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For example, the average citizen of Burundi, the lowest-income country, subsists on $150 per year (adjusted to 2005 dollars). According to data collected by the Central Intelligence Agency in its CIA Factbook, as of 2013, 90% of Burundi’s population is agrarian, with coffee and tea as the main income producing crop. Only one in two children attends school and, as shown in [link] , many are not in schools comparable to what is found in developed countries. The CIA Factbook also estimates that 15% of Burundi’s population suffers from HIV/AIDS. Political instability has made it difficult for Burundi to make significant headway toward growth, as verified by the electrification of only 2% of households and 42% of its national income coming from foreign aid.

Lack of funds for investing in human capital

This is an image of children sitting in a ruined structure which serves as their outdoor “classroom.”
In low-income countries, all income is often spent on necessities for living and cannot be accumulated or invested in physical or human capital. The students in this photograph learn in an outside “classroom” void of not only technology, but even chairs and desks. (Credit: Rafaela Printes/Flickr Creative Commons)

The World Factbook website is loaded with maps, flags, and other information about countries across the globe.

Other low-income countries share similar stories. These countries have found it difficult to generate investments for themselves or to find foreign investors willing to put up the money for more than the basic needs. Foreign aid and external investment comprise significant portions of the income in these economies, but are not sufficient to allow for the capital accumulation necessary to invest in physical and human capital. But is foreign aid always a contributor to economic growth? It can be a controversial issue, as the next Clear it Up feature points out.

Does foreign aid to low-income countries work?

According to the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), about $134 billion per year in foreign aid flows from the high-income countries of the world to the low-income ones. Relative to the size of their populations or economies, this is not a large amount for either donors or recipients. For low-income countries, aid averages about 1.3 percent of their GDP. But even this relatively small amount has been highly controversial.

Supporters of additional foreign aid point to the extraordinary human suffering in the low-and middle-income countries of the world. They see opportunities all across Africa, Asia, and Latin America to set up health clinics and schools. They want to help with the task of building economic infrastructure: clean water, plumbing, electricity, and roads. Supporters of this aid include formal state-sponsored institutions like the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) or independent non-governmental organizations (NGOs) like CARE International that also receive donor government funds. For example, because of an outbreak of meningitis in Ethiopia in 2010, DFID channeled significant funds to the Ethiopian Ministry of Health to train rural health care workers and also for vaccines. These monies helped the Ministry offset shortfalls in their budget.

Opponents of increased aid do not quarrel with the goal of reducing human suffering, but they suggest that foreign aid has often proved a poor tool for advancing that goal. For example, according to an article in the Attaché Journal of International Affairs , the Canadian foreign aid organization (CIDA) provided $100 million to Tanzania to grow wheat. The project did produce wheat, but nomadic pastoralists and other villagers who had lived on the land were driven off 100,000 acres of land to make way for the project. The damage in terms of human rights and lost livelihoods was significant. Villagers were beaten and killed because some refused to leave the land. At times, the unintended collateral damage from foreign aid can be significant.

William Easterly, professor of economics at New York University and author of The White Man’s Burden , argues that aid is often given for political reasons and ends up doing more harm than good. If the government of a country creates a reasonably stable and market-oriented macroeconomic climate, then foreign investors will be likely to provide funds for many profitable activities. For example, according to The New York Times , Facebook is partnering with multiple organizations in a project called Internet.org to provide access in remote and low-income areas of the world, and Google began its own initiative called Project Loon. Facebook’s first forays into providing Internet access via mobile phones began in stable, market-oriented countries like India, Brazil, Indonesia, Turkey, and the Philippines.

Policymakers are now wiser about the limitations of foreign aid than they were a few decades ago. In targeted and specific cases, especially if foreign aid is channeled to long-term investment projects, foreign aid can have a modest role to play in reducing the extreme levels of deprivation experienced by hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Questions & Answers

a mixed economic system
Ngong Reply
What are the types of price elasticity of demand
Juliana Reply
what are massures to promote geographical mobility of labor?
Ngong
Is to make sure that a labourer to know more about his salary to earn before going to the direction
shehu
what is trade
PHILIPPE Reply
Trade is a basic economic concept involving the buying and selling of goods and services, with compensation paid by a buyer to a seller, or the exchange of goods or services between parties. Trade can take place within an economy between producers and consumers.
Miss
what is fisical policy?
ha Reply
fisical policy or fiscal policy?
Miss
what are.the characteristics of economic goods
Hamis
what are the importance of labour market?
Rachael
how discrib the rural development and their four stages
Sheikh Reply
ye economics se related ha
Sheikh
1..traditional stage..no science and technology is applied hence poor productionuu.2..the take off stage..some development strategies are initiated eg transport system is improved but the traditional cultural belief still remain .3..the prematurely stage..technological methods of production are appl
President
applied leading to higher GDP..4..stage of mass consumption..
President
What is Easiest Formula For National Income?
Tenzin Reply
national income/ agrrigate net value
Sheikh
what do you mean by the supply of goods
sachin Reply
supply of good refer to the total unit of production which is ready to sell at a given price
Tenzin
what is implicit cost
fuseini Reply
Yeah
MOHAMED
any cost that has already occurred but not necessarily shown or reported as a separate expense.
President
The links don't seem to be working
Scorch Reply
what is taxonomy
wise Reply
how to interprets elasticity
Joseph Reply
what is demand curve
Joseph
It is the graphical representation of quantity demand of a commodity?
Kofi
it is the graphical representation of price and quantity demanded of a commodity
Obaa
what is the difference between positive economics and normative economics.
pauline Reply
It said that positive economics studies the facts, but normative one focus on ought to be.
Mohammad
in another words normative economics focuses on what the fair situation is.
Mohammad
positive economics: wages are 10$ per hour. normative economics: wages should be 25$ per hour.
Mohammad
what is choice
Hamis Reply
what is indifference curve
Misba Reply
It is an alternative combination of consumption of two goods which gives equal level of satisfaction.
Shujjat
good morning guys.. I am Lawrence from Nigeria.. trust am welcome here..
Lawrence Reply
mashallah
Tanveer
are you ecnomist?
Noor
I am a researcher
jackie
you all are ecnomost
Noor
ohh nice
Noor
re search on economy
Noor

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Source:  OpenStax, Principles of economics. OpenStax CNX. Sep 19, 2014 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11613/1.11
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