“Experimentation on foreign aid is valuable – and rare.” This is the single most important line in Tina Rosenberg’s excellent description of Cash on Delivery Aid in her recent NYTimes opinion piece.
Tina fleshes out an important point we have made but not emphasized enough: COD Aid will make sense to Americans.
It will appeal to Americans’ instinct to be generous with aid as long as aid is targeted toward improving people’s lives – more girls in school, fewer babies dying. Those are short-term goals that everyone, even skeptics of foreign aid, can understand– and a good value at just $20 per child! It is also true that by giving recipient governments some space to address their own bureaucratic and political problems, COD Aid creates some risks. But the potential return in terms of more accountable and responsible government is also something that Americans want –in Malawi (Tina’s example), Pakistan, El Salvador, Ghana, and in all countries around the world where better government is the strongest medicine against extremism abroad (and other bad borderless ills) and the best investment in greater security and prosperity here at home.
There are some good comments on Tina’s column – both about aid in general and COD Aid in particular. None about COD Aid are new to us. We hope newcomers will explore our FAQ and read the preface to the second edition of the book by Bill Savedoff and me here.
To those with questions and complaints about foreign aid in general, we say: encourage the official donors to try COD Aid anyway. Because at least then they won’t be putting your tax dollars at risk—with COD Aid if a government doesn’t produce independently verified results, your money is not spent!
This post also appeared on the Huffington Post.