Foreign aid quality

Denmark prides itself on giving a large proportion of its GDP as foreign aid to poor countries. But is there a trade-off between quality and quantity?

Follies rise amid Afghan ruins

By Rachel Morarjee and Stephen Fidler

It was a showcase project to demonstrate the benefits of renewable energy: a fountain and a display of coloured lights at a traffic island in Kabul run from solar panels. The project was small – but significant enough to attract a handful of foreign and local notables to its official opening in December 2005.

All seemed to be well during the opening ceremony. But soon after the dignitaries left, the fountain was switched off, never to work again. In fact, things were not as they seemed: the fountain had been powered not by solar energy but by a diesel generator hidden nearby. The solar panels were never powerful enough to run the fountain, say people associated with the project, and there was no electricity storage to allow the lights to be turned on at night.

The project, managed by the Asian Development Bank and financed ostensibly by Denmark, represents to some a microcosm of the failings of aid to Afghanistan […]

The article in Financial Times (subscription necessary) goes on to discuss two other project of similar quality.

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