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Aid minister calls for debate over corruption

Peter Vinthagen Simpson · 24 Aug 2009, 10:27

Published: 24 Aug 2009 10:27 GMT+02:00

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"Could it be that the development aid is not a part of a possible solution, but in fact part of the problem?" Carlsson asks in an article published on debate website Newsmill on Monday morning.

"We must, as one of the world's largest providers of development aid, venture to ask this question," she continues.

Carlsson poses the question in response to revelations of a major scandal in Zambia involving the theft of around 50 million kronor ($7.1 million) from projects supported with Swedish money in the country's health ministry.

Sweden has supported Zambia with development aid since independence in 1964 and the incident has given Carlsson cause to question the whole idea and purpose of this type of support.

"The biggest threat to efficient development aid is the incidence of corruption where it is applied. Scandals are exposed at regular intervals, but can we make sure that everything is caught by our system, and if so, how?"

Carlsson presents a review of the changes the government has introduced to the administration of Swedish development aid over the three years since gaining power.

Among the changes are the focus of aid on quality projects in a smaller group of recipient countries, a review and reform of the Swedish aid organs, and a report that has been presented to parliament detailing the actual impact of aid expenditure.

Carlsson also explains that Sweden has clarified the overarching priorities for development aid: democracy and human rights, the environment and climate, equality and the role of women in development.

Carlsson continues to write that she is not satisfied with these changes alone and underlines her dual responsibility - to the Swedish taxpayer and to the poor in the developing world today.

"I will not be happy until I can guarantee, or at least convincingly demonstrate, that Swedish development aid actually contributes to the reduction of poverty, to freedom, and to progress in developing countries," she states.

Returning to the Zambian case, Carlsson praises the Zambian anti-corruption bureau for responding to a report from an insider that money had gone missing. At the same time she expresses despair that there has been little debate on the issue in donor countries.

"How much time would have passed before we as a donor would ourselves have noticed something if it had not been for this 'whistle-blower'?"

Story continues below…

Carlsson argues that the experience has told her that poverty and corruption often go hand in hand. She cites anti-corruption group Transparency International who argue that continued high levels of corruption in developing countries risk prompting a "humanitarian catastrophe."

Gunilla Carlsson concludes by promising to open a debate on Tuesday on the issue of corruption and proposed changes to Sweden's development aid apparatus in general.

She calls on all parties to examine these questions in a vigorous and open debate and urges that "it is time to see the reality as it is."

"I therefore ask for help and welcome all of you who care about the struggle against poverty and the administration of development aid to take part in this next stage of the work to create a 'smart aid' which works, in reality."

Peter Vinthagen Simpson (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:22 August 24, 2009 by Emfa
How come it's only today that Gunilla realizes that the way aid is administered is part of the problem?

With this aid, dictators world over have resources to use in oppressing their populations.

The biggest achievement of development aid is the enlargement of the rich-poor gap.
13:16 August 24, 2009 by hpunlimited
Foreign aid simply doesn't work, Sweden has been giving 93 million kronors a DAY to Zambia, while Swedes go unemployed, homeless, poor and starving in Sweden. How about if we deduct all this money to the help we are already giving people from the 3rd world that already lives here? Atleast we can control the corruption within the borders here.

The best help you can give the 3rd world is not to give any help at all. It is not until then that they will shape up and start organizing themselves. Even as basic help as Malaria, HIV etc works against these countries, since they do not make any effort themselves to do anything about it. It is just the Western worlds responisbility. Welfare, freedom and liberty comes from taking responsibility for yourself.
13:59 August 24, 2009 by eZee.se
Also look into the corruption that has come in from the music and movie industries (eg IPRED) to get their laws passed and get 'their' judges to judge high profile (eg TPB)cases... and convict according to their wishes.
14:56 August 24, 2009 by Audrian
There are thre ways of channeling money into developing countries. One channel is government (Finance Ministry), second is none government organizations (NGO) and the third direct investment (by Sweden). Money givern to the government can be claimed back if the Swedish government finds the money is lost. The swedish government can take legal action and get back its money for the good of Zambia and for the good of Sweden.

One other hand, money given to NGO, if lost, is difficult to get back. In most cases, an NGOa is made up of small group of people who could disappear without trace. About 75% of NGO in the world are unreliable (about 25% are excellent dynamic organizations). Regarding NGO, theft can be minimised by regular supervision. This can be done by requiring them to suplement a workplan (including fund disbusment plan). When ever the NGO requests for an additional fund, Sida (Sweden) should demand accountability for fund previous provided. Regular site visits to monitor project progress insures that fund is not used other than the project Sida has approved.

My susprise is why Sida waited until 7 million dollars is stolen? If this money is lost over a course of many years, why did Sida waited before it demanded accountability? Before the minister rushes into making new policies, she should dispatch a group of experts to study the matter and come with recommendations.
15:45 August 24, 2009 by Nemesis
I think first, this minster should be fired. That will save money.

Then aid money should be cancelled.

Then redirect the money into infrastucture, schools, universities and hopsitals.

More trains might be a good start.
15:56 August 24, 2009 by skane refugee
IMHO by far the most efficient way to channel money to less developed countries is via remitted wages earned by migrants living and working in the developed world ...

having an open job market, usually short of labour, with no hidden cultural barriers to 3rd world immigrant workers is the best form of development aid ...

not only does a large amount of (corruption-free) cash find its way back to the developing world ... but also vital skills and ideas (show-how and know-how)

In this way the true leading aid donors of the world are the countries with the highest proportion of 3rd world workers in their legal and illegal workforces remitting cash to family and friends back home

Government aid programmes are wasteful, counter-productive and pure PR for a domestic and international audience
16:02 August 24, 2009 by Texrusso
After the second World war, the United States of America under a Marshall Plan arrangement gave Europe over 300 billion US dollars for reconstruction and development. Please note the figures 300 BILLION US DOLLARS. This substantial amount of AID was the key to europe's post war effort recovery. Having said that, I would also like to say that the Europeans also made well due the fund and worked hard.

Africa has a beutiful history full of mistery and that history

is not complete without the divide and conquer by the colonial powers of Europe and the devestating impact of long term slavery of her people. What Africa needs today is a MARSHALL PLAN just like what the US offered Europe after second World war. It is no wonder there is still some sort of Economic benefit for Europe as long as the continent remains impoverish. Kudos to Sweden for the developmental efforts so far. Perhaps its about time to redress the methodology and future of Foreign Aid to Developing Nations. Long Live the Kingdom of Sweden!!! Long Live Africa!!!
16:23 August 24, 2009 by pebben
My hat off to Gunilla Carlsson! First time I ever heard a SIDA-boss to honestly question the very core of SIDA's mandate. The development assistance as we know it, is a "drop in the ocean" and does not contribute nearly as much as we tend to think. In fact, like Ms Carlsson is indicating, development assistance may be part of the problem rather than the solution. Downplay the role of development assistance, allocate more (redistribution) resources to emergency aid and do something tangible to improve the possibilties for poorer countries to export. "More trade than aid", somebody wiser than me said a long time ago - I happen to agree, now as I did then. I did spend some 20 odd years in the development industry and I have seen how it works (and not) from the first row. Beleive you me - Gunilla Carlsson is on to something important, IF she decides to pursue what she just wrote...
16:33 August 24, 2009 by Texrusso
The Marshall Plan, 1947

Speech Delivered by General George Marshall at Harvard University on June 5, 1947

Source: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1947marshallplan1.html

"Any assistance that this Government may render in the future should provide a cure rather than a mere palliative.

It is already evident that, before the United States Government can proceed much further in its efforts to alleviate the situation and help start the European world on its way to recovery, there must be some agreement among the countries of Europe as to the requirements of the situation and the part those countries themselves will take in order to give proper effect to whatever action might be undertaken by this Government. It would be neither fitting nor efficacious for this Government to undertake to draw up unilaterally a program designed to place Europe on its feet economically. This is the business of the Europeans. The initiative, I think, must come from Europe. The role of this country should consist of friendly aid in the drafting of a European program and of later support of such a program so far as it may be practical for us to do so. The program should be a joint one, agreed to by a number, if not all, European nations.

An essential part of any successful action on the part of the United States is an understanding on the part of the people of America of the character of the problem and the remedies to be applied. Political passion and prejudice should have no part. With foresight, and a willingness on the part of our people to face up to the vast responsibility which history has clearly placed upon our country, the difficulties I have outlined can and will be overcome." -- General George Marshall excerpt from speech
20:15 August 24, 2009 by Nemesis

A little fact you have ommitted.

The Marchall Plan was a series of loans. It was not a cash hand out.

All of which have since been paid back, which the US goverment has flushed down the toilet.

Everytime Africa is given a loan or direct aid, it squanders it, where'as the German's, Dutch, Danish and Austrians got the trains to run on time and there infrastucture built up.
06:49 August 25, 2009 by Texrusso
Nemesis; Yes it was a loan, but the main issue is the method, process and style as well as the amount of loan was very substantial and the delivery was effective. Please read the speech again and do some ground work. The IMF LOAN given to African countries was drawn on conditions given by the World/IMF and some of those conditions present uncertain economic reality in these countries which eventually turn them into more imporverish and indepted nations, making them even more worse off from were they started before the loan. The Marshall plan was American money using European approach to own problem with bilateral and mutual assistant from both side. Nemesis, old chinese saying: GIve a hungry man fish for a day, you will feed him another day, but teach him how to Fish and you feed him for ever.
10:15 August 25, 2009 by sdon
The people should not continue to suffer for the dishonest practises of their leaders.

The distribution of development aid is vulnerable to corruption, but instead of stopping aid altogether and allowing the cycle of poverty to continue spinning, appropriate structures must be put in place to ensure transparency and accountability. The first steps can come from the donor: to ensure that recipient countries either practise good governance already or to work with motivated governments and civil society to improve the state of governance. On both the donor and recipient side, aid money should be audited and those responsible held accountable.

There are solutions!! Transparency International put out a policy paper on this very subject. Ignoring the poverty of millions because a few leaders abuse their power will not improve the lives of those who need it most. http://bit.ly/3sIFAI
10:48 August 25, 2009 by Texrusso
These so called AIDs are just hand outs... Its like giving a man a fish for a day. These type of aids continue to leave the receipiet dependent on the donor for ever. See an example of AID for permanent change above, something like the MArshall plan. Those petty AIDs are a way to make Developed World feel better about them selves. To justify the unbalance in the World. Corruption yields poverty and poverty yields corruption. Most people naturaly want to make a change in their home country and be part of change. But when the system is too loose or unchecked; any human beign given the right circustances have a tendency to be greedy or corrupt. What am calling for is an END TO POVERTY IN AFRICA!!! not a hand out of cheap aids ineffective aids that never works. Better still take all the aids away and let the continent perish or survive which ever way. The stability of Africa should be in the best interest of the World, Its a Global village. When the eyes is crying so is the nose -- African saying. One thing we have learn from the Global Financial crises is that we live in a Global village. Africa is next frontier and probably the last. The Vision of mankind is never complete without Africa, Africa will offer a lot to the World in many areas lacking if Africa can get the Chance to live. The visionaries who championed the Marshall Plan, had the same vision, because they have recognize that a stable Europe means a Stable America, A Stable World means stability at home. It is a vision that must be extended to Africa.
16:23 August 25, 2009 by Seltue12
As a student from Africa studying development studies at Uppsala University, I strongly believe that the insidious aid culture has left African countries more debt-laden, more inflation-prone, more vulnerable to the vagaries of the currency markets and more unattractive to higher-quality investment. It's increased the risk of civil conflict and unrest (the fact that over 60% of sub-Saharan Africa's population is under the age of 24 with few economic prospects is a cause for worry). Aid is an unmitigated political, economic and humanitarian disaster. Over the past 60 years at least $1 trillion of development-related aid has been transferred from rich countries to Africa. Yet real per-capita income today is lower than it was in the 1970s, and more than 50% of the population -- over 350 million people -- live on less than a dollar a day, a figure that has nearly doubled in two decades.

In Zaire -- known today as the Democratic Republic of Congo -- Irwin Blumenthal (whom the IMF had appointed to a post in the country's central bank) warned in 1978 that the system was so corrupt that there was "no (repeat, no) prospect for Zaire's creditors to get their money back." Still, the IMF soon gave the country the largest loan it had ever given an African nation. According to corruption watchdog agency Transparency International, Mobutu Sese Seko, Zaire's president from 1965 to 1997, is reputed to have stolen at least $5 billion from the country.

It's scarcely better today. recently , Malawi's former President Bakili Muluzi was charged with embezzling aid money worth $12 million. Zambia's former President Frederick Chiluba (a development darling during his 1991 to 2001 tenure) remains embroiled in a court case that has revealed millions of dollars frittered away from health, education and infrastructure toward his personal cash dispenser. Yet the aid keeps on coming.

A constant stream of "free" money is a perfect way to keep an inefficient or simply bad government in power. As aid flows in, there is nothing more for the government to do -- it doesn't need to raise taxes, and as long as it pays the army, it doesn't have to take account of its disgruntled citizens. No matter that its citizens are disenfranchised (as with no taxation there can be no representation). All the government really needs to do is to court and cater to its foreign donors to stay in power. It time for the donors to revisit their international aid policy to Africa because it is not working but infact part of the problem.
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