of administrative sleight-of-hand or political hocus-pocus is likely to conjure them away.



Maizels, A. and Nissanke, M. K. (1984), “Motivations for Aid to Developing Countries,” in World Development, Vol. 12, No. 9, pp. 879-900.

An analysis of the allocation of aid by recipient countries from the principal bilateral donors, and from multilateral aid agencies, was made by cross-country multiple regressions for two periods, 1969-70 and 1978-80, using alternative recipient need and donor interest models. The results generally confirm earlier studies that bilateral aid allocations are made largely (for some donors) or solely (for others) in support of donors’ perceived foreign economic, political and security interests. By contrast, aid flows from multilateral sources, as would be expected, are allocated essentially on recipient need criteria.

Over the decade up to 1980, there was a substantial shift in the composition of total aid flows from DAC member countries, away from donor interest aid towards recipient need aid. There was, indeed, an absolute increase in the real value of the latter. The rise in recipient need aid resulted from a shift towards this type of aid within certain bilateral aid budgets, and from a shift from bilateral to multilateral sources.

However, these shifts in aid motivation over the decade of the 1970s appear already to have been reversed. Two major policy changes have become apparent since the late 1970s. First, there has been a cut in real terms in contributions from DAC member countries to multilateral aid agencies. According to the last DAC annual report, the turning point came in 1977-78, ‘growth in real terms from 1971-72 to that peak was as high as 14 percent; since then it has been negative’.34 The stagnation in UNDP funding, and the difficulties about the replenishment of IDA, are both pointers to the reduced priority now being given by major donors to multilateral aid channels.

Second, some of the major donors – particularly the United States – have been using bilateral aid more openly as an instrument of foreign policy. The 50% cut, announced in December 1983, in United States economic aid to Zimbabwe as a result of that country’s abstention in the UN Security Council vote on the shooting down of a Korean airliner,35 is only one recent example of this trend. Other donors, including Britain, have been tying their aid allocations much more closely to export orders.36

Unless these more recent trends are reversed, the relative balance of aid motivation seems virtually certain to shift heavily away from recipient need considerations in the remainder of the present decade.

McGillivray, Mark and Oczkowski, Edward (1991), “Modeling the Allocation of Australian Bilateral Aid: A Two Part Sample Selection Approach,” in Economic Record, Vol. 67, No. 2, pp. 147-52.

In this paper we have modelled Australia’s bilateral aid eligibility/amount decision-making processes during the period 1980 to 1986. We have employed econometric techniques which are clearly applicable to these processes, yet untapped in the aid literature. These methods allow for the possible dependence of decisions, and explicitly recognize that the amount of potential aid is nonnegative. These applications should find future applications to the eligibility/amount decisions of other aid donors. We hypothesized that Australia pursues a range of objectives, humanitarian, commercial, political and strategic, and that the pursuit of these objectives systematically effects the manner in which aid is allocated among potential recipients. Our results generally offer support for these hypotheses. A notable result was, in some years, evidence of a bias toward lowly populated countries in determining eligibility for aid, together with a bias against lowly populated eligible countries in other years. The former seems to indicate that Australia has sought to maximize returns from aid by avoiding allocating aid to those countries in which the effort required to promote development is large.

McGillivray, Mark and Oczkowski, Edward (1992), “A Two Part Sample Selection Model of British Bilateral Aid Allocation,” in Applied Economics, Vol. 24, No. 12, pp. 1311-19.

The allocation of British bilateral foreign aid among developing countries is simultaneously modelled, focusing on allocations during the period 1980-87. Two aid allocation decisions are analysed using a variant of the Lee-Maddala econometric model. The first decision concerns the determination of developing country eligibility for aid, while the second concerns the amount of aid eligible countries are allocated. Given the implied two-part decision-making process, sample selection techniques are employed. It is hypothesized that British bilateral aid eligibility and amount decisions are based on Britain's humanitarian, commercial and political interests in developing countries. Results obtained indicate that these decisions are generally consistent with each of these interests, especially those relating to the political importance of Commonwealth members.



McGillivray, Mark and White, Howard (1993), “Explanatory Studies of Aid Allocation Among Developing Countries: a Critical Survey,” Institute of Social Studies Working Paper No. 148, The Hague: Institute of Social Studies.

Official aid transfers from developed to developing countries have remained an important feature of international economic and political relations since the late 1940s. This is emphasized by the level of net concessional aid provided by OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) member countries. Over the period 1982 to 1991 alone, the value of this aid in 1990 prices and exchange rates amounts to just under 500 billion US dollars (OECD, 1992). Not surprisingly, these transfers have attracted a degree of attention in development literature. Since the 1960s, this literature has included quantitative investigation of the allocation of aid among developing countries, either from the viewpoint of subjectively evaluating or attempting to explain these allocations. The latter turns to indentifying the determinants of inter-recipient aid allocation. We label these works as “descriptive studies” and “explanatory studies” respectively.

In this paper, we survey the explanatory studies. A critical survey of the descriptive studies may be found in White and McGillivray (1992). Our emphasis is on methodology and the robustness of results emanating from these studies. After providing an overview of this literature, we divide studies into six groups, which may be labeled as recipient need/donor interest, hybrid, bias, developmental, administrative/incremental and limited dependent variable studies of allocation. The basis for classification is the statistical models applied by these studies. We conclude with suggestions for further modeling of aid allocation, paying special attention to what we consider as the attributes of a “good” model of inter-recipient aid allocation. […]

We conclude by considering possible direction for future research based on what we consider to be appropriate attributes for an aid allocation model. Our focus is on the estimated model, hence this involves considerations of both theoretical and statistical issues.

The most fundamental requirement, in our opinion, is that the model be an approximation of the operational nature of aid determination. Indeed, this is central to our criticisms of the literature. An aid allocation is not the outcome of, say, the equilibrating forces of the economy. Nor is it some abstract construction, or a phenomenon determined by the laws of physics. Our thesis is that an aid allocation is the outcome of a bureaucratic decision making process, which is subject to both bureaucratic criteria and the economic, political and other relations between the donor and recipient. Aid allocations are subject to all the sorts of pressures and constraints to which other expenditures are subject. These involve weighing-up and trading off competing objectives, information time lags and uncertainty, ensuring that funds are fully committed and so on. Failure to consider precisely what it is that one is attempting to model will almost certainly ensure that the outcome of this attempt is at best capricious, or at worst, misleading.

Against this background, when modeling aid allocation one should:



  • endeavour to use the actual decision variable as the dependent variable, not the outcome of this decision (in our view this should be absolute ODA commitments for data from 1969);

  • attempt to provide a sufficiently comprehensive model specification, in particular avoiding estimating separate recipient need and donor interest models, or narrowly specified biases models;

  • pay attention to the issues of eligibility and amount decisions and specify the model accordingly (for example, if a good case can be made separate decisions, a two-part sample selection model should be used);

  • recognize the distinction between describing (evaluating) and explaining aid allocation (given the use of regression techniques, there is absolutely no guarantee that both can be simultaneously achieved);

  • give consideration to informational time lags;

  • consider whether aid allocations are simultaneously determined, both across donor aid programs (as may be the case if donor’s current aid decisions are coordinated) and within donor programs (as will be the case if current aid allocations are financed from a common pool of funds);

  • consider whether recipients have input into aid allocation decisions and then formulate the model accordingly;

  • explore the sorts of administrative factors likely to impinge on the decision making processes;

  • give consideration to the limited dependent variable and non-random sample selection issues, both of which invalidate OLS; and,

  • conduct appropriate diagnostic tests.

We acknowledge that it may often be difficult to fully implement and satisfy each of these points: applied research of this nature invariably involves compromises. This is not, however, an excuse to avoid addressing the issues and continue to crudely estimate carelessly formulated regression equations. Unfortunately, this has all too frequently been the case in the aid allocation literature.

McGillivray, Mark and Morrissey, Oliver (1998), “Aid and Trade Relationships in East Asia,” in World Economy, Vol. 21, No. 7, pp. 981-995, Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

The literature on aid policy, and especially on donor motives for aid, abounds with assertions regarding actual (but unproven) and potential reasons as to why aid and trade flows between donors and specific recipients may be linked. This alone validates our attempt to assess the empirical basis for such assertions. The arguments were set out in Section 2, which identified three alternative cases of the aid-trade relationship. We then presented some evidence on the nature of these relations among Pacific-Rim donors and Asian recipients. Testing for causality using time series data is an advance on looking at descriptive statistics and the results of aid allocation studies, but should be seen as no more than an initial attempt to validate the aid-trade relationship. The available evidence suggests that there is indeed a relationship between aid and trade, but that the specific nature of this relationship can vary between donor-recipient pairs.

There is a notable concentration of Australian aid on Pacific Islands, which are close economic partners, and dynamic Asian economies (where the allocation of aid may reflect trade potential rather than development needs). Japan, a major donor and trading partner on a global scale, also concentrates its aid on the more dynamic Asian economies, supporting the argument that Japanese aid flows are more related to economic cooperation than to a needs-based development cooperation. The evidence that aid flows within the region reflect or follow trade flows is plausible. One implication of this is that aid and trade flows within the region have played a role in sustaining, if not actually promoting, the economic dynamism within the region. Another implication is that the tendency of aid to ‘follow’ trade may imply that aid is attracted away from more deserving (in terms of needs) poor countries, both in and outside the region, towards countries with a stronger economic performance (and hence larger markets for trade). Because of the importance of trade links, it may be the case that much aid goes to countries that need it least. This may have been a benefit to the dynamic economies of East Asia, but at a cost to less dynamic developing countries throughout the world.


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