Nigeria,as a developing country, is faced with different socioeconomic challenges suchas high level of unemployment, low level of income and high poverty level tomention a few. For this reasons, foreign aid has been proposed as a veritablealternative for balancing the insufficient domestic resources and solving theissue of development.
However, it has been observed that several misconceptionssurround the reasons and motives behind foreign aid. The flow of foreign aidinto a country is influenced by certain factors, goals and objectives. Thesegoals and objectives need to be fully understood and carefully scrutinizedbefore a country should accept aid. Although it is believed that the centralidea of giving aid is to promote economic development and welfare of developingcountries, Todaro (1989) realised that there is no historical evidence thatover time, donors render assistance or aid to recipient countries withoutexpecting some form of benefit (political, economic, military) in return.
It istherefore advisable for developing countries to be well informed of the reasonsand motives behind foreign aid before accepting it. By so doing, the countrywill be able to determine the present and future aid flows which is a verysignificant aspect of foreign aid. Moreover, the objectives of foreign aid, toa great extent, also influence the nature of foreign aid given to a state whichhelps in determining the effectiveness and impact of foreign aid.
It is thedonors who give aid to the recipient and for this reason, the objectives offoreign aid are from the donors’ perspective. For better understanding, theseobjectives have been classified into three major categories; i. Political Objective:This is assumed to be the primary objective behindmost foreign aid given by donor states. This is justified by Chenery H.
B. whoobserved, “… this complex of mechanisms has been shaped more by desires andpolitical requirements of the donor countries than by the needs and performanceof the recipients”. This means that donor countries have political reasonsattached to the aids they give. Foreign aid is a tool for statecraft; it can beused to influence regimes and promote friendly relations. Foreign aid is, mosttimes, given to those recipient nations who have close political ties with thedonors.
Donors use the promise of aid or its withdrawal to influence policydecisions in recipient countries (Wall, 2002). Hjertholm and White write that,”the development objectives of aid programs have been distorted by the use ofaid for donor commercial and political advantage” Furthermore, foreign aid isgiven as a means to instil the political ideologies of donor states todeveloping nations as well as for diplomatic purposes. ii. Economic objectives:Foreign aidobjectives shifted from merely being for political purposes to economic goalswhen the Cold War ended. This change in attitude of the former European mastersto their former colonies took place in the 19th Century. The BritishCommonwealth of nations and the French community are the best examples of thischange (Mikesell, 1968). Economic objectives also serve to strengthen nationalobjectives of the states involved.
International trade, therefore, is very much involved. (Radalet, 2006:7)states that foreign aid is meant to meet at least one of four broad economicand development objectives, which are;a. Tostimulate economic growth through building infrastructure, supportingproductive sectors such as agriculture, or bringing new ideas and technology;b.
Tostrengthen education, health, environment or political systems;c. Tosupport subsistence consumption of food and other commodities, especiallyduring relief operations or humanitarian crises; ord. Tohelp stabilize an economy following economic shocksHowever, the generally accepted economic objectives offoreign aid are poverty reduction, increasing savings, investment and rate ofgrowth of Gross National Product (GNP) in developing countries. This all sums up to the rich nations helpingthe ones often classified as “Third World states” to develop economicallythrough the use of foreign aid. However, the less conspicuous but predominantobjective of giving foreign aid by the donor countries is to earn more byselling more in return for aid given. This is the economic and commercial objectiveof aid giving in the true sense. In the book, the ‘Economics of Aid’, Heasleyobserved that “capital flows in the form of loans at rates of interest whichexceed the rate of return on investment in the lending country clearly benefitthe lender commercially, but capital flows of this kind do not constitute aidin the real sense” iii.
Humanitarian objectives:Aid is not trulyaid if it is not based on moral as well as humane grounds too. There areapproximately seven (7) billion people in the world and it is quite unfair andunfortunate that only one third of these people enjoy a decent standard ofliving while the remaining two third wallow in abject poverty. The world is nowregarded as a global village where each person has automatically assumed the responsibilityof being their brother’s keeper. One of the major achievements of civilisationis the widening interest and concerns among states whereby the richer nationshave taken a sort of big brother role to their poorer counterparts and nowregard a certain level of poverty in a country as intolerable. Former colonialmasters, most especially, feel a sense of moral obligation to uplift theirformer colonies from poverty, diseases, hunger and ignorance. Aid is sometimesconcerned with the plight and sufferings of humanity. Apart from being a moralduty to help fellow human beings to develop their faculties, it is also in theinterest of the international community (that is, everyone) that humanresources are fully developed, so that instead of being a drain to the world’sresources, they may contribute to their growth (Byres T. J.
). Aid flows cantherefore be said to be dominated by humanitarian objectives in most cases ofrelief. This objective depicts aid giving in line with the long enlightenedinterest of donor countries as ideal. This is the least selfish objective ofthe three. This is the objective behind many INGOs and United Nations and somestates.