donor darlings _ oped _ __ the kathmandu post __.pdf
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7/28/2019 Donor darlings _ Oped _ __ The Kathmandu Post __.pdf
Date | Thursday, Jan 31, 2013 Login | Register
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JAN 28 - The hypot hesis is that aid agencies, and the money they
distribute, distort incentives. Donor money relatively empowers the
already-rich and already-powe rful at t he expense of t hose it purports t o
work for, that is the poor and the pow erless.
Indirect evidence fo r this hypothesis comes from the profile of t he people
who work directly for aid agencies, or work indirectly for them through
their own NGOs and foundations they have created to attract donormoney. Overwhelmingly, the aid agencies and NGOs are primarily run by
urban, propertied elites in the name of the rural poor and marginalised.
For the sake of contrast, it is easier to divide the two into distinct profiles.
Lets call the urban, propertied person V ikas, a child of the development
enthusiasts absorbed by t he development industry. V ikas lives in
Kathmandu, went t o a private school whose mont hly fee is greater than
the annual per capita income of an average Nepali. He speaks English and
listens to Western music. Perhaps he went abroad for higher education,
so he is aware of the cultural norms in the West. Politically, he has imbued
the values of liberalism and developmentalism. Economically, he believes in
neo-liberalism. Nothing works as effectively as the free market to properly
The second exhibit, lets call her Anju, lives in a village. Her family, low-
caste farmers, couldnt afford private school education. She went t o a
public school in Sunsari, so shes no t very good w ith English. Her accent is
cringe-inducing, both to Vikas and the donor representatives. After
finishing high school, she came t o Kathmandu for higher education andhas a Masters degree in sociology.
One day, V ikas and Anju see an advertisement in the Mountain Times. A
donor-funded NGO is looking for an entry-level job. Minimum qualifications
necessary: Masters degree. Both meet it, start dreaming of dollars, and
apply for t he job.
Its easy to speculate who w ill get t he job. Over t ime, Vikas resigns from
the NGO and starts working for the donor agency itself. He gets married
to a girl who is also richly-educated like him. Together they earn dollars,
saving a fixed percent o f it, until there is enough to buy property. They
send their children t o expensive private schools where t hey study t ogether w ith the children of ot her rich, propertied parents.
When they grow up, the cycle repeats.
What does Anju do? Spurned by t he development industry, she aspires for a government job. She studies day and night for two
years for the Public Service Commission examination. Th is opt ion is something Vikas would never consider, although he says he is
committed to public service. But a government job, paid in lowly Nepali rupees, simply doesnt pay as well as an I/NGO job. It just
doesnt have t he right incentives.
Curiously enough, Vikas job at t he donor agency is focussed on a field called good governance. He has w ritte n a copious amount
on how terrible Nepals government really is when it comes to managing money. There are no grounds to trust it. In order tomaintain donor confidence in the use of national system to disburse, the government of Nepal needs to provide greater confidence
that they are tackling major obstacles, he w rites for a report, T he [country x], along with o ther development partners in Nepal,
would welcome further progress on public financial management and anti-corruption reforms.
Anju reads this on t he UK aid agency Dfids report the Nepal Port folio Performance Review 2013. It seems t o he r that Dfid is
extremely concerned about t he state o f governance in Nepal. She knows that Dfid, as one of the countrys largest donors,
commits a lot of money for Nepals developmentroughly amounting to about 100 million pounds sterling a year. As she looks into
the composition of Dfids portfolio, it surprises her t hat despite all the talk of good governance, for 2011/12, Dfid has provided a
grand total of zero pounds out of t he 68 million pounds committed unde r the heading Governance and Security. The largest
chunk, 33 million pounds had been committed t o a Dfid appointed service providerGRM International. The rest had been
committed t o the World Bank, UNICEF, the UN and consultants.
Wanting to learn more about how Dfid spends its money, she goes home and googles the aid agency. A headline from the
Telegraph screams Revealed: taxpayer-funded aid consultants on six figures a year. The journalist says that the Department for
International Development is directly handing individual aid consultants up t o 223,000 a year each. She also sees that the
agencys head in Nepal has spent 32,000 pounds renovating a Nepali palace that once belonged to a Rana Maharaja and has now
been t urned into a residence for t he agencys chief development worker.
That doesnt seem very accountable, Anju thinks, and pondersdoes Dfid even have t he moral authority to lecture Nepals
government on corruption and accountability? Could it be that corruption and nepotism are more of a problem for donor agenciesand their pet NGOs than the government? Afte r all, even if weak, there is a mechanism, the CIAA, to look into t he governments
corruption. But who investigates co rruption related to NGOs and their donors?
Things start to become a little clearer in Anjus head. She begins to figure out why it is that the Vikases and those w orking for
donor agencies can afford the best houses for rent in Kathmandu, send their children to the best private schools and why it is that
a few restaurants she goes t o, frequented by t he darlings of the aid industry, serve Nepali clients only after t he white clients. It
seems to her that there are two Nepals. One belongs to those Nepalis who eke out a living in a country with a poor government
doing litt le to help. Anot her belongs t o t he donor darlingsdollar-earning, English-speaking, and keen to paint a distorted picture of
The Kathmandu Post in Print
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Dont know which party they belong
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Holiday houses from private in Tenerife, eg. Puerto de la Cruz
7/28/2019 Donor darlings _ Oped _ __ The Kathmandu Post __.pdf
society and t he governmentall in the name of helping the poor and t he marginalised.
The train of t hought in Anjus head takes another turn. In t he evening, she asks herself: does Nepal even need Dfid? Or is it Dfid
that needs Nepal?
Posted on: 2013-01-29 09:20
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