Around the world every year, nations urgently need assistance to cope with natural disasters, refugees, famines. Such chronic urgencies for ‘‘foreign aid’’ tend to drive out actions aimed at achieving crucial goals for long-term economic development. Just as these pressures affect all donors of foreign assistance, they undermine the capacity- building essential in all developing countries. The program of the US Agency for Development (AID) is a prime example of the distortions that result. Past priorities in foreign assistance on enhancing science and technology, and on nurturing human capital, now rate much less attention. Yet progress in S&T is central for economic growth, and historical trends show that the path to innovation demands multiple incentives rewarding autonomy, diversity, and experiment within the private sector.
Further, development must be bolstered—over decades—by patiently reinforcing and building the educational and technological institutions of the recipient of ‘‘aid.’’ Accordingly, this article proposes that AID appoint an S&T Adviser and establish a $50 million R&D effort. And it is also imperative to restore an emphasis on human capital throughout AID’s strategy.
To do this well means conducting rigorous evaluations of results and responding thoughtfully to the priorities seen by the recipients of aid.