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Performing in the aid circus
  1. David M. Love
  1. Kirchgasse 11, CH-4107 Ettingen, Switzerland
  1. e-mail{at}

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David Love thinks that vets should be contributing more effectively in the field of international development.

THE Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) charged with monitoring aid from the US Agency for International Development (USAID) reported in 2011 that more than US $73 billion had been appropriated for reconstruction and development in Afghanistan since 9/11 and up to US $17 billion in each of the last two years (SIGAR 2011).

Inevitably questions about the effectiveness of the aid are raised but the report goes on to indicate that a mere 30 cents in every dollar goes to aid – the remainder is spent on administration, overheads, security, and so on. Frequently, however, less than half of those 30 cents reach the ground; the rest is lost, stolen or misappropriated. Add in the cost of the USAID's bureaucratic superstructure – including $500,000 annually for each US employee in Kabul, and the supporting staffs in Washington – and something less than 10 cents of every dollar actually goes to helping Afghans. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (2011) report concluded that few, if any, of these aid programmes are sustainable in the long term.

The USAID is by far the biggest contributor of aid in developing countries but I suspect that funds donated by the EU, World Bank, Asian Development Bank, and other international NGOs and government agencies suffer a similar fate.

It is, of course, not all bad news, as the funds support a large community of aid workers who might otherwise be unemployed and dependant on social security payments; and much of the funding is …

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