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How Can Developing Countries Pay for the SDGs?

With official development assistance under strain, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals will require developing countries to rely increasingly on their own resources. To that end, they should implement strong institutional constraints on executive authority.

MANCHESTER – With objectives as far-reaching as ending poverty in all its forms and delivering quality education to all by 2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are highly ambitious – much more ambitious than their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals. Whether or not the world achieves them will depend crucially on money – particularly public finance.

Traditionally, official development assistance (ODA) would play a pivotal role in financing an agenda like the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, which encompasses the 17 SDGs. But at a time when nationalist rhetoric and isolationist policies are gaining traction in some of the world’s biggest traditional donor countries – beginning with the United States – ODA will not be sufficient.

In fact, foreign aid has remained flat, at best, in the last few years – and there is no increase in sight. On the contrary, the specter of global recession – heightened by US President Donald Trump’s trade war – makes a reduction in donor governments’ revenues, together with increased domestic demand for public spending, a distinct possibility. None of this bodes well for foreign aid flows.