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Development assistance, a wheel to Basotho nation’s poverty

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres


Feb. 24, 2020 4 min read

Politicians know this truth and for them aid is their political backing - a weapon they use to buy votes and open doors for the few powerful but at what cost? A question everyone should ask is why a country which despite over 50 years of independence with a maintained record of poor performance economically continues to be aided with revolutionising reasons all centered on a boost to its economy, development, and disease control?

Contrary to what aid is said to achieve which is redistribution of wealth from the rich to the poor, unemployment is skyrocketing at 23.5% according to Trading Economics with poverty rate being 49.7% with 75% of the population either poor or vulnerable to poverty according to Lesotho Poverty Assessment Report.

The education system that has teachers reproached for lack of motivation depicted by 2019 whole year retreat and poor final examination results, deteriorating services at health facilities as well as escalating cases of crime and human trafficking all question allegation in functionality of what development aid claims to achieve.

According to The Inconvenient Truth About Foreign Aid Article by David Sogge “for recipients, aid has been a very mixed blessing, but for donors it's been a blessing”.

Cost attached to acquisition of aid include having to become a member state, membership of which coming at a financial cost according to the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) Articles of Agreement where there has to be financial inducement in a form of membership fee, subscriptions and share capital, the amounts of hardly revealed to taxpayers. In essence aid obtained as development assistance is in actual fact a loan, payment methods and conditions of which also never revealed.

Lesotho, seemingly a donor dependent country has been a recipient of aid from a number of international donors few of which being International Fund for Agricultural Development and World Food Programme (WFP) from The World Bank Group, health and disaster assistances from Unites states Agency International Development (USAID), social protection and child grants from European Union Assistance (EU), Clinton Foundation assistance for HIV/AIDS under IRISH AID, Millennium Challenge Account under United Nations Development Assistance Programme (UNDP) and the recently received Economic Diversification Support Technical Assistance Project from The African Development Bank Group.

“Under vigorous donor pressure, poor countries have poured trillions of dollars into Western Banks under rationale of self-insurance” stated Sogge. This says before aid is acquired there should first be huge credit in the accounts of Western Banks from poor countries citizens, which predisposes them with a prospect of having to survive on debt under a huge debit balance in their accounts, a system not different to that of loan sharks and a reverse flow of capital which according to Sogge essentially means that savings in emerging markets are being recycled in ways that put the responsibility of allocating that capital in the hands of a few financial decision makers, sitting at the apex of a concentrated global financial systems.

Poverty in Lesotho Ranks One of Highest in the World

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Lesotho rural areas

Much as it is claimed that aid is intended to redistribute wealth from the rich to the poor, re distribution in actual fact is from the poor to the rich. There is evidence that there are countries such as China and Vietnam which reduced poverty significantly with almost no western aid while aid dependent countries such as Lesotho and Malawi have fared badly for years despite the fact that they have continuously been receiving aid.

United Kingdom International Development Secretary Harriet Harman said “development abroad is in our national interest:”

According to development economist William Easterly aid is “the dirty secret”. Helps governments to win and maintain legitimacy. For Donors, giving aid helps government to look good in diplomatic forums while encouraging tax payers to feel good about their generosity. Donors use aid to gain footholds for their industries. Development aid has also been reported to be intended to alleviate the threats to populations within the donor state. Foreign aid brings thousands of students from poorer countries to study at universities in Europe and North America, with fees absorbing more than 3 billion dollars in aid; all of it spend in donor countries but conditions of such aid endured at donor aided poor countries such as Lesotho.

Aid always comes with conditions, ties and policies that are usually suitable for investors derailing a donor receiving country to selloffs of public property, weaker protection of labor rights and environmental safeguards and taxes shifted from foreign flows to domestic sources in the name of tax sweetening for foreign firms. Behind what would be depicted as low risk and low cost loans packaged with insurance and market advice would be job creation opportunities for donor countries members in a name of providing skilled work force and knowledge investment. This is a reason why most services in Lesotho are supply driven and not demand driven because it has become impossible to control development partners.

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