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David Hoekema


Why Aid (Often) Doesn't Work

A modest report.

The story told in this sometimes dense monograph unfolds along familiar lines. Residents of the three major cities of an African country lack a reliable water supply even though all the pieces are in place: treatment plant, delivery pipes, and a government oversight agency. A European government responds by allocating funds to its international development bank, which in turn contracts with consulting and engineering firms to assess the problems, propose solutions, and carry them out.

Soon the work begins. Reports are written, project management timelines submitted and approved, allocations adjusted, extensions granted. All is done decently and in order, following the rulebook. But as each deadline approaches, the targets are farther away than ever. Early accomplishments prove in retrospect to have been illusory. Years after the initial completion date, many project goals are abandoned as unreachable, funding is cut off, and the consultants and engineers go home. And water continues to trickle out of some of the pipes, some of the time.

This is a development project of the 1990s, and everyone takes care to avoid neocolonialist errors of the past—relying on purely technical solutions, for example, and ignoring cultural differences. An experienced anthropologist from an lite university, Edward Drotlevski, is hired to implement appropriate cultural adjustments to the African context. In his reports, included here, we trace the project's halting progress. Another anthropologist, Samuel Martinosi, is an independent project advisor. The book includes both of their reports: Drotlevski recounts events as they unfold, while Martinosi describes the inherent conflicts and contradictions of organizational behavior that are revealed. For Drotlovski—and for the development banker and the consultant whose brief reports are also included—the project's failure to attain any of its major goals is a source of frustration and regret. For Martinosi, it is the predictable ...

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