Special Event

Is It Inevitable That Foreign Aid Can No Longer Reduce Overall Poverty Levels?

Jan 13, 2009 - 08:30 pm to 10:00 pm UTC

Commentary from 55 Years of Experience

In most Asian countries, the proportion of the population in poverty has declined dramatically. Poverty reduction was most rapid in the 1970s and 1980s during the Green Revolution, and was greatly assisted by foreign aid. Sub-Saharan Africa also experienced a decade of declining poverty levels – primarily in the 1960s.

In the past several decades, however, low-income countries have not experienced any measurable improvement in poverty or food security, and their agricultural sectors have generally not performed well, either. This has occurred despite a number of favorable global trends: improved terms of trade for primary-product exports and massive increases in global capital flows (excluding the current severe recession), generally more open economies and trade regimes, breakthroughs in the basic science on which increased agricultural productivity is based, and greatly expanded knowledge of growth and poverty-reduction processes.

Part of the reason that low-income countries have met with limited success in terms of poverty reduction and agricultural growth is that there have been major changes in foreign aid allocations and operating procedures in recent years.

This presentation will discuss the nature of those changes, specify what actions are required to jump start poverty reduction, and discuss the likelihood of those actions being carried out.

John Mellor is currently President of John Mellor Associates, Inc., a policy consulting firm. Prior to that he was Vice-President of Abt Associates, Director of the International Food Policy Research Institute, and Chief Economist of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID.) At Cornell University he was Professor of Economics, Agricultural Economics and Asian Studies, Director of the Comparative Economics Program and the Center for International Studies. He was a visiting Professor at the American University, Beirut, and Balwant Rajput College, India. He was the recipient of the Wihuri Prize (Finland) and the Presidential Award (The White House, USA) for efforts to alleviate hunger in the World and is an elected Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the American Agricultural Economics Association. He is the recipient of numerous awards for the quality of his research, the author and co-author of nine books, and hundreds of journal articles and conference papers.