The Roles of Aid in Politics Putting China in Perspective



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Wade, Robert Hunter (2002), “US Hegemony and the World Bank: The Fight Over People and Ideas,” in Review of International Political Economy, Vol. 9, No. 2, pp. 215-243.

Conclusions

I began with the tension between the hegemonic state’s substantive need for foreign policy levers, including multilateral organizations, on the one hand, and its need to be seen to be acting with procedural ‘appropriateness’ in multilateral governance structures, on the other. Without the appearance of procedural appropriateness hegemony would give way to domination, and by and large hegemony is more efficient for the hegemon. But respect for procedures may mean putting up with messages coming out of multilateral organizations that are not consistent with the hegemon’s foreign policy objectives. Acting to make the messages consistent with the hegemon’s foreign policy objectives may entail procedurally inappropriate behaviour. This is the hegemon’s dilemma in multilateral organizations.



The Bank’s autonomy and dependence

In the cases considered here the US Treasury intervened in order to prevent the Bank – or two highly visible people of the Bank – from saying things that ran against its own message about how other countries should develop. The Treasury was clearly unhappy with Stiglitz’s statements (as was the IMF). But it was not able to fire him directly. It waited till it could use its (procedurally appropriate) veto over Wolfensohn’s second term as the means of getting rid of him, by making Wolfensohn (who had the authority to renew or not renew Stiglitz as chief economist) agree to non-renewal as a covert condition of his own reappointment; and later, provoked by Stiglitz’s New Republic broadside, it ensured that Wolfensohn fired him as his special advisor and removed him completely from the Bank. The Treasury was also clearly unhappy with the January 2000 draft of the WDR. Treasury’s pressure on the draft – and the president’s and managing director’s apparent acceptance of the Treasury critique – was construed by Kanbur to be sufficiently potent and inappropriate as to prompt him to resign.

On the other hand these cases show a more complicated situation than ‘the US pulls the lever and the Bank responds’, as though the Bank were an arm of the US government.

First, the US intervention was kept covert, and only known for sure to the parties directly involved. By the standards of other US interventions in the Bank, these cases were subtle and mild. Some of the Executive Directors (the representatives of the member states on the board of directors) grumbled at the American role, but in a spirit of ‘the Americans up to their usual tricks’. Some of the staff – especially the staff of the WDR – thought the American intervention offensive and their senior management weak, but then they did not really count. The most damage came from the press reports, which played up the US role as inappropriate – hence the ‘siege-like’ atmosphere in the meeting between External Affairs and the WDR team as they considered how to explain Kanbur’s resignation in terms that did not involve US pressure. By and large, though, US intervention worked well from the US standpoint: it secured the objectives (Stiglitz fired, the WDR rebalanced) with a sufficient gloss of procedurally appropriate behaviour over the covertly inappropriate behavior that the procedural pillar of US hegemony was minimally compromised.

Second, the cases also show the limits of US influence. The US had a lot to do with the fact that Stiglitz had no chance of being renewed as chief economist, but Stiglitz’s chances were in any case low because of the disgruntlement of top managers and many of his own staff, not all of it informed by ideology. Wolfensohn then appointed him as a special advisor and gave him a key role in finding a successor, which Treasury cannot have welcomed. Only after Stiglitz made a flagrant attack on the IMF and the Treasury did both Treasury and IMF demand that Wolfensohn fire him as special advisor – and Wolfensohn obliged, even though by then safely reappointed for a second term.

Kanbur’s appointment also indicates Bank independence, for he was guaranteed to steer the WDR on poverty in a direction that the Treasury did not like. Kanbur resigned as director of the WDR rather than revise the draft in line with Treasury demands, but the effect was to embarrass the senior management into committing itself to keep the core Civil Society messages intact – precisely so that the Bank would not be seen to be the Treasury’s lackey.

On the other hand, the final version did add other core messages from the Finance agenda, as the Treasury wanted, in the name of the WDR needing to be consistent with the Bank’s central message about how to get development.

The net result of the conflicting norms for (a) the Bank to speak with a single voice, and (b) the WDR to be independent, was substantial inconsistency or lack of integration in the final version. But the inconsistencies and dis-integrations would be noticed only by those who read the report carefully. The Finance agenda messages came particularly in the parts that would be noticed by readers in a hurry – in the standalone summary, in the first chapters, and at the beginning and end of the other chapters.

The Bank’s independence is also seen in the fact that Jeffrey Sachs was indeed invited to the Bank’s Annual Conference on Development Economics over Summers’ objections (though the posters advertising his presence were taken down in response to Summers’ fulminations). And it is seen, ironically, in the fact that Summers and the Treasury wanted the WDR to support the ILO’s labour standards about unions and collective bargaining, but the Bank could not bring itself to do so. In this respect the Bank appeared more neo-liberal than the Treasury.40

The central tension in the making of WDR2000 – to what extent was it the work of a group of independent researchers, to what extent was it the voice piece of the Bank – has run through all the WDRs. The Bank has never confronted the tension by making an explicit statement of what the World Development Report is. In practice, the content of each report emerges as a contest between the authors, thinking of themselves as independent researchers, and senior management and External Affairs, thinking of it as independent so long as it says what they want it to say. The point is unwittingly clear in the Bank’s press statement about Kanbur’s resignation: ‘The World Bank is committed to both open debate and an internal process that maintains the integrity of the WDR, in which the final product reflects the best evidence and judgement of the staff, as well as the wide range of external commentary. The report will in the end be a product of the World Bank approved by its President and by incoming Chief Economist Nicholas Stern.’



Ideological convergence

We have seen that the US Treasury does not always get the Bank to do what it wants. Also, the Bank may do and say what the Treasury wants for reasons beyond the fact that Treasury wants it. Both organizations, after all, are committed to the same broad neo-liberal ideology and to the same notion of what constitutes good technical economics research.

The Development Economics complex at the Bank defends its researchers’ right to reach their own results as a matter of principle. But you do not get to be a Bank research economist without having demonstrated your commitment to the presumptions of neo-liberalism and to the analytical techniques of Anglo–American economics. Once there, you know that if you come up with pro-free-market findings you can send off your paper to The Economist or present it at an IMF seminar straight away without anybody else checking the results; whereas if you come up with contrary results you will be required by your managers to check them out with a panel of colleagues who may be asked to undertake independent replication while the paper is kept under internal wraps. The differential response sends a message to the researchers who are looking for cues as to how to come along and get along in the Bank.

Not long after the Kanbur case a reporter rang up the acting chief economist to ask him to explain why the Development Economics complex had two staff papers on its web site which seemed to contradict each other on the link between growth and poverty reduction. Instead of saying, ‘We are a research center and we encourage people to pursue research findings where ever they lead to’, the acting chief economist said, worried, that he would look into it. He called a meeting of his managers and advisors, and told them that the Bank must not be seen to be speaking in different voices. ‘Given the vulnerability of the Bank to public criticism’, he said, ‘we must be very careful’ [about, for example, what goes up on our web site]. Much the same mechanisms of self-censorship are at work in the Treasury. The result is strong overlap of views without the Treasury exerting direct influence.

Moreover, the longer term ‘game’ between Treasury and the Bank pushes in the same direction. Having been bruised by bad publicity around the Stiglitz affair and the Kanbur affair, the Bank’s senior managers are likely to be more cautious about offending the US in future interactions, because they know how offending the Treasury in one context spills over into costs to the Bank in other contexts. As they become more cautious about giving offence, US hegemony is that much less challenged.

The antibodies work over the long term through both mechanisms – senior managers’ concerns to limit upsets with the Treasury, and researchers’ awareness that pro-free-market findings are better received. Those who dispute the economic policies of the Finance agenda – such as those who challenge the Bank’s advocacy of funded pension schemes whereby individuals contribute to a pension fund which invests in securities, and they receive a pension linked to the performance of the stock market – are kept on the margins; those who advocate policies that fit the liberal free market ideology described earlier have a better chance of reaching the commanding heights.41



The benefits of US Treasury influence on WDR 2000

The question of how the US Treasury influences the Bank should be kept separate from the question of whether its influence is substantively desirable. In the immediate context of the WDR 2000 it can be argued that the WDR was indeed improved by Treasury influence to the extent that the WDR ended up giving more emphasis to economic growth and less emphasis to parts of the Civil Society agenda. Let me explain.

First, developing countries have been experiencing a severe but little noticed long-term growth slowdown. Ever since 1960 average incomes in developing countries have grown more slowly than OECD incomes in most years, and world income inequality has widened. Indeed, the median rate of growth in developing countries’ average incomes between 1980 and 1998 was 0.0 percent.42 The growth crisis should be right at the forefront of the development debate, as also the steps that OECD countries should take to moderate it, including lifting US union-sponsored protectionism. But the swelling phallanx of mostly western-based NGOs is not likely to place it there, because it has given little analytical attention to economic growth in developing country conditions. 43

Second, there is not much evidence that economic growth and productivity are raised by changes in decision-making which give greater power to local groups. The empowerment movement assumes too readily that benevolent paternalism is always wicked and that giving power to the poor will result in cooperative thriving rather than looting as shamelessly as the other lot.

Third, the ascendancy of governance, participation and environmental protection in the development agenda has tended to eclipse the centrality of the question, ‘How to increase real economic rates of return in agriculture, industry and services, and how to bring scientific research to bear on this task?’ One sees the eclipse in the World Bank’s Comprehensive Development Framework, which shifts attention from growth towards non-income aspects of poverty and legitimates the Bank’s retreat from hard-nosed technical subjects like industrial policy and irrigation investment towards soft-nosed education, health, participation, legal reform and cultural properties.44

While the Treasury role in getting the WDR2000 to give more weight to economic growth was surely useful, this is not to endorse the Finance agenda that the Treasury sought to impose. My own preference, it will be clear, is for a real-sector/industrial policy/social democratic agenda. Moreover, one should relish the irony in the Treasury’s upset at the January draft’s embrace of the Civil Society agenda. For it was the US Treasury, above all, that as the Cold War wound down and the US’s need to use the Bank for geopolitical objectives faded, most pressed the Bank to open itself to NGO influence – not because it particularly liked NGOs or their governance and environmental arguments but because it needed to build up credit with them and with the Congress in order to get their support or acquiescence on the things that really did matter to the Treasury, including free capital mobility.



The benefits of multilateralism

The specific case of the WDR 2000 aside, the Bank would be a better development agency if the US – both the US state and US NGOs – had less control over it, if people from other states, with knowledge of other (social democratic, developmental state) forms of capitalism had more influence over what the Bank says and does, causing the Bank to affirm a wider range of institutional ecologies. We know from Japan and continental Europe that efficiency, catch-up, innovation and well-being can be promoted not only by the market principle of exit/switching/liquidity but also, in some spheres, by the organizational principle of voice/commitment/capacity-building. In a social democratic ideology, free markets in labour are constrained by the need to protect organizational loyalties, corporations are managed with responsibilities to employees and other stakeholders as well as shareholders, they are not bought and sold on the stock market, and the public sector expresses the principle of mutual responsibility through public supervision of health care, education and collective social insurance.45 Certainly social democratic systems are on the defensive at the start of the present century. They are under question from segments of national elites (this being the US’s return on generous scholarship funding for foreign students in American graduate schools), and under pressure from capital flows out of Europe. The US Treasury declares that capital will continue to flow out and the Euro will continue to fall ‘unless and until Europe shows more commitment to overhauling its restrictive labour market and generous welfare systems which are seen as a barrier to growth’, in effect setting liberal free market conditionalities on US cooperation on behalf of the Euro.46 But political economies with social democratic characteristics clearly can be effective vehicles of late development. And the world economy would be less fragile if it contained a broader range of capitalist forms.47

One test of the Bank’s independence from US views would be the appointment of a chief economist and associated staff who champion these arguments. However, the only major way to moderate US hegemony over the Bank is to shift its headquarters – or some important headquarters functions – out of the US. Constitutionally the European states have the votes to do this. A World Bank with important staff and headquarters functions in, say, Berlin or Paris or Ankara (but not London) might be suffused by the more diverse European views of political economy.48 And the Bank might be split into separate ‘companies’ under a holding company, like a Japanese kairetsu, each company de.ned by a ‘results area’, each drawing help from others but operating largely independently, and placed in different centres around the world.

Short of that, the Europeans and the Japanese could organize themselves to steer the Bank a bit more. The Nordics have already been doing so on the ‘social’ aspects of development by putting up millions of dollars in trust funds for Bank work in this area – an area where the US Treasury is happy to let them take the lead and pay the cost, because peripheral to the interests of the US state but central to the objectives of many US NGOs whom the Treasury needs to keep happy. The question is when the Europeans and Japanese will exercise more leadership on the economic policy issues where the US Treasury really does want the Bank as its instrument, such as opening developing country capital markets; and when the representatives of developing countries on the board of the Bank will concert their actions for a change.



Wall, Howard J. (1995), “The Allocation of Official Development Assistance,” in Journal of Policy Modeling, Vol. 17, No. 3, 307–314.

This paper is an examination of the criteria by which foreign aid, or official development assistance (ODA), flows from donor countries to recipients. I develop a theoretical model based on donor optimization and apply it to the total net ODA allocations of three periods: 1979–80, 1984–85, and 1988–89. The estimation indicates that per capita income and population are correlated with per capita ODA receipts, while infant mortality and political/civil rights are not. Also, the negative correlation between ODA and per capita income rose significantly through the 1980s. […]

The theoretical model developed performs reasonably well for the three periods examined. In the allocation of ODA, per capita income appears to be the important indicator of intercountry well-being; in 1988-89 the elasticity of ODA per capita with respect to per capita GNP was .92. There is also a strong population bias; in 1988-89, between two countries, a 10-percent difference in population meant that the larger country received, on average, a 6.5-percent lower level of ODA per person.

Even though the explanatory variables are essentially the same as those considered in previous studies, it is difficult to compare the results to those of previous studies because the present specification differs substantially from their ad hoc models. On the basis of statistical significance and on the percentage variation in ODA per capita explained by the models, when compared to the present study, they provide weak support for the hypothesis that recipients’ well-being is important in the aid-allocation process. However, they do indicate some evidence that per capita income is negatively related to ODA supply. Also, Dowling and Heimenz (1985) and Mosley (1987) find evidence of a population bias whereas Maizels and Nissanke (1984) does not. None of these studies found infant mortality (nor its close relative the Physical Quality of Life Index) to be statistically significant, and none of them has examined the role of human rights.



Wang, T. Y. (1999), “U.S. Foreign Aid and U.N. Voting: An Analysis of Important Issues,” International Studies Quarterly, Vol. 43, No. 1, pp. 199–210.

Contrary to the argument that foreign aid is an ineffective policy instrument in the pursuit of America’s global influence, the current findings suggest that the U.S. government has successfully utilized foreign aid programs to induce foreign policy compliance in the UN on issues that are vital to America’s national interests. Such policy compliance did not come as a result of how much aid a developing country has already acquired from the U.S. but of Washington’s manipulation of the level of foreign aid as a reward for political deference or a punishment for political defiance. Although the UN voting pattern was only one of many factors influencing U.S. foreign aid appropriations, Washington has spent considerable time during the past decade trying to establish a linkage between aid allocations and UN voting coincidence rates. The linkage policy established during the Reagan administration, in conjunction with subsequent manipulation of aid allocations, has sent a strong signal to recipient countries: vote in the UN according to U.S. positions or run the risk of losing aid. Indeed, the repeated cutbacks in foreign aid in recent years may actually have made the marginal utility of each remaining dollar higher and thus would have made compliance even more likely. The prospect of suffering economic sanctions for political defiance on issues that are considered vital by the U.S. government may help to explain the association between U.S. aid and coincidence rates of important voting in the UN.

This analysis also demonstrates that it is unreasonable to focus on voting coincidence rates of all UN votes when the effectiveness of U.S. foreign aid programs is assessed. Most UN resolutions simply are not important enough for the U.S. to apply its precious resources influencing the outcomes. As previous quotes from Keohane (1966) suggest, the costs of repeatedly exercising pressure would be too high for marginal gains and would invite resentment and antagonism over the long run. Empirical evidence, as demonstrated by low voting coincidence rates on all UN resolutions, seems to suggest that leaders of recipient countries also understand this logic. They tend to be more likely to submit their political deference to American positions when issues are important to the U.S. government because they know that “Big Brother” is watching.

Finally, the sense that domestic programs should come first during the post-Cold War era is certainly prevalent in American society in recent years. Such a pervasive sense places considerable limitations on the employment of foreign aid programs as a policy instrument. However, while the break-up of the Soviet Union has indeed changed the international power structure, it has not made the U.S. a hegemon which can use its military might indiscriminately to demand political deference from all other nations. Thus Congress, the president, and the American people need to recognize that “economic statecraft” (Baldwin, 1985) is even more important in the current international system. By skillfully manipulating the level of foreign aid, the U.S. can effectively pursue its global influence in the post-Cold War era.



Watanabe, Yuko (2006), What Determines Bilateral Aid Distribution? Evidence from Major Donors, Undergraduate Honors Paper, Department of Economics and International Studies Program, University of Oregon.

The determinants of bilateral aid distribution differ greatly across donors. However, it is clear that a donor country’s own interests play at least some role. U.S. aid seems to be dictated by their global strategic concerns, which are fairly irrelevant to the recipient country’s need or their own commercial interests. Emphasis on the improvement of education and health conditions advocated by U.S. foreign policy and USAID was not statistically significant. Japanese aid is largely determined by colonial ties and preference for Asia. Despite the persistent criticism of Japan’s prioritizing its own economic interests in aid-giving, trade volume does not affect the distribution pattern significantly in the regression model. U.K. aid is generally explained by colonial ties and political concerns, which is fairly consistent with the previous researches [sic] and common perceptions of the development practitioners. Canadian aid distribution is unique in a way that it is primarily allocated based on the humanitarian needs of recipient countries rather than Canada’s own interests. This may be partially due to its lack of strong historical or regional ties with developing nations.

Although the improvement of transparency of the government and human development are strongly encouraged by major international organizations like World Bank, such variables do not seem to have statistically significant impact on bilateral aid allocation. Variables that directly relate to poverty reduction, such as literacy rate, infant mortality rate, and income inequality were not popular determinants as well. Bilateral aid distribution in general is dictated by donor interests far more than the need of recipient countries. In order to maximize aid effectiveness and create a favorable environment for developing countries to reduce poverty and work toward the Millennium Development Goals, bilateral aid should be used as genuine tool for growth rather just than another foreign policy tool for developed countries.

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