Yesterday, I interviewed former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist about his new project with ONE Vote ’08 — the effort to push aid for poverty relief into the presidential campaign. Senator Frist spent a half-hour discussing the topic for the benefit of CQ Radio listeners, and I asked him a number of questions about how to avoid yet another Band-Aid application of aid. Based on these questions and similar ones from other interviews, he responded on his blog this afternoon:
Governments must now be accountable for the assistance they receive . . . and when they fail to meet those accountability standards, America shifts resources to the private sector and non-governmental organizations to meet local needs. But those governments that demonstrate the effective use of funds are more likely to receive future assistance – a good incentive to use funding wisely.
And debt forgiveness can enable governments to spend billions of dollars each year on solving problems that would otherwise attract U.S. foreign aid for years to come. In other words, a small investment in debt forgiveness or financial assistance up front can save huge investments down the road.
On the other hand, as David reminded us during the same show, calling literally from the Gambian jungle, what Africa needs is basic infrastructure. They need sewage systems, clean water, and electricity. Aid can provide that, but it has to be a massive, focused program that gives Africa the building blocks of modernity it utterly lacks throughout most of the continent.
Be sure to read all of Senator Frist’s response.