Matthew Smith: My mission in development cooperation

By Eliza Villarino 12 October 2011

Matthew Smith, principal advisor at KPMG’s International Development Services division. Photo by: personal collection

Matthew Smith is on a mission to reduce poverty using economics and finance.

He advised Sierra Leone’s finance ministry on exactly that in 2005-‘07 while on a fellowship with the Overseas Development Institute, and engaged in the country’s debt relief negotiations with the World Bank. Smith then served as the Department for International Development’s lead consultant on effectiveness and efficiency for the U.K.-UNDP institutional performance and results framework.

Now, as principal advisor in KPMG’s International Development Services division, Smith acts as project manager for a consulting consortium contracted by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact to scrutinize the U.K. aid budget.

Smith is one of today’s most influential development leaders under 40 in London. He and his peers have inspired change that transcends borders.

Devex is recognizing 40 of these young London-based trailblazers in international development. They are social entrepreneurs, government leaders, development consultants, business innovators, advocates, development researchers, nonprofit executives, philanthropists and investors.

We asked Smith about his leadership and vision for development cooperation in the years to come. Here’s what he said:

What accomplishment are you most proud of during your stint as economist for the government of Sierra Leone?

Under the director of budget, I co-lead the process of redefining what the Sierra Leone government classified as poverty minimising expenditure, and then designed financial management procedures in order to protect this spending, which were signed off directly by the minister of finance. This was a government-lead process and it was also one of the necessary prerequisites for the granting of HIPC debt relief.

Should international donors restrict their development assistance on the most cost-effective interventions?

In the present economic climate, international donors are more than ever aware of the importance of maximising the value for money of their interventions. This requires careful examination of the cost of inputs, but more importantly, it means focusing on outcomes and obtaining the most effective outcomes for each donor programme, which won’t necessarily be those at the lowest cost.

How do you see yourself contributing to global development in the years to come?

By pushing holistic global development as much as possible. My personal ambition has been for many years to use both economics and finance to help reduce poverty – often economists and finance professionals don’t combine forces as they could and should.

I also try and work with both policymakers and aid recipients. I wish to lead donor interventions in which donors actually allow themselves to learn from and be taught by aid beneficiaries, and where a real spirit of mutual collaboration exists. Technical assistance shouldn’t all be one way.

Read more about the Devex 40 Under 40 International Development Leaders in London.

About the author

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Eliza Villarino

Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.


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