Interview for Danish daily on Danish Development Support Approach
Denmark recently appointed a new government and thus also a new Minister for Development, Mr. Christian Friis Bach. During his first week in office he launched a new approach to Danish development support. A step which caused a fierce debate among Danish politicians, NGOs and development professionals.
I was interviewed yesterday for the Danish daily, Jyllandsposten (inserted below followed by a translated version of the Danish article):
Tanzania: Yes, to block grants – if…
Zitto Kabwe, one of the leading opposition politicians in Tanzania says yes to a development support with less demands from Denmark. But on the condition that parlamentarians and independent, local organizations (NGOs) get a share of the money.
By LARS FROM
With 727 millions DKK in assistance from Denmark Tanzania last year received the majority of the Danish development assistance. The country’s maybe next Minister of Finance, Zitto Kabwe, from the opposition party Chadema (Party for Democracy and Development) welcomes Denmark’s new Minister for Development, Christian Friis Bach’s, approach in regard of allowing developing countries to decide what the total 16 billion DKK, which Denmark annually gives in foreign aid, should be used for.
“It’s a good idea to give developing countries control of donor money. But it must be combined with strengthening both parliament and independent, local organizations” states Zitto Kabwe, designated as “Shadow Finance Minister,” and who may have the important post as Minister of Finance, if the opposition wins the next election.
“Today, the parliaments in most African countries are very weak. Therefore it is also essential, along with a conversion to general budget support to reinforce the local parliaments and organizations so they can keep governments accountable in regard of how money is spend. Otherwise, a portion of the money will be wasted.”
Zitto Kabwe suggests that using a fifth of support from the rich countries to strengthen parliaments and local NGOs, while the developíng countries’ own governments will be responsible themselves for distributing the remaining 80 per cent.
“We have to assure that Danish tax payers’ money is not wasted. In this way one can guarantee that there will greater transparency and control of money – while we get a greater accountability – because if the government is allowed to distribute money itself it will thus feel a much greater sense of ownership for the entire development,” says the Tanzanian politician.
The money disappears
According to Zitto Kabwe about 30 percent of public donor funds disappear in Tanzania and are not accounted for. And in a country, which annually receives 8 -10 billions DKK in foreign aid from different countries, it really is a lot of money.
“By giving ourselves the responsibility the waste will be much smaller, and we will get more out of money,” he assesses.
Zitto Kabwe also believes in the idea of a greater level to support local citizens’ rights which Christian Friis Bach also announced – it corresponds well with giving a higher degree of responsibility for foreign aid to developing countries themselves.
“It’s a good idea to increase the support to local people and independent organizations. In this way, the poor people have far better opportunities to be heard. But the message must communicated clearly from Denmark, otherwise you risk that the project fails. “
In contrast to the Danish Minister for Development the only 35-year-old Zitto Kabwe does not believe that it necessarily will lead to more demonstrations and provide more turmoil to strengthen local residents and organizations.
Criticism from the Danish Liberal Party
Christian Friis Bach’s announcements have created a fierce debate. In parliament, the Danish Liberal Party called the Minister for Development in consultation the representative Jakob Ellemann Jensen (The Liberal Party) informs:
“On the one hand, the Minister expresses the wish that he will increase block grants to developing countries and then leave it up to the countries themselves to decide what the money is for. On the other hand, he says he will be a “minister for rights” and promote civil rights. Thus it may not be such a good idea to give money to governments’’, says Jacob Ellemann- Jensen.
“In the Danish Liberal Party we would also like to give developing countries greater participation in order to avoid paternalism. But I find it difficult seeing how the announcement from Christian Friis Bach works.