January 31, 2011

Confucius emphasized the importance of precise clarity about the terms we use in his dialogue about the “Rectification of Names:”

Disciple:        If a king were to entrust you with a territory which you could govern according to your ideas, what would you do first? 

Confucius:     My first task would certainly be to rectify the names.

Disciple:        Rectify the names? And that would be your first priority? Is this a joke?

Confucius:     If the names are not correct, if they do not match realities, language has no object. If language is without an object, action becomes impossible – and therefore, all human affairs disintegrate and their management becomes pointless and impossible. Hence, the very first task of a true statesman is to rectify the names.1


Many international development professionals have struggled with the fact that all of the terms commonly used to label the state-beneficiaries of international development assistance since World War II strongly reflect narrow Western economic and cultural perspectives that are ethnocentrically paternalistic at best and arrogant at worst. In this Blog post, I issue a challenge to readers of this Blog to suggest a new label that is not culturally biased like the following terms commonly in use: developing, underdeveloped, undeveloped, industrializing, lesser-developed, lower-income, lower middle-income, south, third-world, fourth-world, among others.2 Post your suggestions by clicking on “comments” at the end of this posting and writing it in the space provided.


To kick-off this challenge, I provide my own suggestion here: “RODAs” (for “recipients of official development assistance”).

That is admittedly not a very elegant label, but it does avoid normative bias – a country either does factually receive “Official Development Assistance” (ODA) or it does not. But I have wracked my own brain for a more elegant label for about ten years now and this is the best I have been able to create on my own.3 Thus, the challenge here – come up with a more elegant term that also meets the criteria suggested below.


I think that any new label should encompass any countries on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) changing “DAC List of ODA Recipients4 that actually do receive “official development assistance.”5  

The current DAC recipient list consists of 152 political entities, including 142 sovereign-state members of the United Nations (accounting for 74% of UN members), eight “Territories,”6 the disputed territory of “Kosovo;”7 and the “Palestinian Administered Areas” together divided into forty-nine officially designated “Least Developed Countries” with per capita Gross National Incomes (GNI) of less than $935 in 2007; twelveOther Low Income Countries” with per capita GNI from $936 to $3,705; forty-eightLower Middle Income Countries” with per capita GNI from $3,706 to $11,455; and forty-threeUpper Middle Income Countries” with per capita GNI of $11,456 and above.

Nonetheless, the two related issues of what entities are eligible for inclusion on the OECD/DAC List of ODA Recipients and what specific transfers to those entities can be classified as ODA are more complex than might first appear. Thus, those criteria have been changed several times since 1961. Quoting from OECD’s own explanation of the definition and coverage of the term “ODA:”

The DAC has measured resource flows to developing countries since 1961.  Special attention has been given to the official and concessional part of this flow, defined as “official development assistance” (ODA). The DAC first defined ODA in 1969, and tightened the definition in 1972. ODA is the key measure used in practically all aid targets and assessments of aid performance.8

The OECD/DAC currently defines ODA as follows —

those flows to countries and territories on the DAC List of ODA Recipients and to multilateral development institutions which are:

        i.    provided by official agencies, including state and local governments, or by their executive agencies; and

        ii.    each transaction of which:

               a)    is administered with the promotion of the economic development and welfare of developing countries as its main objective; and

               b)    is concessional in character and conveys a grant element of at least 25 per cent (calculated at a rate of discount of 10 per cent).”9

The OECD/DAC further delineates criteria for classifying “aid” as ODA by explicitly excluding the costs of most military aid; peacekeeping operations; counter-insurgency work or intelligence gathering on terrorism by civil police; “one-offsocial and cultural programs; Military applications of nuclear energy and nuclear non-proliferation activities.10


To conclude, I once again challenge readers of this Blog to suggest a new objective label for countries that receive ODA even if that is not the totality of external financial transfers provided to them and that are inappropriately classified under such labels as, for example, developing, underdeveloped, or industrializing, lesser-developed. Just click on “comments” below, write it in, and submit. You can also simply endorse one or another of the previous suggestions by submitting an “I agree with _______________” comment. If any consensus seems to be reached, I will try to help you influence others to begin using it.



   [1]      See The Analects of Confucius, translated by Simon Leys; as quoted in Chris Patten, East and West (London: Macmillan, 1998), p. 163. Compare to the translation by David Hinton, The Analects (Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 1998), p. 139 – 140.

   [2]      The only objectively descriptive term is Highly-Indebted Poor Country (HIPC), but that term applies only to those forty sovereign-states deemed eligible to date by the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) for official debt relief and somewhere in the process for actually receiving that relief. As of September 2010, thirty countries had reached the HIPC Completion Point:” Afghanistan; Benin; Bolivia; Burkina Faso; Burundi; Cameroon; Central African Republic; Democratic Republic of the Congo; Republic of the Congo; Ethiopia; The Gambia; Ghana; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Liberia; Madagascar; Malawi; Mali; Mauritania; Mozambique; Nicaragua; Niger; Rwanda; São Tomé and Príncipe; Senegal; Sierra Leone; Tanzania; Uganda; and Zambia. Six other countries have reached the HIPCDecision Point:” Chad; Comoros; Côte dʼIvoire; Guinea; Guinea-Bissau; and Togo. Another four countries are at the HIPC “Pre-Decision Point:” Eritrea; Kyrgyzstan; Somalia; and Sudan. See The World Bank and International Monetary Fund, HIPC At-A-Glance Guide (Fall 2010) slides presented at the joint Annual Meetings during September 2010 available through

   [3]      See Jerry Mark Silverman, Governance & Poverty: An Alternative Paradigm, paper presented at the Center for International Development, Harvard University (May 4, 2000) and subsequently revised and presented at the Second Asia Development Forum, Singapore (June 6-8, 2000), the USAID Open University, La Paz, Bolivia (November 30, 2000), and the Catholic University of Bolivia, La Paz, Bolivia (December 1, 2000) available in its most recent version at (PowerPoint slides presented at the Second Asia Development Forum also available from the World Bank at and The Missing Link: Creating Mutual Dependencies Between the Poor and the State, International Public Management Journal 7 (2004), p. 227-247 available at

   [4]      See DAC List of ODA Recipients used for 2008, 2009 and 2010 available at as revised in DAC List of ODA Recipients: Effective for Reporting on 2009 and 2010 flows at

   [5]      According to the OECD/DAC, the next review of the DAC List will take place in 2011. As explained by the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC): “The DAC List is reviewed every three years. Countries are divided into income groups based on Gross National Income (GNI) per capita as reported by the World Bank, with the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), as defined by the United Nations, separately identified. Countries that have exceeded the high-income threshold for three consecutive years at the time of the review are removed from the List.”  According to the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “Official flows comprise transactions undertaken by the official sector (i.e. Government) at their own risk and responsibility, regardless of the source of funds (taxation of or borrowing from the private sector);” see Organization for Economic and (OECD), Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD-DAC), Is it ODA? Factsheet November 2008 available at It is also worth noting here that in December 2005 the DAC the OECD/DAC combined previous Part I and Part II lists that distinguished between “Official Development Assistance” (ODA) and “Official Aid” (OA) in effect since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Those two lists were differentiated only by the characteristics of the recipients of official financial assistance rather than the type of assistance. Thus, under that classification scheme, OA included those on the OECD/DAC’s Part II list eligible to receive financial assistance plus technical co-operation by virtue of being “Territories in Transition” from their previous status as former Soviet Republics within the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). ODA on the other hand consisted of exactly the same type of aid to all remaining countries other than former Soviet territories listed in the Part I list. Nonetheless, countries on both lists were treated exactly the same in practice since OA was provided under essentially the same terms and conditions as those for ODA. Thus, in December 2005, both Part I and Part II lists were combined and the distinction between Part I and Part II or ODA and OA is no longer in effect. See also Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD-DAC), DAC’s Glossary,3414,en_2649_33721_1965693_1_1_1_1,00.html#1965580 and United Kingdom, Department for International Development, SID 2008 Annex 2 – Glossary, Statistics on International Development 2008 available at

   [6]      Anguilla, Montserrat, and St. Helena (British Overseas Territories); Mayotte and Wallis and Futuna (Overseas Departments of France); Niue and Tokelau (New Zealand Territories); and Cook Islands (an internally self-governing territory with responsibility for external affairs and defense retained by New Zealand). For current governing status, see also United States, Central Intelligence Agency, CIA World Factbook as updated bi-weekly at

   [7]      The Kosovo Assembly declared Kosovo independence as a sovereign-state on February 17, 2008. Although more than sixty other countries have recognized that sovereignty and has since become a member of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. However, it has not gained membership in the United Nations due to various disputes about its status between Russia and Serbia primarily on one side and the United States and most European Union countries on the other side.

   [8]      Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD-DAC), Official Development Assistance – Definition and Coverage available at,3746,en_2649_34447_46181892_1_1_1_1,00.html.

   [9]      Ibid and Is it ODA? Factsheet November 2008.

 [10]      The items listed here are included among other explicit inclusions in either Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD-DAC), Official Development Assistance – Definition and Coverage or Is it ODA? Factsheet November 2008. See also Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD-DAC), ODA Casebook On Conflict, Peace And Security Activities (declassified) for further detailed discussion of OECD/DAC’s classification of official financial transfers with respect to conflict, peace and security activities available at available at   

Keywords: Afghanistan, Anguilla, Benin, Bolivia, British Overseas Territories, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comoros, Confucius, Cook Islands, Côte dʼIvoire, DAC, debt-relief, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Republic of the Congo, developing, development, Development Assistance Committee, Eritrea, Ethiopia, fourth-world, France, The Gambia, Ghana, GNI, gross national income, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, HIPC, Honduras, IMF industrializing, Kyrgyzstan, lesser-developed, Liberia, Low Income Countries, Lower Middle Income Countries, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mayotte, Montserrat, Mozambique, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Niue, north-south, OA, ODA, OECD, Official Assistance, Official Development Assistance, Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Overseas Departments, Recipients of Development Assistance, RODAs, Rwanda, São Tomé and Príncipe, St. Helena, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Tanzania, Territories in Transition, third-world, Togo, Tokelau, Uganda, underdeveloped, undeveloped, Upper Middle Income Countries, Wallis and Futuna, World Bank, and Zambia.



January 23, 2011

When the people contend for their liberty they seldom get anything by their victory but new masters.                                     George Savile, Lord Halifax (1633-1695)

Many politicians of our time are in the habit of laying it down as a self-evident proposition that no people ought to be free till they are fit to use their freedom.  The maxim is worthy of the fool in the old story who resolved not to go into the water until he had learnt to swim.  If men are to wait for liberty till they become wise and good in slavery, they may indeed wait forever.    

                                                   Thomas Babington Macauley (1800-59)


In 1945, people throughout the world remained divided among fifty-three sovereign-states and 148 “Non-Self-Governing Territories.”1 Twenty-one states (11%), including slightly more than half of the twenty-two largest bi-lateral donors, governed colonies at one time or another. Sixty years later, only thirty-three dependent territories still exist while Montenegro became the 192nd sovereign-state member of the United Nations following its withdrawal from its union with Serbia during 2006. Montenegro’s UN membership marked an increase of 262 percent from the number of independent states existing at the World War II. During the single decade of the 1960s forty-four countries gained their independence; more than during the previous seventy years combined.

That process of decolonization was infused with the hope that previously disadvantaged people would finally have direct influence on “their” governments; as well as indirect influence in international organizations whose membership consists only of sovereign-states. Unfortunately, many of the states created during the period since the 1960s are defined geopolitically by arbitrary borders that group several, often hostile, nations within the same country or, alternatively, split nations among different countries. By contrast with theoretical economists, many “modernizing” elites within such countries recognized the socio-economic and political distortions resulting from that situation; as did those political scientists producing a new “political development” literature during the 1960s/1970s.2 That political perspective posited the need to forge new national identities consistent with the citizenship arbitrarily assigned to people who found themselves residing within the borders of new sovereign-states if  “development” was to have any chance of success.   

Non-Interference in Political Affairs

Despite the artificialities of many new states, official international development assistance agencies continued to operate as if the absence of nation-hood and resultant social, economic, and political distortions did not exist. Although ignorance no doubt played a part, equally important was the norm strongly held by many development professionals that their work was technical rather than political. Nonetheless, the norm of “political neutrality” pre-dated that “liberal” decade. Instead, it was clearly reflected in the language of Article IV, Section 10 of IBRD’s3 Articles of Agreement:

The Bank and its officers shall not interfere in the political affairs of any member; nor shall they be influenced in their decisions by the political character of the member or members concerned. Only economic considerations shall be relevant to their decisions, and these considerations shall be weighed impartially in order to achieve the purposes stated in Article I.4

That view was subsequently reinforced by legislation mandated by the United States Congress during the 1970s legally separating USAID and Peace Corps programs from direct interaction with American security related agencies.

By the time that bi-lateral development assistance agencies began to proliferate among other “developed” countries during the 1970s, the political neutrality norm had been well established by the United States and World Bank; at least at the rhetorical level. That was the case even though the governments of many new states had transitioned from idealistic expectations of populist democracy to single-party authoritarian rulers who often served the interests of their own ethnic groups at the expense of other fellow citizens.

Nonetheless, support for authoritarian regimes was not justified by the principle of “political non-interference” alone. Indeed, two other beliefs widely-held by political leaders in the “West” also tended toward justification of authoritarian regimes in newly independent states. First, there was the belief that the political and military defence of the “Free World” against “International Communism” was more important than establishing open economies, liberalizing international trade, or maintaining democratic systems of governance. Second, development was believed by many to require levels of internal political stability and “discipline” that only authoritarian governments could ensure.5

The remainder of Part #1 briefly summarizes the impact of Cold War competition on the content and structure of development assistance. Part #2 will summarize how “Linear Growth” and “Dual Economy” theories of economic development were together interpreted so as to justify support for authoritarian regimes and an expansive role for developing country governments.   

The Cold War Exception

The Basic features of the “Cold War”6 are sufficiently well known and do not require much discussion here. Suffice it to say that the Cold War also had a direct impact on the membership and lending decisions of both the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF),7 as well as the content and recipients of America’s bi-lateral foreign assistance programs.  

During the waning years of World War II and the period immediately thereafter, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) was expected to become a member of both the IMF and IBRD. Thus, the Soviet Union was listed among the projected Founding Members and its IBRD Shares and IMF Quotas were specified at the Conference in Bretton Woods, NH at which the structures and objectives of both organizations were largely agreed. But in the event, the USSR (and Hungary) did not join either organization and, although Poland and Czechoslovakia had joined both IBRD and the IMF by January 1946, they both subsequently withdrew during the early 1950s amidst accusations that IBRD was nothing more than an appendage of the American Marshall Plan whose establishment in April 1948 they viewed as nothing other than a vehicle for United States’ domination of Europe.

Under the terms of the Marshal Plan (officially the European Recovery Program), up to the 2010 equivalent of $185 billion was made available to meet two closely related objectives. First, the rehabilitation of Western and Southern Europe’s industrial capacity, the improved value and stabilization of their various currencies and the facilitation of international trade through, among other mechanisms, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. Second, it was meant to counteract increasing support for domestic Communist Parties; especially in Czechoslovakia, France, and Italy. And it was in that latter context that the United States’ followed with the “Truman Doctrine” in 1947 with the specific purpose of financially assisting Greece  and Turkey against communist supported insurgencies.

With the advent of the Korean War in 1950, United States’ foreign assistance began to focus increasingly on military equipment and supplies to perceived allies. That was followed by the establishment of the United States’ Mutual Security Agency in 1951 with responsibility for managing most official American foreign aid. On the non-military side, the Food for Peace program was inaugurated in 1954 to provide surplus American agricultural commodities as an additional form of foreign aid. Nevertheless, responsibility for most United States’ non-military foreign assistance was not transferred to the Department of State until 1955 with the establishment of the International Cooperation Administration; the predecessor to today’s Agency for International Development (established in 1961).8    

The Non-Aligned Movement

Increasing Cold War polarization of international relations led to an attempt by the leaders of many newly independent states to establish a “Non-Aligned Movement.” Officially created on September 6, 1961 at a Conference in Belgrade, Yugoslavia9 following preparatory discussions in Bandung, Indonesia attended by representatives of twenty-nine African and Asian countries during 1955; many of which were not yet legally recognized as sovereign-states.10 The purpose of that Movement, at least for most of its sovereign state-members, was to differentiate themselves from the supposed allies of either the United States or USSR. In addition, the Non-Aligned Movement was viewed by most of its members as an arena for the discussion of issues that directly affected them but were largely ignored by both the United States and USSR or were defined by them only in terms of the Cold War. As Kwame Nkrumah, then President of Ghana, is quoted as saying in a speech on April 7, 1960: “We face neither East nor West; we face forward.”11 But there can be little doubt that from the perspective of the United States, its allies, the Soviet Union, and the Peoples’ Republic of China, the targeting of much foreign aid was a function of the global political competition between them. 

Nonetheless, the absolute amount of non-military assistance provided by the Soviet Union and the Peoples’ Republic of China (PRC) was miniscule compared to that provided by the United States and the World Bank. During the most hostile years of the Cold War from 1954 through 1977, total public sector “overseas loans and grants” provided by the Soviet Union and PRC were $12.9 billion and $8.9 billion respectively; compared to $66.4 billion by the United States and $47.9 billion by the World Bank during that same period. And only four countries alone — India, Egypt, Afghanistan, and Turkey – accounted for $10.7 billion (49 percent of all Soviet and PRC aid during those years) compared to a total of $12.9 billion to those same countries by the United States. Total foreign aid provided by all Eastern European states was even lower; amounting to only $7.5 billion. And of the thirty-five Sub-Sahara African countries receiving assistance from one or more communist regimes, only seven received more than US$100 million from the Soviet Union, any Eastern European communist countries, or the PRC. At the same time, security-related assistance to other countries increased from 33.4% percent of total United States’ “Public Sector Loans and Grants” in 1954 (as defined in endnote 14) to a high of 88.3 percent in 1964 before leveling off to an average of 33 percent of the total thereafter.12

Finally, in addition to considering the amount and distribution of aid, it is also important to consider the terms and conditions under which such assistance was provided by “Communist-Party” and “Free World” governments. As only one example, much of the aid extended by the USSR, PRC, and Eastern European governments was in the form of barter or aid provided in-kind. Accepting aid, even in the form of barter, permitted “modernizing” elites to diversify their political and economic relationships while demonstrating their neutrality in the Cold War. Further, in the perceived zero-sum atmosphere of the Cold War, the mere threat to negotiate such agreements even if not particularly valuable in themselves provided opportunities to leverage them by developing country governments to secure goods and services from the “West” that might not have been financed otherwise. And such leverage with both sides was clearly used to the advantage of otherwise fragile states; even if only minimal benefits resulted for poor people within those states. Thus, while the United States, the USSR, and PRC might have viewed their competition as zero-sum, the authoritarian rulers often viewed it as providing a potentially expanding resource pie. As only one example, Turkey received $4.5 billion from the PRC in addition to $1.2 billion from the USSR while the United States provided only $1.7 billion even as it remained a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Part #2 of this topic (to be posted in the next few days) will carry this discussion forward to a consideration of how contemporary interpretations of both “linear growth” and “dual economy” theories combined to justify support for authoritarian regimes and an expansive role for developing country governments until well into the 1970s; after which the policies of the United States Government, World Bank, and IMF with respect to the role of the state were reversed (perhaps temporarily?).­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_________________________________


  [1]         The euphemism “Non-Self-Governing Territories” was employed in the Second Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1946-1947, Ended June 30, 1947 of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD; Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1947) available at

  [2]    As perhaps the most prominent examples from that time, see the extensive writings of James Coleman, Lucien Pye, and Fred Riggs.

  [3]    The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) was the first of five organizations now collectively known as The World Bank Group. References to the “World Bank” are today most often limited to the IBRD plus the International Development Association (IDA). The other three organizations within the World Bank Group are the International Finance Corporation (IFC, 1956), the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Dispute (ICSID, 1966), and the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA, 1988).

  [4]    International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Articles of Agreement available at IBRD’s Articles of Agreement became effective December 31, 1945 with the official signatures by the governments of Chile, Mexico, and Peru; see World Bank, World Bank Group Historical Chronology: 1944-1949 available at

  [5]    See Jerry Mark Silverman, An International Economic History of Latin America and The Caribbean in Jose de Arimateia da Cruz and Eduardo R Gomez (ed.), Latin America in the New International System: Challenges and Opportunity (Boston: Pearson Custom Publishers, 2005), p. 57-96.

  [6]    There is no general agreement about when the “Cold War” started, or which “side” started it, or why?   But whatever the “correct” answer to the above question, it was clearly in full effect by the time Communist governments were established in Poland and Czechoslovakia during January 1947 and February 1948 respectively and the beginning of the Berlin Blockade and Airlift in June 1948.

  [7]    The Government of the now defunct Yugoslavia was the only officially designated Communist regime that remained a member of both organizations from the late 1940s through its effective replacement by Serbia in 1993. Cuba also withdrew from both the World Bank and IMF soon after Fidel Castro seized power there on January 1, 1959. Although China was a founding member-state of both the IMF and IBRD (having signed the Articles of Agreement of both organizations on December 27, 1945), its seats were occupied by the “Nationalist Government” (which fled to Taiwan on September 8, 1949) until May 15, 1980; even though the Government of the People’s Republic of China had taken over China’s seat in the United Nations itself nine years earlier on October 25, 1971. Romania broke ranks and joined in 1972, Hungary in 1982, and Poland re-joined in 1986. Finally, with the collapse of the USSR, the Russian Federation joined the World Bank and IMF on June 16, 1992.

  [8]    See United States, Agency for International Development, USAID History, About USAID available at

  [9]    As described more recently, “the founders of the Non-Aligned Movement and their successors recognised that the Movement would probably be best served if it operated without a formal constitution and a permanent secretariat. The practice of a rotating Chair was instead created which at the same time place the onus of an administrative structure on the country assuming the Chair. The Summit Conferences are the occasions when the Movement formally rotates its Chair to the Head of State or Government of the host country of the Summit. The Foreign Ministry and Permanent Mission in New York of the Chair at the same time assume the responsibility of the administrative management of the Movement;” see The Non-Aligned Movement: Description and History available at

[10]    The People’s Republic of China participated in the Bandung Conference. However, neither North or South Korea were invited. Although the Non-Aligned Movement still technically exists, its role has changed substantially with the end of the Cold War.

[11]    This statement by Kwame Nkrumah is oft-quoted in books of popular quotations. However, the attribution by Oladele Ogunseitan, Editor-In-Chief, African Journal of Environmental Science and Technology in his Editorial in Volume 3 (October, 2009) serves here as a legitimate academic source available at  

[12]     The data on non-military foreign assistance to non-Communist Party states by the USSR, Eastern European Communist states, and the Peoples’ Republic of China is from United States, National Foreign Assessment Center, Communist Aid to Less Developed Countries of the Free World, 1977 (Washington D.C.: United States, National Foreign Assessment Center, 1978), Tables 4 and 5.  I am indebted to Joseph Pinczewski-Lee, internet researcher, of Lexington Kentucky for the collection and reporting of that data.The comparative data on “non-military foreign assistance” reported here for the United States and World Bank was calculated by Jerry Mark Silverman to include all loans, concessional credits, and grants other than financing of military equipment, operations, training or other military, “defense,” or “security” purposes; non-proliferation; anti-terrorism; de-mining; “peace-keeping;” and other related expenditures plus all grants and loans in “inactive” status for 10 or more years. Therefore, these statistics are less inclusive than those reported for “Total Public Sector Loans and Grants (Foreign Assistance)” that include financing for military purposes but are more expansive than “Official Development Assistance (ODA)” that exclude non-concessional loans and financial transfers to any country not included by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on its List of ODA Recipients available at least for the years 2008 through 2010 at For relevant definitions and statistics on ODA, see Development Assistance Committee, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, AID Statistics available at,3381,en_2649_34447_1_119656_1_1_1,00.html and United States, Agency for International Development, U.S. Official Development Assistance Database: Statistics on U.S. Flows to Developing Countries available at; for statistics on “Total Public Sector Loans and Grants [Foreign Assistance]” see U.S. Overseas Loans and Grants, Obligations and Loan Authorizations (“The Greenbook“) available at See also the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (Public Law 87–195, as amended up to July 30, 2008) available at

Keywords: Afghanistan, Bandung, central planning, citizenship, Cold War, Czechoslovakia, DAC, decolonization, dependent territories, development, development assistance, Development Assistance Committee, Egypt, ethnic identity, European Recovery Program, Food for Peace, France, Free World, GATT, General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, government, Greece, Hungary, IBRD, IDA, IMF, India, Indonesia, industrialization, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Cooperation Administration, international development, International Development Association, International Monetary Fund, international organizations, international relations, Italy, Marshall Plan, modernizing elites, Mutual Security Agency, national identities, NATO, North Atlantic Treaty Organization, ODA, OECD, official development assistance, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Peace Corps, Peoples Republic of China, Poland, poor people, PRC, sovereign-states, Soviet Union, states, Truman Doctrine, Turkey, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, United Nations, United States Agency for International Development, USAID, USSR, Warsaw Pact, World Bank.

Old Wine in New Bottles – or The Triumph of Form over Function

January 17, 2011

A Personal Reminiscence1

But what experience and history teach is this – that peoples and governments have never learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.                                                               Georg Hegel (1770-1831)

There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.                                                 Harry S. Truman (1884-1972)

Every time history repeats itself the price goes up. (anonymous)

Déjà vu All Over Again

Not for the first or last time, I was experiencing a feeling all too similar to former New York Yankee Yogi Berra’s “déjà vu all over again.” The occasion was a meeting attended by staff of the World Bank, the Ford Foundation, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ; the German Technical Assistance Agency). It was 19952 and I had just returned to Jakarta following an absence of more than ten years to take on my new responsibilities as the Manager of the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Group for East Asia. The main theme of the conversation at this meeting was the lack of capacity within Indonesian local government planning departments (bappeda); a theme all too familiar to me from my stint as “Chief of Party” and “Provincial Planning Advisor” of the first USAID-financed Provincial Development Project (PDP) fifteen years before (see “How do you know…….?”, posted here January 10, 2011).   

Harking back to those earlier days, I had thought that PDP was the “jewel in the crown” of my professional career to that date. That project was the first in Indonesia of any kind dedicated to developing the capacity of planning offices at local provincial levels to identify, recommend, prepare, and finance community-based projects rather than solely by the Central Government in Jakarta. Indeed, PDP was designed to be:

  • One of the earliest projects anywhere to specify the “poorest of the poor” as target beneficiaries;
  • One of the first to foster a village level participatory process through which beneficiaries themselves could select the kind of benefits they would receive (although from a limited list of pre-determined choices);
  • The first project in Indonesia designed specifically to support decentralization of planning and financing of development projects to provincial governments; and, therefore
  • The first foreign aid project channeled through the Government of Indonesia’s equivalent of a Ministry of Local Government and semi-autonomous provincial planning offices.

This first project was designed to be a “pilot” and was, therefore, limited to assisting only two provincial planning offices; one each in Central Java and Aceh. Nonetheless, long-before any actual impact evaluations of PDP could be conducted, USAID and other donors began to expand the program; first to Bengkulu, East Java, East Nusa Tenggara and South  Kalimantan (PDP IIA) followed by West Nusa Tenggara and West Java (PDP IIB) plus the World Bank’s assistance for a similar project in Yogyakarta followed by the Federal Republic of Germany’s financing of a PDP project in West Sumatra and East Kalimantan not long after.3 By the time I returned to Indonesia during 1995, the establishment and capacity-building of local government planning offices had expanded to almost all of Indonesia’s provinces. Nonetheless, the complaints of weak institutional capacity I was hearing at this meeting were essentially the same as those that had consumed my attention those many years earlier. To be honest, the discussion was making me feel really depressed and disappointed. The last time I had glanced at PDP a bit more than a decade before, it looked to me to be emerging as a major success story. Had the opposite been true; had we failed completely in that earlier attempt to foster local governmental capacity? 

There was a moment of relief as I finally realized that, although the conversation was focused on the same capacity-building themes with which we had struggled in an earlier time, the focus this time was on the inadequate performance of planning offices at the lower district (kabupaten), rather than provincial (propinsi) level. While in 1980, planning offices had not yet been established in most Indonesian provinces, they had subsequently expanded not only to all provinces but to almost all districts as well. That was clearly a major achievement of a kind. But – and there is always a “but” – it turned out that another major complaint of those present was that the now very powerful provincial planning offices were exercising too much control over district planning offices. 

I had a different concern than most of the other persons present at that 1995 meeting. Leaving aside the question of who was exercising power over whom within provincial and district governments, it was apparent that planning offices at both levels were no longer focused on their primary responsibility under PDP to identify, plan, and implement innovative small-scale community-based projects. Instead they had shifted their attention almost exclusively to larger scale, more conventional, mainstream infrastructure and social investment projects. Further, consistent with that shift in emphasis, the provincial planning offices had increased their staff, administrative and operational budgets, and logistical resources beyond anything that any of us would have thought possible in 1980. Thus, our initial efforts during PDP had succeeded only too well with respect to establishing provincial, and subsequently district, planning offices as mini-versions of the Central Government’s own Planning Agency (Bappenas). However, that “success” had apparently been achieved at the expense of effective participation of poor people in the planning, decision-making, implementation, and evaluations of projects involving those planning offices.

That did not mean that projects directed toward the original PDP objective of identifying and supporting small-scale demand-driven community-based project had been abandoned. But responsibilities for those types of projects had begun to shift to other quasi-independent entities; a shift formalized with the launch of the new Kecamatan [sub-district] Development Program (KDP) during 1998. What accounted for such changes? Although the shift of community-based demand-driven projects away from provincial planning departments began after I had left Indonesia in 1981, my subsequent analysis suggested two different contributing factors: (1) the shift of PDP focus in some locations from the core objective of fostering community-based demand-driven project identification to improving the capacity of provincial governments to plan and supervise infrastructure investment projects (see “Bigger Must be Better” below) and (2) the eventual shift of responsibility for community-driven projects from the largely USAID-financed PDP program to the World Bank initiated KDP program (see “By-Passing Local Governments” below).

Bigger Must be Better

I had already been directly involved in my international development career for about thirteen years when I met a World Bank staff person for the first time. That meeting occurred following his phone call to me at my office within Central Java’s provincial planning department in Semarang and request that I come to Jakarta to discuss our experience implementing the USAID-financed PDP. It turned out that he wanted to talk with me because the World Bank was beginning the preparation of a new PDP project for the Special District of Yogyakarta  located immediately south of Central Java Province. So I flew to Jakarta a few days later and we met, if I remember correctly, at the Borobudur Inter-Continental hotel there. As he began to describe that forthcoming World Bank version of PDP in Yogyakarta, I became increasingly dumbfounded; and quite frankly concerned.

I might not remember the exact amount of the financing actually available during the time I was directly involved in the USAID-financed PDP or planned by the World Bank preparation team for their PDP Yogyakarta Project; but I do remember my jaw dropped when the person with whom I was meeting stated the World Bank’s cost expectations for their project. Indeed, the World Bank was planning to provide about four times the amount USAID had initially provided to finance small-scale demand-driven projects within three districts in Central Java and two districts in Aceh; but in Yogyakarta the World Bank was programming that larger amount for only two districts.

I had at that point in my career never been exposed to the sums being considered by the World Bank PDP project preparation team. So I asked him how they could possibly spend so much money on a PDP project so much smaller than ours. I just couldn’t see how Yogyakarta’s planning department could at that time absorb the responsibility for such levels of funding. His response was that a substantial amount of that funding would be used to construct a new office building for the planning office and to purchase a fleet of 4×4 vehicles. It was true that a new provincial planning office was also under construction in Central Java, but it was clearly more modest than what the World Bank envisaged for Yogyakarta. And it was also clear to me that the projects to be financed through their involvement in PDP were more likely to be of the larger physical infrastructure kind than the type of small-scale community-based activities financed through our original version of PDP.

After my return to Indonesia in 1995, the various provincial planning office buildings I had occasion to visit were of the large variety financed by the World Bank. Perhaps more significantly, the small office building that was built in Semarang during my tenure in Central Java had already been replaced by a dramatically larger three-story office building occupied solely by the substantially larger provincial planning department.

It occurred to me that this transformation was probably due to the capture of the PDP program and the provincial planning departments responsible for it by managers and staff primarily focused on conventional infrastructure-heavy projects rather than more innovative small-scale demand-driven investments. It is important to remember that the World Bank’s involvement in PDP occurred well before it expanded its operations to include “Community-Driven Development” during the 1990s. Thus, by the end of that 1995 meeting, my feeling that we might never be able to overcome the well established development view that “bigger is better” was reinforced. That suspicion was reinforced by the focus of the development professionals attending the 1995 meeting on the inefficiencies of lower level planning and management of large investment projects rather than on the need for facilitation of community participation in project identification and implementation.

By-Passing Local Governments

By contrast with PDP, the subsequent KDP program was managed through stand-alone project management units that essentially by-passed established provincial and local government planning units throughout its decade-long implementation.4 By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the broader international development community had come to believe that central and local government agencies were obstacles to reducing poverty and, in its place, the private sector was to be relied on as the “engine for growth5 while reliance on quasi-public non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for small-scale community-based projects was increased. A concomitant of that approach was to shift the donor community’s focus from building the capacity of governments to implement infrastructure projects to reliance on quasi-public/private entities to improve the efficient delivery of project benefits to target populations while reducing the scope of governments’ in that process; an approach included in the broader policy framework eventually known as the “Washington Consensus.” That new emphasis clearly contributed to a shift of responsibility for community-driven projects away from local government planning agencies back to the quasi-independent project or program management units favored by donors during the 1960s. Thus, although the World Bank itself traces KDP directly back to PDP,6 it was by virtue of the establishment of parallel management structures entirely separate from provincial and district planning offices clearly separate from, and not simply a continuation of, PDP.7 The by-pass organizational arrangements established for KDP have been perpetuated and reinforced by the more ­­­­­­­­­recent successor National Program for Community Empowerment for both poor urban neighborhoods and rural areas established in 2006.8

Why do donors continue to by-pass established governmental agencies for community-based projects by establishing decentralized parallel structures substantially similar to what – at least theoretically – could be integrated into already established governmental structures? That question would seem to be particularly relevant to countries like Indonesia with democratically-elected governments and mature bureaucracies.

Learning from Experience?

That 1995 meeting reinforced yet another of my growing suspicions; that development assistance agencies have responded to weak local government capacity with short-term tactical “fixes” rather than taking a longer-term strategic overview of the appropriate relationship between community demands and priorities on the one hand and technical and financial responses by governments on the other hand (a subject to be addressed further in a future post to this Blog). Instead, international financial institutions have consistently resorted to “project” (and more recently “program”) management units (PMUs) while bemoaning the “need” to do so because of “inadequate capacity” of governments’ conventional line agencies.

Innovative small-scale participatory initiatives are increasingly included within an expanding international development portfolio. However, such components remain at the margins of other entrenched core practices; we continue to do things in much the same way as we have since the 1950s. The result is that we are increasingly confronted by several fundamental inconsistencies; include the following:

1.    Although formal governments of many sovereign states have demonstrated that they are either inappropriate agents of development or incapable of serving as such agents —

Formal governments continue to serve as the main channel for the use and distribution of official international development assistance;

2.    Although there is increasing recognition that the reconstruction model of the Marshall Plan years, which was dramatically successful in the context of that time, does not adequately address the realities of development since the 1960s —

International development assistance still relies primarily on creation or rehabilitation of physical infrastructure and enhancement of human resources instead of promoting effective changes in the structure of institutional incentives;

3.    Although it is becoming increasingly apparent that there is no agreed definition of what is or is not developed and, therefore, no single path to that objective —

Official development assistance agencies continue to define development almost exclusively in economic terms and to rely (at least implicitly) on theories that posit that the development process must pass through the same stages of economic growth as have Western Industrialized countries;

4.    Although master planning and central planning have been discredited by many development professionals —

The procedures and organizational arrangements through which development investments are proposed and approved continue to be rooted in a combination of scientific central planning and economic theories underlying such approaches; and

5.    Although an increasing number of development professionals understand the importance of securing the voluntary support and commitment of civil society for development decisions —      

No substantial channels have been institutionalized for the efficient, effective, and sustainable participation of the people in official investment decision-making.

Unfortunately, the view that by-passing the established public sector by creating quasi-independent special purpose management units effectively responds to the perverse inconsistencies identified above is much too simplistic and is clearly not a sustainable approach to substantially reducing global poverty. Therefore, a future blog post will summarize what I believe would be necessary to square that circle.



[1]     All “Personal Reminiscence” posts are stories told about one or more of my own personal experiences as I remember it. They are true to the best of my ability to recollect them and reflect my view of the “lessons learned” from those experiences. Nonetheless, the ability to remember being limited, the specific details presented in these stories might not be completely correct in each and every detail. I have also done my best to disguise the identity of other persons referred to in these stories, including not using their true names unless references to their presence at that time or circumstance has already been published in other media.

[2]     For anyone who believes that a story about an event or events that occurred 30 or more years ago is too old and irrelevant, I beg to differ. Indeed, an underlying theme of this Blog is that the truth of the aphorism “the more things change, the more they remain the same” is particularly relevant to the history of international development efforts for the entire period since the end of World War II.

[3]     For an official USAID evaluation of PDP, see Devres Inc., Final Evaluation of The Provincial Area Development Project (November 1989) available at For a contemporaneous academic description and analysis of PDP throughout the 1980s, see Moeljarto Tjokrowinoto, Integrated Rural Development in Indonesia: Problems and Prospects in H. Ramachandran and J.P. de Campos Guimaraes (eds.), Integrated Rural Development in Asia: Learning from Recent Experience (New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, 1991), p. 119 – 134 available at

[4]     For a general critique of the management by-pass approach, see George Honadle, David Gow, and Jerry Silverman, Technical Assistance Alternatives for Rural Development: Beyond the By-Pass Model, Canadian Journal of Development Studies 4 (1983), p. 222-240.

[5]      For an early argument that the performance of the public and private sectors was affected more by whether they operated as monopolies or were subject to competition rather than to their public or private character, see Jerry M. Silverman, Paul Crawford, George Honadle, and Gary Hansen, A.I.D. Assistance to Local Government: Experience and Issues (Washington, D.C.: Agency for International Development, November 1983) available at

[6]      KDP itself is an immediate descendant of the Provincial Development Project (PDP)….[and] many of the current KDP staff, in fact, came to Indonesia through PDP;” see World Bank, Indonesia Kecamatan Development Program, available at

[7]      See “Activity” and “Management” charts in World Bank, Workflow, Management, Financing, Results, Monitoring: Indonesia Kecamatan Development Program, available at

[8]     See World Bank, Empowering Indonesian Communities Through Direct Participation in Developing Infrastructure and Services (April 2010), available at  and Results Profile: Indonesia’s Community-Driven Development available at

Keywords: Aceh, Bappeda, Bappenas, Bengkulu, bigger must be better, bureaucracies, by-pass strategies, capacity-building, central government, Central Java, central planning, community-driven development, decentralization, demand-driven, Deutsche Gesellschaft fuer Technische Zusammenarbeit, development, East Asia, East Java, East Kalimantan, East Nusa Tenggara, engine for growth, Federal Republic of Germany, Ford Foundation, German Technical Assistance Agency, GTZ, Indonesia, international development, international relations, Jakarta, kabupaten, KDP, Kecamatan Development Program, local government, Ministry of Local Government, National Program for Community Empowerment, NGOs, non-governmental organizations, ODA, official development assistance, participatory process, PDP, PMU, poorest of the poor, poverty reduction, poverty, program management unit, project management unit, propinsi, Provincial Development Project, provincial government, provincial planning, rural, Semarang, South Kalimantan, Special District of Yogyakarta, supply-driven, supply-responsive, United States Agency for International Development, urban, USAID, village participation, Washington Consensus, water and sanitation, West Java, West Nusa Tenggara, West Sumatra, World Bank.


January 10, 2011

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“the more things change, the more they remains the same”).                                                  Alphonse Karr (1808-1890)

Although a system may cease to exist in the legal sense or as a structure of power, its values (or anti-values), its philosophy, its teachings remain in us. They rule our thinking, our conduct, our attitude to others. The situation is a demonic paradox: we have toppled the system but we still carry its genes.                              Ryszard Kapuscinski (1932-2007)

Understanding the historical roots of basic concepts commonly used in international development assistance efforts is important because the social, economic, and political context within which they were formulated continues to affect the way we look at such things today. However, links between the many assumptions, values and institutions existing during the latter years of the colonial period and current development efforts are not often acknowledged1 and even less often understood.

This blog post is the first of three intended to identify and discuss a few of those links. It focuses on the post-World War I colonial period, including the period following World War II. The second and third posts will expand this discussion to cover the immediate post-colonial period of the 1960s and 1970s as well as provide more depth regarding how those links have affected current views of international development objectives and methods.

Assumptions & Concepts

Below I take a look at four key concepts: “sovereign-states,” “development,” “welfare,” and “reconstruction.” The first two terms “development;” and “welfare” reach back to policies and practices current before the Second World War — even as their meaning has evolved. The distinction between “reconstruction” and “development” was embedded in the name first given to the World Bank in 1944 – i.e., the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) – while the organizing legal principle of the “sovereign-state,” on which the entire structure of official development assistance is based, goes back to the Treaty of Westphalia of 1648.


Almost all official development assistance moves from, to, and through sovereign-state governments or multi-lateral sovereign-state membership organizations like United Nations’ agencies, The World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The legal recognition of that sovereign-state system 362 years ago confirmed a uniquely European process of both nation and state building already underway for several centuries. But socio-economic groups targeted for development assistance in Africa, Asia and some areas of Latin America and the Middle East have not had that same historical experience. Instead, the introduction of the sovereign-state structure during the colonial period was both foreign and abrupt.

Indeed, sovereignty contrasts sharply with pre-colonial patterns of authority in those non-European areas where political authority was attributed to emperors or other monarchs and was not based in formal legal agreements that established clearly demarcated borders within which a Monarch was recognized by other monarchs as having complete and ultimate legal authority.2 Instead, indigenous authority in many of those areas was based primarily on: (1) a chief, monarch, or other leader’s ability to enforce it; (2) mutually beneficial trading relationships among leaders or people engage in commerce; and/or (3) reinforcing culturally defined relationships.3 The European notion that a monarch was vested with independent sovereign authority within specifically geographically demarcated borders was foreign in the most fundamental sense of that term when extended to non-European areas. And that “foreigness” was compounded by the colonial variant whereby the exercise of legal authority within colonies was reserved to officials of sovereign European governments located far away. It is instructive that when we talk about the post-colonial era we refer to the transition from colonies to independent states, not independent people. As a consequence, the sovereign-state system has taken deeper root in some places than in others, resulting in ineffective and illegitimate development programs and policies in many of those countries. 

The belief that sovereign-state governments alone govern is the foundational assumption on which the entire institutional architecture for delivering official development assistance has been built. The consequences of that assumption have only recently been recognized: (i) boundaries of sovereign-states that do not often correspond to the requirements of true nation-states; (ii) development projects and programs designed and organized for sovereign-state “citizens” rather than social, economic, and political affinity groups; and (iii) fundamental disconnects between non-formal parallel governance systems and officially recognized states and governments.

Development & Welfare

Today development is most often viewed as the reduction of both income and non-income poverty – the process through which fewer and fewer people live on less than $1 or $2 a day and/or do not have affordable access to formal education and effective health services. But that has not always been the case.  Britain’s Colonial Development and Welfare Act of 1939 viewed “development” as improvement of infrastructure required for efficient extraction of raw materials.  By contrast, the term “welfare” applied to the provision of improved health, education, housing, and urban wages in the “colonies,” “protectorates” or “mandated” or “trust territories” (hereinafter synonymously “colonies” or “dependencies”).  While development was directed toward enhancing the economies of the colonial powers, welfare was directed toward elimination or reduction of labor strikes, protests, and rebellions.4 


In 1944, European and Asian landscapes were littered with wreckage over which the United States stood as a largely unscathed colossus.  The USA’s gross national income (GNI) equalled 216.7 percent of France, the United Kingdom (UK), and the USSR combined; the USSR and the UK respectively owed the equivalent of $136.5 billion and $384.7 billion in current 2010 currency values; other British Commonwealth countries, China, and France had borrowed the equivalent of another $99.3 billion, and another fifty-two countries owed $49.6 billion received from the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). All that debt was owed to the United States and the American Government alone held the overwhelming majority of the world’s monetary gold stocks. As a result, European currencies had lost almost all of their international value. The immediate problem for the USA, UK and France was how to continue providing large cash transfers from the Americans to its European allies while simultaneously reducing European debt. 

Until the establishment of France’s Ministry for Cooperation in 1961, the USA was the only bi-lateral “foreign aid donor.” Between 1946 and the end of 1952, the United States provided economic assistance worldwide worth approximately $231.5 billion today; of which forty-three percent went to Europe (including France as the largest borrower and Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Greece, and the United Kingdom).5 By contrast, World Bank lending to Europe between 1946 and 1952 was the equivalent of only $5.1 billion.6 The Bank’s first four loans were made during 1947 to France, The Netherlands, Denmark, and Luxembourg7 while its first “post-reconstruction” (i.e., “development”) loan was approved in 1948 for the purchase of reconverted warships by four Dutch shipping companies.8 By the end of the colonial era (1970), the Bank had extended loans to seventeen European countries; twenty-one percent of which was specifically for investments in eighteen Belgian, French, and UK colonial territories.9

Values & Assumptions

The focus on European reconstruction was a function of both the distribution of power and unexamined assumptions, experience, and persistent values. For Westerners without significant experience in colonial territories or newly independent countries, the projection of their own values onto unknown people should not be surprising. Westerners with actual experience among “native” peoples often explicitly rejected the non-European beliefs and values of “those” people. A communiqué sent by John Maynard Keynes to the UK Treasury during preparation for the 1944 Bretton Woods Conference convened to establish the World Bank and IMF reflects such attitudes:

Twenty-one countries have been invited which clearly have nothing to contribute and will merely encumber the ground, namely, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Ecuador, Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Liberia, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Venezuela, Peru, Uruguay, Ethiopia, Iceland, Iran, Iraq, Luxembourg. The most monstrous monkey-house assembled for years. To these might be added: Egypt, Chile and (in present circumstances) Yugo-slavia [sic].10

Various comments by delegates to the United Nations’ Trusteeship Council between 1947 and 1951 reinforce the notion that “development” was viewed as a process directed toward bringing “a Western mode of reasoning” to the people of the colonies;11 as do the references to “less highly developed regions,” “young and immature nations” or “old but underdeveloped nations.”12Nations” in that context were clearly understood to be synonymous with “states” while subsequent formulations – “newly industrializing,” “newly emerging,”  “third world,” “fourth world,” and so forth – reinforced the notion that development was essentially the same as the economic growth of sovereign-states. 

It is also important to note that America’s experience during the Great Depression prior to World War II combined with John Maynard Keynes earlier criticisms the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I13 were much in evidence when the form and functions of the World Bank and IMF were agreed at Bretton Woods. The World Bank was to lend long-term investment capital to sovereign-state governments and the IMF was to regulate currency exchange-rates and provide short-term loans to countries not able to meet occasional foreign exchange deficits. More generally, there was a prevailing belief that scientific approaches to complex planning, management, and technological issues would overcome whatever obstacles might arise. That optimism prevailed in large part because of broadly shared beliefs, values, and desires among Americans and European allies alike. At the same time, intellectual inertia appears to have carried the pre-War distinction between “development” and “welfare” forward into the post-War period. 

Colonial Development 

While European countries were themselves a major constituency of the USA and World Bank from the mid-1940s through the end of the 1950s, those same economies were also closely interwoven with their respective colonies and dependencies. The United Kingdom and France provide examples of an almost seamless organizational and staffing transition from colonial administration to direct bi-lateral international development assistance. 

United Kingdom.  Fifty-four of the United Nations’ 192 current sovereign-state members (28%) have been British colonies or protectorates at one time or another. With the exception of India from 1858 and Burma from 1937, responsibility for staffing, managing, and financing the development of British colonies was assigned to the Colonial Office.14 Although in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War the new Labour Government was officially anti-colonial, it was nevertheless faced with the need to alleviate severe shortages of food, fuel, and natural resources at home. Reflecting fears current during November 1947, the UK’s Minister for Economic Affairs Sir Stafford Cripps believed that…  

the whole future of the sterling group and its ability to survive depends in my view upon a quick and extensive development of our African resources,

even as Foreign Secretary Ernest Bevin argued that –

If only we pushed on and developed [our colonies in] Africa, we could have [the] United States dependent on us, and eating out of our hand in four or five years.15

Britain’s Cabinet Secretary summarized the apparent contradictions between the Government’s public rhetoric and actual actions in a report to the Prime Minister in 1948:

At recent meetings there has been general support for the view that the development of Africa’s economic resources should be pushed forward rapidly in order to support the political and economic position of the United Kingdom…. [The policy] could, I suppose, be said to fall within the ordinary definition of “Imperialism.” And, at the level of a political broadcast it might be represented as a policy of exploiting native peoples in order to support the standards of living of the workers in this country. This policy is doubtless inevitable – there are compelling reasons…. But if it is disclosed incautiously or incidentally, without proper justification and explanation, may it not be something of a shock to Government supporters – and indeed, to enlightened public opinion generally?It can, of course, be argued that the more rapid development of Africa’s resources will bring social and economic advantages to the native peoples in addition to buttressing the political and economic influence of the United Kingdom.16

Therefore, in 1948 Government established a Colonial Development Corporation (CDC) in parallel with the continuing responsibilities of the Colonial Office.  The CDC was tasked with achieving more rapid development in the colonies by: (i) fostering integration of the heretofore separate physical infrastructure (“development”) and assistance for human health, education, and domestic food production (“welfare”) arenas and (ii) mobilizing private investment to meet the increased costs that such integration was thought to require.17 From that point on, the term “welfare” has been implicitly subsumed within the concept of “development.”

France.  Twenty-four sovereign-state members of the United Nations (13%) are former French colonies. France’s transition from colonial authority to provider of bi-lateral finance followed a path similar to the UK’s. French colonial officials had also begun to argue for substantially increased Government funding to meet both development and welfare objectives during the 1930s. In 1945, the Government established the Economic and Social Investment Fund for the Overseas Territories (FIDES); followed the next year by inclusion of all overseas Departments, colonies, and self-governing “Associate States” within the “French Union.” That arrangement effectively replaced the formerly separate colonial administrative service. FIDES continued with responsibility for planning and financing investments, but the administrative responsibilities of the former colonial service were distributed among other ministries and agencies of the French Government.

World Bank.  By 1949, IBRD managers and staff concluded that its comparative advantage was in “development” rather than “reconstruction.” By 1960, at least fifty-two percent of its cumulative lending was for development purposes; nineteen percent of which was for investments in colonial territories.18 During the period 1953-1961, India and Japan alone received twenty-seven percent of total World Bank lending (16% and 11% respectively), South Africa received thirty-one percent of lending to Sub-Saharan Africa, and twenty percent of total lending was directed toward Latin America. The UK borrowed a total of $265 million for agriculture, energy, “land settlement,” and transport in nine colonies between 1952 and 1963.19 However, it never did borrow from IBRD for investments in its own home islands, relying instead on financing by the USA directly for that purpose.  

Lending for investments in colonial areas was anticipated in IBRD’s Articles of Agreement; i.e.

to members whose metropolitan territories have suffered great devastation from enemy occupation or hostilities… [and] shall pay special regard to lightening the financial burden and expediting the completion of restoration and reconstruction…. [while] not interfer[ing] in the political affairs of any membernor…[be] influenced in their decisions by the political character of the member or members concerned.

Colonies were not members of the Bank while four “metropolitan” powers – Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and UK — were members and, along with the USA, held sixty-two percent of voting shares within IBRD in 1947.20 In the event, ten percent of IBRD’s total 1947-60 lending commitments were allocated to project investments in European colonial territories in Africa.21

Loans for colonial “development” were attractive during the 1950s for at least two reasons: (1) outside of Latin America and the Middle East, infrastructure development project opportunities were largely limited to colonial Africa and (2) European colonial officials were most able to prepare investment plans to technical standards required by the Bank. Nonetheless, such lending also meant that European governments would benefit from those loans.  As an example, the first of those loans (to Belgium) in 1951 consisted of two component parts: (1) $40 million to the Belgian Congo Development Authority primarily for development of transport infrastructure and (2) $30 million directly to the Central Bank of Belgium to defray the indirect costs of Belgium’s own colonial expenditures.22 

The issue of World Bank lending for investments in “Dependent Overseas Territories” was raised again during discussions leading up to the establishment of the World Bank’s International Development Association (IDA) in 1960. The United Kingdom and France argued that “territories” should be eligible for IDA’s concessional finance while many of the Bank’s senior managers and advisors were opposed. The tenor of those discussions is best captured by notations in various internal memoranda by four American and two British members of the World Bank’s Loan Committee during the period 1959-1960; as follows –

Peter Cargill (UK):23      If the United Kingdom wanted to step up development in [its] colonies it could afford to do so…. 

Eugene Black (USA):        [IDA loans to colonies would result in] siphoning major portions of [its] subscriptions back to the metropolitan countries….

J. Burke Knapp (USA):           Lending by IDA to colonial territories was a very dubious proposition. The Committee expected…not to have IDA pick up the white man’s historical burden [note the use of colonial language here even by those opposed to financing  in colonial territories]. Were there not cases in which countries were sufficiently established as wards of the United States to be treated paramountly as colonies[?] If IDA financed African wards of France and the United Kingdom, it might just as well finance wards of the United States….

S. Raymond Cope (UK):           [Indeed, that should be the case with respect to such] wards of the United States, [as for example] Korea. 

Eugene Black (USA):                IDA would only be able to invest in Korea and Viet-Nam on a token basis….

Davidson Sommers (USA):     It would be helpful to the Bank and to these countries occasionally to have relations with the Bank instead of having them all with the U.S…..

Richard Demuth (USA):         Korea and China [Taiwan] should be eligible if a good project came along, butkeep the amount low.24

The ultimate decision was that both colonies and “less-developed member countries” would be eligible for IDA borrowing. Nonetheless, that decision was ultimately made moot by the rapid pace of decolonization and, therefore, no projects were actually ever financed by IDA in colonial territories.

The early post-war period had at least four lasting consequences for the structure of development assistance today. First, the creation of the United States’ Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) to manage Marshall Plan assistance in 1949 provided a model for subsequent bi-lateral agencies established by other countries. Second, the initial seeds of subsequent European integration were planted through the establishment of the Organization for European Economic Cooperation (OEEC) as the counterpart to ECA. Third, the penchant for long-term planning was presaged by the ECA’s requirement that European recipients prepare detailed plans specifying how its financing would be used. Finally, and most importantly for our purposes here, western beliefs, values, and desires were institutionalized within the world-wide development system.

The key conceptual and structural links between the post-World War I colonial period and the decade or two following World War II provide the historical foundation for the discussion of the post-colonial period that followed. As discussed further in the next two posts of this three part series, the meaning of “development” has evolved over time. Nonetheless, both in terms of formulation and pursuit, it is clearly rooted and driven by Western notions of progress and European-centered experience.  __________________________________


  [1]   Although William Easterly’s book The White Man’s Burden: Why the West’s Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good (New York, NY: Penguin Books, 2007) implies a focus on the link between colonial policies toward “development” and contemporary efforts, his narrative does not discuss the roots of specific “development” concepts and attitudes in the period under review in this series of three Blog posts. Instead, that book focuses instead on the deficiencies of expert-driven planning approaches to development at the expense of indigenous knowledge and priorities.

  [2]   James Brierly, The Law of Nations (London: Oxford University Press, 1928). 

  [3]    Jerry Mark Silverman, Historic National Rivalries and Contemporary Inter-State Conflict in Mainland Southeast Asia in M. Zacher and R. S. Milne (eds), Conflict and Stability in Southeast Asia (Garden City: Anchor Books, 1978), p. 45-78.

  [4]    Ronald Chilcote (ed.), The Political Economy of Imperialism (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishing, 2000) and Devesh Kapur, John Lewis, and Richard Webb, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, Volume 1 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997).

  [5]    Truman Library, (1993) Oral History Interview with August Maffry conducted by Richard McKinzie, Oral History Project (January 19, 1993) available at

  [6]    International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Eighth Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1952-1953 (Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1953) available at

  [7]    International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Second Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1946-1947, Ended June 30, 1947.

  [8]    World Bank, World Bank Group Historical Chronology: 1944-1949 (Washington, DC: World Bank, 1949) available at

  [9]    International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Eighteenth Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1962-1963 (Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1963) available at and World Bank, World Bank International Development Association Annual Report 1970 (Washington, DC: The World Bank Group, 1970) available at

[10]    Quoted in Elizabeth Johnson and Donald Moggridge (eds), The Collected Writings of John Maynard Keynes: Volume 26, Activities 1943-46: Shaping the Post-war World: Bretton Woods and Reparation (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1980), p. 42; incorrectly quoted in Devesh Kapur, John Lewis, and Richard Webb, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, Volume 1 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997), p. 62.

[11]    Pierre de Senarclens, How The United Nations Promotes Development Through Technical Assistance in Majid Rahnema with Victoria Bawtree (eds), The Post-Development Reader (London: Zed Books, 1997), p. 190-206.

[12]    International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Second Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1946-1947, Ended June 30, 1947 (Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1947) available at

[13]    See John Maynard Keynes, The Economic Consequences of the Peace (New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace and Howe, 1920).

 [14]  United Kingdom, Government of, Maps and Plans: Overseas Relations Overseas Records Information 6 (London, UK: The National Archives, 2003) available at

[15]    Devesh Kapur, John Lewis, and Richard Webb, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, Volume 1 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997).

[16]    Mike Cowan, Early Years of the Colonial Development Corporation: British State Enterprise Overseas during Late Colonialism, African Affairs, 82 (1984), p. 67-68 as quoted in Devesh Kapur, John Lewis, and Richard Webb, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, Volume 1 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997), p. 96.

[17]   Devesh Kapur, John Lewis, and Richard Webb, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, Volume 1 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997). 

[18]   International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Eleventh Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1955-1956 (Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1956) available at; Twelfth Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1956-1957 (Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1957) available at; Thirteenth Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1957-1958 (Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1958) available at; and Fourteenth Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1958-1959 (Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1959) available at

[19]   International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Seventeenth Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1961-1962 (Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1962) available at

[20]   International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Second Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1946-1947, Ended June 30, 1947.

[21]   International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), Eleventh Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1955-1956; Twelfth Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1956-1957 (Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1957); Thirteenth Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1957-1958; and Fourteenth Annual Report to the Board of Governors 1958-1959 (Washington, DC: International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, 1959).

[22]   Devesh Kapur, John Lewis, and Richard Webb, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, Volume 1 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997). 

[23]    Peter Cargill (UK) had, prior to joining the staff of IBRD during its early years, been an increasingly senior member of the UK’s colonial India Office. Eugene Black (USA) had served as a senior vice president of Chase National Bank since 1933 prior to being appointed as IBRD’s United States’ Executive Director in 1947 and IBRD’s third President in 1949; serving in that position until 1962. J. Burke Knapp (USA) had served as an Economist at the United States Federal Reserve Board (1940-44) and in several post-World War II positions related to international economic relations prior to joining IBRD in 1952 and eventually serving from 1956 as one of its three Vice-Presidents. S. Raymond Cope (UK) had spent most of his life in commercial banking prior to joining IBRD’s Loan Department at the end of 1947 and serving as Assistant Director of Operations for Europe, Africa, and Australasia beginning in 1952 and Director of Operations, Europe, Africa, and Australasia from June 1955. Davidson Sommers (USA) had served as an Assistant to the Secretary of War John McCloy in the Pentagon prior to joining IBRD as a lawyer in the law department in 1949 and as Vice President and General Counsel from 1956 to 1959. Richard Demuth (USA) was a lawyer in private practice and then during World War II within the United States Government prior to joining IBRD during 1947 as an Assistant to the first President of IBRD Eugene Meyer (USA) before serving as Director of its Department of Technical Assistance and Liaison from 1951 and Director of the Development Services Department and the International Relations Department from 1961 until 1973.

 [24]   Quoted in Devesh Kapur, John Lewis, and Richard Webb, The World Bank: Its First Half Century, Volume 1 (Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 1997), as paraphrased and re-sequenced by Jerry Mark Silverman.

Keywords: Bretton Woods Conference, Burma, Chile, Colonial Office, Colonialism, colonies, Columbia, Costa Rica, development, Dominica, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ethiopia, fourth world, France, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, IDA, IMF, India, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Development Association, International Monetary Fund, international relations, Iran, Iraq, John Maynard Keynes, Liberia, Luxembourg, Marshall Plan, newly emerging, newly industrializing, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Parallel Governance, Peru, Philippines, protectorates, reconstruction, sovereign-state, third world, trust territories, underdeveloped country, United Kingdom, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), United Nations, Uruguay, Venezuela, welfare, World Bank, Yugoslavia.


January 5, 2011

What a delightful thing is the conversation of specialists! One understands absolutely nothing and it’s charming.                 Edgar Degas (1834-1917)

If certain things are described to you as being real they’re real for you whether they’re real or not.                                               James Baldwin (1924-1987)

It was 19791 and I had been serving as “Chief of Party” and “Provincial Planning Advisor” of the technical assistance team in support of the first USAID-financed Provincial Development Project (PDP1) since August 1978. PDP1 was the first project in Indonesia of any kind dedicated primarily to building the capacity of planning offices (Bappeda) within provincial governments.  

It was in that context that I began to address my responsibility as the project’s “Planning Advisor” to design a new planning system from scratch for Central Java’s Planning Office. So relatively soon after my arrival, I began to do just that and, after several months, I felt confident in the design I had produced; including the elements that I thought needed to be performed within a provincial planning system and specific procedures to give practical effect to that system. And so, as this was back in the days before Email, I sent a telex to my corporate headquarters in Washington, DC asking them to send two trainers whose job would be to train the Indonesian staff according to the system I had designed.

About a month later, two American trainers arrived in Semarang, Central Java to (I thought) begin preparing a curriculum for training the Indonesian planning staff. I was busy on their day of arrival, so we had our first substantive meeting at my house that evening to review the draft Terms of Reference I had prepared. Frankly, I expected that I would simply answer any supplementary questions they might have and they would go off and begin designing the training program while I went about other business. So I asked them if they had any questions. 

Their very first question was, “how do you know they want to do it that way(?).” I confess, I was completely thrown by that question and not just a little ticked-off. Looking back, I realize that I became quite defensive. Basically, I said; “what do you mean how do I know they want to do it that way – what difference does that make?” From the perspective of 2006, that might seem narrow-minded. But I can assure you my response was typical of many – if not most – task-oriented foreign Project Managers during the late 1970s (and for many today for that matter). The firm that had employed me had been contracted directly by USAID to – at least in part – design and implement a new planning system. That was a significant part of my job.  I had spent several months completing the first step of that task. After all, if the Indonesian staff already knew what they wanted and how to design and implement it, what was I doing there in the first place? 

It was only later that I was informed by a trusting “host-country” counterpart that my own implicit answer to that question was woefully off-base. Indeed, many of my counterparts viewed the presence of foreign “advisors” as a tax imposed by external development assistance agencies required if the other, more desired, project benefits were to be received. Nor did I yet understand that the external financing agency also viewed us, at least in part, as a way of maintaining financial and operational management control over the aid project itself. But at the time I was ignorant of that reality and I reminded these two Americans that their job was not to raise new issues; rather, it was to train the Indonesian staff – period. And that’s when the fun began.  

The only credit I can claim for what happened after that is that I did not send those two trainers packing. Instead, during the week that followed, I worked on my regular tasks during the day and argued with these two guys at night. The essence of what they were saying was that (i) any system I designed on my own would not be sustainable; (ii) the Indonesian staff needed to feel a sense of ownership of the system if it was to work effectively; (iii) ownership required the Indonesians’ participation in the design; (iv) the staff knew how things worked in their country much better than I could possibly know; (v) certainly I had something to contribute, but if the Indonesians and our entire advisory group worked together as an integrated Team, we would benefit from the synergies that would result from the interaction of our different experiences and knowledge; and (vi) effective ways of working together – especially across cultures – was not common-sense.  

I could sort of get my mind around what they were saying at an abstract level. But if I followed their argument to its logical conclusion, we would need to throw-out all the work I had done and start again from scratch. Further, I could not visualize how they would translate what they were proposing into actual actions. I kept asking them – “OK, say I agree with you that we need to start over and more actively involve our Indonesian counterparts, what do we actually do and [importantly] how long will it take?” And the response seemed wholly unrealistic to me —  (1) they would need to interview all the members of our advisory team and the key Indonesian staff of the Planning Office; (2) they would then design an “Action-Planning Workshop” emphasizing a participatory process of objective setting, prioritization, problem identification, and – based on that – initiate a planning system design process; and, following completion of the custom-tailored Workshop design, (3) our entire advisory team and all key Indonesian staff would need to drop our on-going work and devote a full two weeks to participation in that Workshop. Finally, we would need to do this at a location sufficiently far away from Semarang to ensure that we would not be disturbed by other tasks.

Well, come on!! I wasn’t fully convinced that the proposed approach would achieve its objectives – or even understood what “achieving its objective” really meant. But even if it did, drop everything for two full weeks? That had to put them somewhere on the wrong side of the “cost-benefit” relationship no matter what was accomplished. So given all of that, I really can’t recall why I finally agreed – on condition that my Indonesian counterpart, the Head of the Planning Office, also agreed. And surprisingly he did – maybe it was that Masters of Public Administration (MPA) degree he had received from Indiana University.

I had no doubt by the time we returned to Semarang that the alternative system resulting from the Workshop was better and more appropriate than what I had designed on my own. There was no question that the team spirit developed during the Workshop carried-over into our day-to-day working relationships from that point on. 

Punch Line

Participating in that Workshop along with our Indonesian counterparts was a life-transforming experience for me; keeping in mind that this was more than 30 years ago. There were no prepared papers or recommendations distributed in advance. The theory was that all the experience required to begin the formulation of an effective and appropriate location-specific planning system already existed – in combination — among the participants in the room.  The “trainers” did not do any training at all – rather they facilitated a process of discussion and negotiation among us. Their method was to begin each session with a specific question for us to address in small discussion groups – and these questions and responses led logically to the next question and the next session. So the effect was cumulative, while at the same time modeling an effective participatory planning process. The process was highly interactive and forced us to negotiate among ourselves whenever anyone disagreed with anyone else about what our conclusions ought to be. In that way, the process also mediated between the different cultural assumptions and values represented by the people in the room. It was clearly a room full of equals — rather than “advisors” and “counterparts.” And as they say, “the rest is history.

As a result of this experience, I became a strong proponent of more inductive “process approaches” and, over time, designed and ensured the proper implementation of workshops2 and other participatory processes – including extension of such approaches to consultations with intended beneficiaries as well. Nonetheless, I remain disappointed by the fact that, although the number of individual proponents of such methods have increased exponentially during the last thirty years or so, incorporation into the actual operations of larger development assistance agencies remains more rhetorical than operational.



All “Personal Reminiscence” posts are stories told about one or more of my own personal experiences as I remember it. They are true to the best of my ability to recollect them and reflect my view of how they illustrate “lessons learned” from that experience even if one or another aspect of the story as told might not be completely correct in each and every detail. Further, I have done my best to disguise the identity of other persons referred to in these stories, including not using their true names unless references to their presence at that time or circumstance has already been published in other media.

[1]     For anyone who believes that a story about an event or events that occurred 30 or more years ago is too old and irrelevant, I beg to differ. Indeed, an underlying theme of this Blog is that the truth of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr’s aphorism plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (“the more things change, the more they remain the same”) is particularly relevant to the history of international development efforts for the entire period since the end of World War II.

[2]     See Jerry Silverman, Merlyn Kettering, and Terry Schmidt, Action-Planning Workshops for Development Management: Guidelines (Washington, D.C.: World Bank, 1986).

The Problem is the People of Surabaya……NOT!

January 3, 2011

I used to think I was poor. Then they told me I wasn’t poor, I was needy. Then they told me it was self-defeating to think of myself as needy, I was deprived. Then they told me deprived was a bad image, I was underprivileged.  Then they told me underprivileged was overused, I was disadvantaged. I still don’t have a dime. But I sure have a great vocabulary.  Jules Feifer (b. 1929)

On a humid tropical day in Surabaya (Indonesia) more than fifteen years ago, I was in a meeting of City officials, consultants to the City, and World Bank staff discussing why a sewerage and sanitation development program was way behind schedule and what might be done about getting it back on course. Not the most interesting of subjects, but that is the sort of thing which, if done correctly, ought to be what development assistance is all about. Anyway, after several attempts to explain to us ignorant foreigners why this particular program had not moved very far, the senior City Government official present said —

But ‘Pak Jerry, you must understand, the real problem with this project is the PEOPLE of SURABAYA.1

That statement summed up almost everything I believe is wrong with the way the concept of “international development” has been framed and pursued ever since the pre-World War II colonial period; including by “us foreigners.” And that, in turn, provides my primary motivation for creating this new blog “International Development Should…..

Thus, the underlying theme of this Blog is that the problem is NEVER the people of Surabaya — or for that matter other intended beneficiaries of international development efforts. Instead, the problem is that too many government officials and development professionals still think that whatever obstacles they face in alleviating poverty would disappear if only “the people” were smarter, or better trained and educated, or honest, or committed to the “common good”, or less burdened by other deficiencies of intelligence, skills, or character.  That is a refrain that I have heard repeatedly in one form or another while working in more than forty African, Asian, Latin American and Middle Eastern countries over more than four decades.  And to be blunt about it, “it ain’t true.”

This Blog’s theme will be illustrated through posts that range from personal reminiscences, subjective opinions, and data-based objective analyses to my own take on current events that illustrate what “international development” efforts should be about and how they could be improved. At times, the subject of my posts will extend to consideration of broader international issues that I believe are also usefully informed by the conceptual approach advocated here – e.g., “buying hearts and minds” in Afghanistan or understanding inter-state conflicts among “failed states” in Africa. It is my hope that the posts on this Blog provoke readers to think anew about the purpose of international development efforts and alternative approaches to the design, implementation, and evaluation of “international development” projects, programs, and policies.

But who am I to think that I have something to say about such issues? Actually, I hope that the force and logic of my arguments (and the supportive data often provided) will be sufficient to establish the credibility of my posts. But for those who also like to consider the source, I hold a Ph.D. in International Relations-Government (Claremont Graduate University ’67) and have taught at several universities either full-time or as Adjunct. But my primary credentials are as a practitioner of the art of “international development;” including stints as a World Bank Institutional Development Specialist and Regional Unit Manager (1984-1999); Senior Development Specialist, Development Alternatives Inc (DAI) and Technical Assistance Team Leader in Ethiopia, Indonesia, and Egypt (1977/82); Project Specialist in the Ford Foundation’s Southeast Asia Regional Office (1973/75); Institute of Public Administration (IPA) Advisor at the National Institute of Public Administration of what was then the Government of South Viet Nam in what is now Ho Chi Minh City (1972); USAID Foreign Service Officer in Viet Nam (1967/68); and for the last eleven years as an independent consultant to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Bank,

I hope you find this new initiative of sufficient interest to open future Emails (subject “New Post”) that will provide a direct URL link to the contents of each new posting.

With my best wishes for the New Year 2011,



[1]   I first used this story to introduce a paper presented at the Center for International Development, Harvard University (May 4, 2000) and revised for subsequent presentation that same year at the Second Asia Development Forum, Singapore, the USAID Open University in La Paz, Bolivia, and Bolivia’s Universidad de Catolica. Nothing fundamental has changed in the decade since then to change the significance of that story. The version of that earlier paper presented at the Universidad de Bolivia is available at while the original PowerPoint slides presented at the Second Asia Development Forum are available at

[2]   For a list of the countries in which I have had the great privilege of working, see the Biography page of this Blog.

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