Blattman: Aid is Not Depressing

A young Palestinian carries a bag of food aid at a distribution center in al-Shati refugee camp in northern Gaza. Giving aid to people will inevitably have side effects, according to Chris Blattman. Photo by: Suhair Karam / IRIN

Aid is not a depressing topic. It only becomes depressing if one starts off with wrong expectations about it.

Chris Blattman argues this point in a recent blog entry. He lists five things that, according to him, makes aid uplifting or at least less depressing as a topic:

- Aid, as a process, takes time.- Aid can only help speed up the diffusion or accumulation of capital, innovation and technologies.- Giving aid to people and infusing money to economies will inevitably have side effects, some of which will be bad.- Failure happens.- Most failures are small. Victories are huge.

“Aid is hard and messy,” Blattman argues. “But so are a lot of jobs. Example: You can start working in a rich-country finance ministry your whole life, suffer the slings and arrows of excessive partisanship and, if you’re lucky, you’ll tweak the growth rate of your country a notch. And at the end of the day you can go home and tell your kids: ‘I helped the citizens of this country afford to buy a second flat screen television.’ Now that is depressing.”

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.