April 17th, 2014
11:26 AM ET

Does foreign aid work?

Fareed speaks with Helene Gayle, president of CARE USA, and Bill Easterly, professor of economics at New York University and author of The Tyranny of Experts: Economists, Dictators, and the Forgotten Rights of the Poor, about whether foreign aid is effective. Watch the video for the full discussion.

So the context here is Bill Gates did his annual letter in which he argued that our foreign aid has been astonishingly effective and that people should stop attacking it.  One of the people who has attacked it and whom Gates mentions by name often when he makes this point is Bill Easterly. So, Bill, what is your response to Gates' basic argument?

Easterly: Well, you know what sends me at the moment is that foreign aid is really on the wrong side of the debate that we see going on right now in the world between freedom and autocracy.  And we see, too often, the aid agencies and the philanthropists, like even Mr. Gates himself, siding with the autocrats in many poor countries against the poor people who are rising up, seeking their own freedom.  But aid is not on their side.

Well, but that's not fair.  What he's arguing is that  the aid given to any country, particularly if it's aid for public health, which is a lot of what Helene does...I should let you.  You make the case...

Gayle: I think the case has been made that aid is very effective and that being able to provide resources in the right way makes a difference.  It saves lives.  It educates children.  It helps to feed people.  And I think we know that, for instance, rates of poverty have decreased dramatically over the last decades.

And so I think the numbers are there that show that, clearly, aid has made a difference. I think the debate is really around how can we make aid more effective.


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Topics: Aid

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. palintwit

    The producers of DWTS told Bristol Palin she could appear on the show again but she has to lose 400 lbs. first. They also told her to leave the battery operated adult toys at home this time.

    April 17, 2014 at 12:17 pm |
  2. Zandie

    I have a 3 speed.

    April 17, 2014 at 12:21 pm |
  3. Darod Farah

    Foreign aid has not helped Africa because it is offered on condition. It sounds a neo colonialist way of doing business.

    April 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm |
    • Stephen

      Wait, why is conditional aid a bad thing? If we gave autocratic governments a bunch of money with no strings attached, none of it would actually help the people in those countries.

      April 17, 2014 at 8:28 pm |
      • Bumsteer

        I think the "conditions" he means are the ones not tied directly to the aid.

        If food is given to those experiencing famine, or shelter to those displaced by flood or wars or used to help build/rebuild after natural disasters, then "yes" please do all we can to help. Make sure the aid given is directed to those in need of it and not siphoned off in the coffers of the corrupt.

        But, if conditions of receiving the aid are tied to future actions such as; vote with the U.S. on issues in the U.N., purchase equipment from U.S. sources only, give us unfettered access to your country, move from your current political/religious/cultural existence to those that are “Western” or ones that we “approve of”, then “no”

        Unfortunately, the U.S. wields foreign aid like a weapon. We offer it to others, get them accustomed and reliant to it, then threaten to take it away if the recipient does not do what we want.

        We use aid to buy relationships and our ability to do so is waning as other countries realize that its too much to give up in the long term and they can partner with others would don’t ask for the same.

        April 18, 2014 at 3:20 pm |
  4. John Smith

    America is the root of all terror. America has invaded sixty countries since world war 2.
    In 1953 America overthrow Iran's democratic government Mohammad Mosaddegh and installed a brutal dictator Shah. America helped Shah of Iran to establish secret police and killed thousands of Iranian people.
    During Iran-Iraq war evil America supported Suddam Hossain and killed millions of Iranian people. In 1989, America, is the only country ever, shot down Iran's civilian air plane, killing 290 people.
    In 2003,America invaded Iraq and killed 1,000,000+ innocent Iraqi people and 4,000,000+ Iraqi people were displaced.
    Now America is a failed state with huge debt. Its debt will be 22 trillion by 2015.

    April 17, 2014 at 1:50 pm |
    • Joey Isotta-Fraschini©

      I do not think that aid can be expected in Africa without any conditions at all, @ Dared Farah.
      If a nation that might be a recipient of foreign aid would refuse aid, and then develop its own economy with ingenuity, hard work, and use of natural resources, that path would lead the people of any African nation to a glorious victory and unquestionable power.

      April 17, 2014 at 5:13 pm |
  5. GOP Prayer - GOPers, Read Together and Out Loud With Me

    The GOP Prayer/Mantra/Solution: Dear God...With your loving kindness, help us to turn all the Old, Sick, Poor, Non-white, Non-christian, Female, and Gay people into slaves. Then, with your guidance and compassion, we will whip them until they are Young, Healthy, Rich, White, Christian, Male, and Straight. Or until they are dead. God...Grant us the knowledge to then turn them into Soylent Green to feed the military during the next "unfunded/off-the-books" war. God...Give us the strength during our speeches to repeatedly yell........TAX CUTS FOR THE RICH!!!..........and........GET RID OF SS AND MEDICARE!!!
    In your name we prey (purposely misspelled, or is it?)........Amen

    April 17, 2014 at 4:01 pm |
    • Dingleberry

      All of you people that post comments like this from both sides "ARE THE PROBLEM". This is not about Black Vs White, R vs D, or Wrong Vs Right. It is going to take everyone working together to fix the problems the U.S has. This constant bickering like little school kids is only helping the very people that want the people in the U.S fighting each other the politicians.

      April 24, 2014 at 8:31 am |
  6. chrissy

    Exactly @ Stephan. Then it would end up just like Bush's no strings attached Bank Bailout wouldnt it? Gosh knows how much THAT helped the American citizens NOT! And how much "we the people" are on the hook for!

    April 17, 2014 at 9:18 pm |
  7. colinsydney

    Reblogged this on Economics and Politics and commented:
    I think there should be a balanced approach. Aid is much needed but there should be a limit to aid as it could become a crutch.

    April 17, 2014 at 10:44 pm |
  8. Unga Ramires

    As a whole It has been noticed that we offer aid, help, ect. Help can and will ussually be appr. N will usually criticized... So just like any good helping hand. Continue to try.

    April 18, 2014 at 2:58 pm |
  9. John McAfee

    Yeah foreign aid works......... a foreign aides (from Mexico) mow my lawn, clean dishes and cook at most restaurants throughout the US, do many construction jobs, do the sanitation and janitorial jobs, pick the fruits and vegetables in our fields........ in fact, I wonder of we could survive without all these foreign aides....... in fact who needs us, with the foreign aides doing all the work??? No wonder we are all unemployed!!!

    April 19, 2014 at 2:46 pm |
    • Mustafa ZulfuqurAli

      Thank you for speaking the truth John McAfee. "Foreign Aides" are the ones doing the hard work in America......... and they are called "Illegal Aliens".......... Mexicans whose lands were stolen by the Anglos in 1847. yes, America needs "Foreign Aides"........

      April 20, 2014 at 9:33 pm |
  10. Rick McDaniel

    Not very well, at all.

    in fact, nothing seems to have a great deal of value.......neither aid, nor hand outs, nor sanctions, nor diplomacy. One country couldn't care less about another country........one religion actually oppresses all others, and no one tells the truth about anything.

    April 19, 2014 at 6:35 pm |
  11. Unga

    May not be to effective,,,, but as a Placebo is a effective tool when nothing else is avlible,,,,, So is a "little" help...

    April 19, 2014 at 7:41 pm |
  12. chrissy

    Hmm more trolling going on i see! How nice.

    April 19, 2014 at 9:00 pm |
  13. Mustafa ZulfuqurAli

    To answer your question, Fareed Zakaria, does foreign work, let me ask you, work for whom? For America? The largest amount of "foreign aid" that America supposedly, so magnanimously gives to the world, has huge strings attached. It is "money to buy their weapons". period. Egypt, Pakistan and at least 20 more countries, get money from America to the military establishments in those countries, so that they can then buy, you guessed it, American weapons! Sick. Sad. So NO, your "foreign aid" does NOT work, it does a lot of damage to many countries. But the "foreign aides" inside your country, now they really work, and work very hard, for peanuts!

    April 21, 2014 at 1:08 am |
  14. chrissy

    Lol @ Mustafa...we worked very hard...just so OUR government could pay for Egypts Military...to overthrow their government! And to keep Al Queada going in Pakistan. And to pay for missiles so Israel could badger other countries!

    April 21, 2014 at 9:38 pm |
  15. D.Bose

    Western aid does not work because these are trivial and do not teach the receiving countries how to produce, how to develop infrastructure. Soviet aid was very effective, ask both China and India.

    April 24, 2014 at 4:13 am |
  16. Maru

    I am an Ethiopia, I am impressed by the ground facts that Dr. William Easterly is talking about. There are two truths in Ethiopia (the real truths that all Ethiopians know) which are serious human right violations, imprisoning journalists and inspiring young Ethiopians just for speaking their mind, serious ethnic problem fueled by the government, corruption and abject poverty. This is the fact that most Western nations and “humanitarian” organization don’t want to talk about or just ignore it. The other fact is a fact focused on playing on numbers, statistics like the CARE representative talks about. Ethiopia is a strategic ally in East Africa for the West and no one bothers about the wrong deeds of the government in the country as long as it is friendly to them and does whatever they want them to do. The aid money is giving strength for this government not for the people.

    May 1, 2014 at 1:09 am |
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