Easterly’s arguments against foreign assistance seem to imply that these programs only enrich corrupt officials, and should be ceased altogether. There is little to suggest this is true. Working in weak states such as Afghanistan always runs a risk of corruption because of the absence of the rule of law and democratic institutions, but turning away from such countries also risks breeding extremism and undoing the gains that have been made. In fact, one of the key difficulties in preventing corruption and increasing transparency and accountability is the lack of funding to install better monitoring and evaluation programs, as well as personnel capable of providing more oversight where needed.
Administrator Shah seemingly might be the first to agree with some of Mr. Easterly’s critiques of the current situation involving a lack of transparency surrounding USAID projects, but this makes it even more important that the broader development community seize this opportunity to strengthen the ability of USAID to hold itself more accountable through an increased focus on transparency and increased investment in monitoring and evaluation.