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The Mullah-Led Development Model

A longstanding debate in economics – and among social scientists more broadly – centers on how best to deliver international aid to developing countries. A response from the Islamic world may hold important lessons for devising the best way forward.

ISLAMABAD – A longstanding debate in economics – and among social scientists more broadly – centers on how best to deliver international aid to developing countries. Should these countries’ governments rely on top-down wisdom from donor capitals? Or should they focus more on funding bottom-up solutions dictated by recipients?

With the Trump administration proposing to cut the US State Department’s budget and reduce the amount of money various US agencies allocate to the world’s poorest, this debate is taking on a new urgency. And a response from the Islamic world – the recipient of much of America’s aid in recent years – may hold important lessons for devising the best way forward.

Simply put, Western countries’ current approach is not working. This can be seen most clearly in my country, Pakistan. Despite massive increases in aid dollars in recent years, including billions authorized by former President Barack Obama, those of us on the ground are largely cut out of the delivery process. There are roughly 70 separate local aid offices and 40 international NGOs involved in providing aid to Pakistanis. But most decisions about how to spend the money they receive are made outside the country.

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