A tortoise cannot encircle a giant baobab with his short
arms. Are Donor Conditionalities, ironies in
development manageme...
Summary: This paper explores the ironies of development management in relation
to donor interaction with less developed co...
HIPC processes in order to access more funds despite the fact that many of these
governments are corrupt oligarchies or mi...
How then can donors ask for conditionalities when they must discharge the funds
within a specific period of time and accou...
world. It must be stated though that knowledge about how donor countries spend
tax payer’s money are ironically not widesp...
• Conditionalities should be used when appropriate and exclusive of donor political
agenda. They must not be overzealous t...
or relative poverty can with time be transformed into embedded poverty. This is
very serious as vertical inequalities over...
Cusworth and Franks, T. (1993) (Eds) Managing Projects in Developing Countries, Longman, New
York (see Chapters 5 and 10)
...
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A Tortoise Cannot Encircle A Baobab With His Short Arms. Are Donor Conditionalities Ironies In Development Management Copyrights2008 African Centre For Community And Development

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Author: Arrey Mbongaya Ivo
The article focuses on donor conditionalities and the impacts on development interventions.
©2010 African Centre for Community and Development. All Rights Reserved.

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A Tortoise Cannot Encircle A Baobab With His Short Arms. Are Donor Conditionalities Ironies In Development Management Copyrights2008 African Centre For Community And Development

  1. 1. A tortoise cannot encircle a giant baobab with his short arms. Are Donor Conditionalities, ironies in development management? Author: Arrey Mbongaya Ivo August 2008-08-10 ©2008 African Centre for Community and Development. All rights reserved. P.O.Box 181, Limbe, Cameroon. 46 Ascot Parade, BD7 4NJ, Bradford, UK. http://www.africancentreforcommunity.com ivo@africancentreforcommunity.com
  2. 2. Summary: This paper explores the ironies of development management in relation to donor interaction with less developed countries. It outlines their illusions about capacities which arguably they know they don’t exist in these countries. It proposes better understanding of contexts and capacity building as instruments to sustainable development in poor countries. Any connoisseur of the anatomy of a tortoise or simply any one looking at the picture of this animal especially many African dwarf species will consider it wishful thinking if it were recommended to encircle the trunk of a huge baobab tree. Its arms are simply too short to go round. As illusory is this metaphor so too is the fact that poor countries of the South might be overstretched to meet some overzealous donor conditionalities. Their short hands are lack of capacities which are enhanced by the following factors: • Firstly, less developed countries are entrenched in poverty (Bhagavan, 1999) and thus usually strive to reduce embedded poverty rather than concentrate on democratic reforms or other institutional reforms. Take privatisation for instance, that led to poor governments investing huge sums in preparing sectors and institutions for privatisation at the detriment of basic utilities like water and electricity (Bayliss and Fine, 2007; Arrey, 2008). • More so, donor conditionalities are even more ironic as donors are aware of the lack of capacities in poor countries. They lack capacities in the areas of trained officials and institutions or effective line ministries to handle Foreign Direct Investments. Appointments to line ministries in these countries are political while capacity building of local officials is sometimes marred by favouritism or political affiliation (Arrey, 2008). • Besides the true political state of certain governments of the South is known by donors. They are aware of the fact that these governments concentrate on investments in cities to contain possible socio-political strife than in remote fragile rural areas (Hall and Midgley, 2004). How then for instance can they depend on data from these governments on such remote areas as entry points to the design of holistic and sustainable interventions? • Donor conditionalities lead to donor appeasement or deception. Poor countries thus generally prepare positive progress reports as in the case with PRSP and
  3. 3. HIPC processes in order to access more funds despite the fact that many of these governments are corrupt oligarchies or military regimes (Arrey, 2008). This is also seen when poorly organised or unfair elections in some of these corrupt countries are considered by donors as democratic hence giving access to funds to countries that lack good governance. • Embedded poverty also translates itself as embedded diseases in poor countries. Access to health care is usually limited to the rich and powerful while poor segments are cut-off from important facilities like education, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS management schemes as well as affordable malaria treatment. How then can donors ask these tortoises of data about HIV/AIDS or malaria when sufferers do not go to the hospital or when data can be home made? How then can they be expected to create links between sectors and sub sectors under SWAPS for instance when sectors are separated by technologies, geography and infrastructure and political fighting among politicians, line ministries and provincial departments? (Thomas, 1985). • More so development aid is also mediated by donor interests and when it has been imperative donors have delivered it to countries which have not met their conditionalities. How then can touching of the baobab trunk be considered encircling in certain circumstances when it is not? Therefore poor countries may have the will to reform or may even reform but access to donor aid and management remains the premise of donors (Cusworth and Franks, 1993). • More so conditionalities for better road networks to enhance enabling environments for development aid are ironic when one considers the trade limitations faced by some countries in selling their products abroad or in reaching international certification standards. Limited trade leads to limited profitability and affordability hence the impossibility to invest in new sectors or to repair old sectors. This does not in any way though mitigate the corruption of many poor governments of the South and also the irony that many of their officials still bank diverted development aid in the banks of donor countries. • Also donor interventions are mostly time-bound and usually done to meet up with the lifespan of the politicians who initiate them (Cusworth and Franks, 1993).
  4. 4. How then can donors ask for conditionalities when they must discharge the funds within a specific period of time and account to their local tax payers of money which may not have impacted on the lives of many poor people on donor exit? How can they tie the hands and arms of tortoises by design of interventions and expect them to encircle the baobab? • Mix messages as to success and failure of interventions by donors and other stakeholders have also led to mix messages about conditionalities hence making a difficult tool to use even when it is imperative to use them. How then will the tortoise not just touch the baobab and be contented when donor or beneficiary success or empowerments respectively are relative? (Pinto and Slevin, 1987) However conditionalities are far from over in development management and still constitute major features of popular contemporary instruments like General Budget Support, projects or SWAPS (Ruffer and Lawson, 2002). Despite their limitations, it would be wrong to suggest that the tool is not helpful in certain areas. The reasons for this assertion include the following points: • The possibility that development management is mediated by environments and contexts (Bryant and white, 1982). There are indeed many poor but corrupt countries with leaders who will use donor funds for their personal or political ends (Arrey, 2008) hence the need for the establishment of transparent institutions or good governance as conditionalities for donor aid. Also there are countries with already established track records for not delivering hence the need for stronger conditionalities that is if they are not conditioned by overzealous donor interests too. • Conditionalities might help reduce cronyism in line ministries and better local capacities when it insists on capacity building before delivery of funds. Capacity building will reduce dependency on foreign technical assistants (Honadle, 1982) and ensure management and continuity of investments on donor exit. • Conditionalities also build a notion that development aid is not free money hence it should be managed diligently. • It may help to justify to donor tax payers that their money will be spent for the right purposes and impact on the most needy of the developing or less developed
  5. 5. world. It must be stated though that knowledge about how donor countries spend tax payer’s money are ironically not widespread among donor tax payers hence the reason why some of these countries may have worked with corrupt regimes in some cases without domestic questioning. Despite the forthright arguments for conditionalities, it may mean little when one considers contemporary widespread failures of classical projects (Gow and Morss, 1988) which have included conditionalities as a feature. To impact more on the poor of the less developed world interventions must thus be modelled to be more inclusive and with the following dimensions: • Be learning instruments (Rondinelli, 1993) for donor organisations, countries and for beneficiaries and other stakeholders as in the diagram below. Conditionalities will thus not be imposed without a thorough knowledge of local environments or without authenticating local governments’ data. Learning as stipulated in the diagram below, will lead to competition, efficiency and proficiency in discharge and management of products on donor exit. It will lead to the possibility of replicating tested successful practices in other countries and the achievement of donor and beneficiary goals.
  6. 6. • Conditionalities should be used when appropriate and exclusive of donor political agenda. They must not be overzealous that is have benchmarks that are unattainable by countries in embedded poverty like Sub-Saharan African countries for instance. The inference from this is that when the set bench marks are unattainable it may lead to inefficiency or mismanagement or diversion of funds or deception by local governments who want to access funds desperately due to their precarious domestic socioeconomic and political situations. Better feasibility studies or pre-feasibility studies will reveal the precarious station of countries hence the need for interventions to be more flexible and to take time in identifying need and best areas for design and implementation. Besides if feasibility studies are void of donor political meddling or local governments politics (Thomas, 1985) interventions will be more precise and target the most vulnerable while businesses will be more reactive and proactive towards socio- economic wellbeing and sustainable development as they will be based on informed data and designed to meet specific goals not generalities of political propaganda. • Donor conditionalities should be accompanied with funds to build up the capacities (Grindle, 1980; Honadle, 1982) lacking in less developed countries. This calls therefore for holism in the design and implementation of development aid. For instance, the hypothesis that aid to curb the spread of HIV/AIDS will mean little with no trained health workers or hospitals or sensitisation campaigns on prevention is invaluable here just like Direct Budget Support intended to boost health in these countries will impact little without data on urban migration or the spreading pattern of the disease or with infighting between line ministries and regional departments on access to funds. Donor conditionalities are thus conditioned by local capacities of poor countries and by the available funds for investments. When capacities are low funding for development interventions must include funding for capacity building. When capacities are high in recipient countries it may be illogical to think funding for capacity building will be higher. • Donors must also consider the state of poverty and time before demanding certain conditionalities. When poor countries cannot meet with conditionalities, chronic
  7. 7. or relative poverty can with time be transformed into embedded poverty. This is very serious as vertical inequalities over time translate as horizontal inequalities among sub-populations and may need much more funds to reduce or eradicate. Conditionalities hence may have contributed to the failure of classical projects (Gow and Morss, 1988) especially in Sub-Saharan Africa (Cusworth and Franks, 1993) hence the embedding of poverty there. The above points are not to intimate that learning processes are a deterrent to conditionalities. They enforce conditionalities designed from informed data and knowledge about environments because they may lead to precision and efficiency in achieving goals. This paper has thus demonstrated that conditionalities must be appropriate in appropriate circumstances to better development aid or management. When they are far reaching they mar tangible efforts towards the access of development funds or towards the use of these funds for targeted goals. They must be based on holistic understanding of contexts and environments and must be safe of political agendas of stakeholders to be effective. The kite cannot fly with its wings clipped like the tortoise cannot encircle the huge baobab with his short arms. Poor countries might be too poor to respect conditionalities. References: Arrey, I.M., (2008) “Can Patrons, Sub-Patrons and Mini-Patrons be the reason for Slow Market Entries in Sub-Saharan Africa?” Published online in http://www.community.eldis.org/falcazo Arrey, I.M., (2008) “Privatisation: a burden or strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa? Focusing on access to water in Wovia Village, Cameroon” Global Partnership Tower Vol.7, Issue1 published online in http://www.africancentreforcommunity.com Bhagavan MR (ed.). 1999. Reforming the Power Sector in Africa. Zed Books: London. Bayliss, K and Fine, B (2007) Privatization and Alternative Public Sector Reforms in Sub-Saharan Africa: Delivery on Electricity and Water. London: Palgrave Macmillan. Bryant C. and White L. G., 1982, Managing Development in the Third World, Westview
  8. 8. Cusworth and Franks, T. (1993) (Eds) Managing Projects in Developing Countries, Longman, New York (see Chapters 5 and 10) Gow D, Morss E. 1988. The notorious nine: critical problems in project implementation. World Development 16 (2): 1339-1418. Grindle, M. (1980) Politics and Policy Implementation in the Third World. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. Hall A, Midgley J. (2004). Social Policy for Development. Sage Publications: London. Honadle, G.H., “Development administration in the eighties: New agendas or old perspectives?” Public Administration Review, Vol.48, No.2 (1982), pp.174-179 Rondinelli DA. 1993. Development Projects as Project Experiments: An Adaptive Approach to Development Administration. Routledge: London Ruffer, T and Lawson, T. (2002) General Budget Support: Rationale, Characteristics and Experience. PAPER FOR THE RURAL LIVELIHOODS ADVISORS’ CONFERENCE 2002. Thomas, T., “Reorienting bureaucratic performance: A social learning approach to development action” in J.-C.Garcia-Zamor (Ed.), Public Participation in Development Planning and Management: Cases from Africa and Asia (Boulder, CO: Westview Press), pp.11-22.

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