Dr. Rajiv Shah just wants to help poor people around the world. But Dr. Shah, head of the $20 billion United States Agency for International Development, is getting enmeshed, like Laocoon of Greek mythology, in some heavy going.
Under questioning in Congress today, Dr. Shah is defending his intention to shake up USAID. He’s doing that by, as the New York Times has put it, “Welcome[ing] Business and Technology to Poverty Fight” (see http://nyti.ms/1klamHK).
Of course, as always, the devil is in the details. “The agency”, the Times reports, “is increasingly using loan guarantees to get local banks to finance big projects, giving money directly to foreign development groups…”. Dr. Shah believes this policy will more effectively fight poverty and encourage democracy abroad.
There are critics of this emphasis on partnerships with local institutions. A trade group of government contractors here, the Professional Service Council, says, “We have expertise working in many countries and we feel that is being ignored to a degree in the talks about reform.” And the substance of the debate is being sidetracked by emphasis on USAID’s recently-shut down “Cuban Twitter” account.
The crucial subject of local partnering for development will be highlighted at this week’s United Nations General Assembly and ESCOSOC forum, “The role of partnerships in the implementation of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.”