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Too Much Aid, Not Enough Help

Author: Ken Gibson
Published By: The Columba Press (Blackrock, Co Dublin)
Pages: 168
Price: £12.50
ISBN: 978 1 85607 712 5

Reviewed by Luke Penkett.

Ken Gibson is Chief Executive of The Leprosy Mission Ireland. He has extensive experience of working in Africa and Asia. He is much in demand as advisor to a number of Non Governmental Organisations.

His book takes a radically different look at aid, showing that aid is not achieving many of its supposed objectives, because not all ‘aid’ is the same. In stark contrast to the concept that aid is presented as pure benevolence, which offers photo opportunities and grand gestures, the greater part of aid is delivered by governments to other governments or through international bodies, frequently with conditions attached that often make the donor richer and the poor poorer.

Gibson shows that all aid is not the same, that to make a real difference and to deliver effective change requires a basic and radical change of mindset. His agenda is to convince donors to put self-interest aside and offer less ‘aid’ and more help.

After an introductory chapter, Gibson argues that Overseas Development Aid is not reducing inequality or poverty. Chapter 3 asks who the donors are, how much aid do they give, to whom do they give aid, and what is their motivation in giving aid to particular countries? The fourth chapter then asks who the recipients of ODA are and why do underdeveloped countries accept aid if it often fails to benefit them? Chapter 5 presents a history of ODA, from its inception after the Second World War to the present. The next chapter explores the mechanisms by which the neoliberal policy agenda has promoted the interests of capital at the expense of the poor. Chapter 7 questions the causal relationship between aid and economic growth, and outlines the role that aid can play in creating currency appreciation, which harms exports and undermines the livelihoods of the poor living in underdeveloped countries. The final chapter puts forward recommendations for meaningful change.

A challenging book and a very good read, the text is supported by good references and a handy list of acronyms. It is neither glib nor superficial. Gibson is refreshingly balanced in his approach and gives credit where credit is due, unlike many books published at present that imply or suggest all aid is bad. Certainly, the book is not a criticism of aid in all circumstances. Born out of a sense of responsibility, Gibson removes the wool from many eyes of people who support the stated aims of the aid that is given in their names. The lack of any kind of index is a major problem, but hopefully this could be rectified in later editions.

Luke Penkett

Monk and Priest working with L'Arche Community

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You are reading Issue 56 of Ministry Today, published in November 2012.

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