In a Globe and Mail article yesterday, McGill’s Professor Chris Ragan highlights the value of giving money in a focused way to development projects. He singles out the 60 million girls Foundation as an example of a charity taking an effective approach to development. He writes that:
The 60 million girls Foundation “focuses on a crucial problem, carefully screens projects for those with the biggest chance of success, selects partners with a proven track record, follows up to assess the projects’ performance, and is operated entirely by volunteers. There are no salaries or overhead: Only 1 per cent of the money they raise is spent on administration. How many charities can make this claim?”
Professor Ragan points out that it was a Canadian Prime Minister, Lester B. Pearson, who advanced the idea for what is now a universally acknowledged foreign aid contribution goal: 0.7% of GDP from developed nations to those in need. Canada, he states, currently gives 0.3% of GDP. Though even this amount comes under scrutiny, he writes, due in part to disagreements among economists as to the best way to approach development. While some advocate boosting aid spending, others wish to see it curtailed.
Jeffery Sachs, a professor at Columbia University, wrote in his book, The End of Poverty, that raising foreign aid is an important first step to getting countries on to the first rung of the development ladder, Professor Ragan notes. Yet on the other side of the spectrum, Dambisa Moyo, formerly of Goldman Sachs, is of the view that foreign aid simply fuels corruption, hindering development.
Finding the middle ground, William Easterly espouses the view that small, targeted projects are the way forward.
One area where all find common ground, however, is that investment in girls and women pays off. And as Professor Ragan says:
“Educated girls are more likely to marry later and have fewer children, thus slowing the enormous pressures created by rapid population growth. Married women who are employed are more likely to control the household finances, resulting in less money being spent on alcohol and other wasteful male distractions and more being spent on children’s education and health. In poor countries, as in richer ones, education and health are keys to future success.”
There is no arguing with that. Educating girls is a vital component to any development strategy.