The Honorable Member of Parliament from Chadema representing Kigoma North recently spoke in Berlin at the launch of One International’s 2010 DATA report on the subject. I think this particular little nugget from the speech is worth highlighting:
I welcome the critics of aid, because they are right when they argue that sloppy management erodes value for money; they are right when they say aid can be used corruptly; they are right when they call for greater transparency and scrutiny. But they are wrong when they conclude that solution is to End Aid. The debate should not be whether aid work[s] or not, but how to make aid work and uplift the living standards of the bottom Billion.
You can find the rest of the speech on his blog here.
Now, there were some interesting, if unoriginal, ideas in that speech. He talked about the need for transparency and accountability etc. Nothing new there. But I am afraid I find the notion that a people can break free from the shackles of poverty through aid quite troubling. We demanded independence from our colonisers fundamentally because we believed that we know how best to run our country. How can we then claim to be fully independent when our national budget is almost 40% foreign subsidized, even with greater transparency and accountability? How can we proclaim ourselves a free people if, as a result of this ‘generosity’, these foreign powers proceed to dictate how we should govern ourselves? Where is the agency in that? Where is the freedom in that?
What is disappointing about the Hon. Zitto Kabwe’s speech is that it offered no new ideas or thinking or strategy on how this country can wean itself off our dependence on aid. It is becoming increasingly clear that the longer we continue along this path, being dependent economically on the free hand of others, the more we work to confirm the claim our colonisers once made when we demanded independence, that we were not ready to govern ourselves. If almost half of your income comes from foreigners can you credibly claim to be independent and free?
So Mheshimiwa, I ask you, with all due respect, what is your strategy, how are you going to untie this knot around our necks? Because only when we are able to say that we have earned every cent of what constitutes our budget, will we then, Sir, be able to convincingly declare that we have uplifted ourselves from poverty.