A recent Newsweek article has castigated the recent drop in aid expenditure. Melodramatically describing it as “the death of generosity” their thesis is based on the dual observation that,
(1) there has been a reduction in foreign aid spending from Western governments since the 2008 financial crisis
(2) G8-participating countries are not on track to meeting their commitments with regards to aid expenditure
The issue with this is that generosity is being measured by a country’s ability to spend as much money as possible along with its ability to meet arbitrary international spending targets. As has been shown, a "donor-centric" view of foreign aid disbursement is economically illiterate and does not take into account the needs of its recipients.
Whilst giving money to those less fortunate, such as the victims of natural disasters, is certainly generous, it is very much in doubt as to whether long-term budget support for developing countries actually aids development. The assumption that more money must be good and therefore generous is deeply flawed.
Another striking feature of the article is the unqualified lauding of the campaigns of Geldof and his entourage of (as William Easterly sarcastically notes) “other expert-development-economists,” as bastions of generosity. This is misguiding. Putting aside the self-promotional nature of much of their work, the way they have engaged with some of their critics has been very ungenerous to say the least. Economist Dambisa Moyo claims she was the victim of a smear campaign from Geldof and Bono’s organisation, One:
“...they were calling organisations ahead of my meetings and media appointments and sent letters to African NGOs...basically painting me as a genocidal maniac, trying to kill African babies so, in other words, trying to get Africans [to be] against me.”
We owe it to the world’s poorest to have open and constructive debate on international development. Attempting to paper over the cracks of previous aid failures by blindly increasing spending, or by smearing dissenting voices, is counterproductive and risks harming further those Geldof et al. proclaim to be helping.