Aid Worries Cast A Shadow Over Millennium Goals

Dubai, Sept 21: | Updated: Sep 22 2003, 05:30am hrs
Cancuns reverberations are being felt in virtually all important areas covered in Fund-Bank meetings, including the level of funding necessary for achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The World Bank on Sunday launched its latest World Development Report, whose theme is making services work for the poor, amidst concerns voiced by its top officials whether rich countries would step up the promised levels of aid from the present dismal levels of 0.2 per cent of GNP to a least 0.6 per cent of GNP.

No less than the World Banks president James Wolfensohn expressed nervousness that the failure of Cancun and failure of rich countries to deliver on aid had raised fresh uncertainties over the deal to step up development assistance by $16 billion over the next three years at Monterrey last year to realise the MDGs. MDGs include targets for the eradication of poverty and hunger; universal primary education; reduction of child mortality; improvements in maternal health, combating AIDS by 2015.

The latest WDR warns that broad improvements will not occur in human welfare unless poor people receive access to affordable, better quality services in health, education, water, sanitation and electricity. That without such improvements in services, freedom from illness and freedom from illiteracy will remain elusive objectives.

The reports central message indeed is to involve poor people in service delivery as key services often fail the poor and thereby imperil achieving the MDGs.

But such goals are also imperilled by the rich countries parsimony over aid levels. World Banks chief economist Nicholas Stern stated, at a press conference to launch the WDR, that while developing countries have created conditions where aid has never been more productive, the level of aid has never been lower. The latest WDR seeks to showcases where such resources can be used well, which indeed builds up a powerful argument about why additional resources are needed, as has been committed in Monterrey.

The report, whose director is Shanta Devarajan, chief economist of the World Banks Human Development Network, documents three ways in which services can be improved. First, the increasing the participation of the poor. Secondly, by raising poor citizens voices. According to the report, service delivery surveys in Bangalore which showed poor people the quality of water, health, education and transport increased the demand for better public services. Thirdly, by penalising ineffective delivery. An important argument of the WDR is that there is no single template or formula to make services work better. So, there is no public versus private sector comparisons. There is no silver bullet, just the hard slog of reforming institutions and power relations. But the needs of the worlds poor are urgent. And services too often failed them. We must act now, states Devarajan. But the regrettable levels of aid by the rich countries indeed cast a long and troubled shadow over achieving objectives like the MDGs.