Jennifer Clapp

After years of delay, the U.S. Senate voted yesterday in favor of the 2014 Farm Bill, which passed easily in the House or Representatives last week. President Obama is widely expected to sign the bill into law. The bill’s provisions on food aid, though not as far reaching in the end as many had hoped for a year ago, are being hailed as a first step toward more major reform in the future. But newly emerging donors mimicking outdated U.S. food aid practices may muddy the reform efforts.

U.S. food aid policy has seen remarkably few major changes since it was initiated 60 years ago, in 1954. Donated food is still required to be primarily grown in the United States, and at least half must still be transported on U.S. flag ships. The United States also remains by far the largest donor of food aid on the global stage, carrying significant weight in setting food aid trends.

But in these past 60 years, the world has changed a great deal, making U.S. food aid policy arcane and outdated. NGOs such as Oxfam and others pushing for reform have emphasized these points.

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Matias Vernengo

Economics is an essential part of foreign policy. One cannot think of the Cold War without the Marshall Plan that allowed reconstruction in Western Europe and containment of the Soviet Union in Western Europe. In Latin America one cannot dissociate the Cuban Revolution and the subsequent Alliance for Progress, which basically provided credit for allies in the region, pushed by Kennedy to contain Communism in the region. Geopolitics is, however, often ignored by economists, and political scientists tend to use only mainstream economics when discussing political economy issues.

In the case of US-Latin American affairs, the inability to understand the political elements of the economic process, and the incapacity to comprehend the deep causes of underdevelopment in the region explain, in part, the problematic relationship of the Obama administration with the left of center governments in the region. The Obama administration has compounded old mistakes and aggravated the mistrust from progressives in Latin America (for an early discussion of the topic go here; subscription required). John Kerry, the Secretary of the State, has referred recently to Latin America as the American “backyard,” and the Obama administration has not recognized the democratically elected government of Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela.

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According to researchers Tim Wise and Sophia Murphy, the fundamental causes of rising global hunger are going unaddressed by international institutions.

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Jayati Ghosh

Foreign aid has been getting a bad press this year – and not without reason. For a long time bilateral aid in particular has been seen as too small and scattered, too politically motivated, too supportive of the interests of donors (and especially of the business interests of donor countries) rather than oriented to real  benefits for intended recipients. Now governments of poor developing countries that were earlier grateful for any crumbs from the rich countries’ table are less welcoming, especially of aid that comes tied with various economic and political strings. The improvement in their terms of trade over the past six years, as well as the emergence of new markets and new sources of aid and investment from other emerging nations and oil-exporting countries, have all played a role in this changed perception.

The relationship of the UK government with foreign aid has become particularly complicated in recent times – but it may well be symptomatic of a wider problem in many developing countries. The Cameron government announced that it was going to “ringfence” foreign aid from the sweeping budget cuts that it has already announced or plans to implement over the next few years. But this has come under attack from both Left and Right for various reasons. Revelations in the British media that a significant part of the funds have been directed to highly paid consultants based in the UK whose output is often of dubious relevance or usefulness to the so-called “beneficiary” country or its people may have come as a surprise to many within Britain, but such patterns have been apparent in the developing world for some time now.

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By Patrick Bond, Guest Blogger

Earlier this month, Time Magazine pronounced,

“Africa owes its takeoff to a variety of accelerators, nearly all of them external and occurring in the past 10 years:

•    billions of dollars in aid, especially to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria;
•    tens of billions of dollars in foreign-debt cancellations;
•    a concurrent interest in Africa’s natural resources, led by China; and
•    the rapid spread of mobile phones, from a few million in 2000 to more than 750 million today.”

The reality is very different, so let’s try this paragraph again. Actually, Africa owes its economic decline to a variety of accelerators, nearly all of them external and occurring in the past centuries during which slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism locked in the continent’s underdevelopment, but several of which – along with climate change – were amplified in recent years:

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Jayati Ghosh

Foreign aid has been getting a bad press this year – and not without reason. For a long time bilateral aid in particular has been seen as too small and scattered, too politically motivated, too supportive of the interests of donors (especially of the business interests of donor countries) rather than oriented to real  benefits for intended recipients. Now, governments of poor developing countries that were earlier grateful for any crumbs from the rich countries’ table are less welcoming, especially of aid that comes tied to various economic and political strings. The improvement in their terms of trade over the past six years, as well as the emergence of new markets and new sources of aid and investment from other emerging nations and oil-exporting countries, have all played a role in this changed perception.

The relationship of the UK government with foreign aid has become particularly complicated in recent times – but it may well be symptomatic of a wider problem in many developing countries. The Cameron government announced that it was going to “ringfence” foreign aid from the sweeping budget cuts that it has already announced or plans to implement over the next few years. But this has come under attack from both Left and Right for various reasons. Revelations in the British media that a significant part of the funds has been directed to highly paid consultants based in the UK whose output is often of dubious relevance or usefulness to the so-called “beneficiary” country or its people may have come as a surprise to many within Britain, but such patterns have been apparent in the developing world for some time now.

Read the rest of this entry »