I often wonder how and why the billions of international aid and loan money that flow into our country do not seem to make a visible change on the lives of the poor they are supposed to support. I read on a project management material prepared by the European Commission that only two-third of projects supported by the EU are found to be successful with all goals and objectives realized on time and with the required quality standards. So imagine the success rates of the hundreds (or maybe thousands) of projects that have been implemented to date by the numerous local and international donor organizations operating in this country. Add to that the money that flows to the country in the forms of loans from international development organizations such the World Bank. One of the main concerns of the Ethiopian government is the external debt burden the country is shouldering, ranking it among the high-risk countries.
Sometimes, I have the feeling that the livelihood impacts that the projects supported by the international donor or lending organizations are claiming to achieve are targeted at those of us who work in those organizations rather than at the poor households that are the very reason of existence of those projects. I believe a pre and post project implementation research should be undertaken to evaluate and compare the marginal improvement in the incomes/livelihoods of employees in international donor/lending organizations and that of the poor households/farmers these organizations are supposed to support. I bet the result of such a research study would be quite an interesting and funny one to read!
My point is, money that flows to a recipient who lacks the ability to use it efficiently and effectively is a curse in disguise. Not just money but all natural resources that a nation is endowed with is a curse in disguise if the brain power to put it into productive use is missing. Aid and external loan, which by the way needs to be repaid in much needed and scare foreign currency, is for me a trap to a poor nation such as ours. It creates in my view a vicious cycle of weak capacity, poverty and extreme dependency, a cycle which can only be broken with a very strong determination and sacrifice.
Loads and loads of aid and external debt money to a country that lacks the capacity to effectively use it and generate resources domestically is like spoiling an irresponsible son with goodies that he fails to appreciate and use properly. What a father needs to do is to teach the son the value of hard earned money and the unsustainability of charity and teach him the skills needed to achieve hard-earned success that he can actually be proud of.
An abundance of natural resources, scientists, external aid and debt money without skills on resource management and good governances like a an up-to-date computer with all the bells and whistles that is nevertheless lacking all the applications needed to keep it running.
A nation with individuals endowed with soft skills and a determined government to pull us out of the trap of dependency on external support is what we need if we are to finally stand on our two feet and become the self-sufficient nation we wish to become. Aid money is easy money that is for me a pain killer providing short-term relief to our current suffering but with no solution to the disease that is keeping us handicapped and helpless in the face of our own problems. Of course there will be a lot of pain of suffering in the process of cutting back on aid and external debt money and in the attempt of replacing these with locally generated income. But it is an endeavor worth considering if we want to put an end to our poverty trap.