Finance institutions take money from foreign aid budgets to invest in private enterprises. How much should they be given? We can make some progress on that question by looking at the return on investment in the form of higher real incomes for workers and customers, and comparing that to a cash transfer benchmark. There is considerable uncertainty, but what evidence we have suggests returns on investment are in a range that compares well to that benchmark. There is also a diversification argument that because we don’t know which of the things that aid can finance will ultimately prove most important for poverty eradication, aid allocation should hedge its bets. A low single digit percentage of aid allocated to increase the quantity and quality of private investment in low- and middle-income countries seems reasonable.
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