Anyone who has spent any time in Cambodia is familiar with the alphabet soup of multilateral and bilateral aid agencies and the hundreds of international NGOs operating throughout this country. Throughout August we will be conducting a series of round-table discussions of Christopher Coyne's book "Doing Bad by Doing Good." Coyne's text joins the growing body of "aid skepticism" material - the research of William Easterly and Dambisa Moyo, the popular documentary Poverty Inc. etc - which has had a growing voice on questions of development policy.
While we see many forms of aid as being quite successful and have observed splendid work with brilliant outcomes from many groups which have been in country for decades (e.g., World Vision and Maryknoll), we are rather skeptical about where much of this funding is going and how it is being used. Process is wonderful. Demonstration of commitment is a nice thing. But at the end of the day what matters is simple: results.
We have generally been disappointed with the oversight/review of aid programming in Cambodia and GMRC has decided to fill that gap with our new "Aid Watch" program. Over the coming months we will regularly be reviewing and evaluating projects/programs/poverty alleviation plans in an attempt to get a better picture as to what is working in Cambodia and what is not. What lessons have been learned? How can these be better incorporated into future development policy? How have different organizations resolved principal-agent issues? Can the legendary "coordination problem" that Coyne focuses on in depth be resolved in Cambodia, what steps have been taken to do so, and have those been successful? If not, why not? Also if not, who is responsible?
We look forward to contributing to the discussion of aid in Cambodia and we hope you will find our analysis interesting. So watch this space - some surprises are in store.