How much does aid really matter to poorer countries’ development? Much less than donor countries would like to think, argues Stefan Dercon in his important and well-received 2022 book Gambling on Development – although its impact is not nothing, either.
In the book, Stefan compares country experiences, arguing that countries develop strongly when their leaders and elites reach a shared vision for their country's development, and bet on its success—though the outcome cannot be guaranteed. This vision and its implementation he dubs a “development bargain.” What matters for development is national leadership, politics, and policies. But if domestic matters are crucial, what is the role of outsiders?
Aid is not central to his argument, the core of which concerns domestic leadership and politics. This is not necessarily the most welcome message for those concerned with directing foreign aid, which is subject to increasing scepticism, with persistent threats to cut budgets.
If aid works best where development bargains have been struck, what should aid do in such cases? More importantly, what should aid do in countries that lack a development bargain?
A year on from Gambling on Development’s publication, ODI journal Development Policy Review, invited Stefan and 7 academics and practitioners from the global south to debate his thesis, in a written symposium special issue with thought-provoking results. It’s been one of DPR’s most downloaded collections and as a result we’re hosting this live event to discuss some of the questions raised.
While attendance in person is by invitation only, there may be space to accommodate additional guests. Please email [email protected] to express your interest for in person attendance, and we will be in touch to confirm if there is space. To watch this event live online, please register here.
Professor of Economic Policy at the Blavatnik School of Government and the Economics Department, University of Oxford, and Director of the Centre for the Study of African Economies
Managing Director, ODI
CEO, Development Reimagined
Founder, Sharing Strategies, Dalberg Catalyst
Chief Executive, ODI