Cash transfers: Results of our poll

by Sasha Alyson

Recent years have seen growing interest in a different approach to foreign aid. Instead of giving money to a government or international NGO, why not give it directly to the people you wish to help?

We asked in a Twitter poll: What’s best? But our Twitter followers are people who have chosen to follow an account that is highly critical of most foreign aid. So we ran a parallel poll to a wider audience. And we split it into two groups: Countries that get aid, and countries that give it.

Before you read further, take a guess: Which group do you think will be more in favor of giving directly, through cash transfers?

The Global South: Countries that get aid

This went to 18 countries on 3 continents; the biggest were Indonesia and Nigeria and most responses came from Africa, perhaps because the other areas have smaller English-speaking populations. Here are results and a sampling of comments.

• Send it directly to the poor. Also credible and transparent NGOs won’t be a bad idea.

• It will be chaotic if it went directly to the people, there must be a certain organization on how to manage those funds be it governments or NGOs but there is need for the aid giving nations to do a follow up on how their aids are managed.

• For my country, it won’t be better. Poor people mostly think of having more children when they get the least free money…

• Becuz most of the aid nations leaders individually benefit from it..

• It will be more effective if the funds go directly to the poor. However, a program should be in place aimed at teaching and monitoring how the poor will manage the fund. Else, some will use the funds for irresponsible purposes such as taking a new wife or a funeral ceremony.

• Yes. Especially in a country with a serious corruption problem like our country Kenya.

• One may inadvertently BYPASS “THE POWERS THAT BE”, and that can be unsettling for many political leaders…..

• If you give money to Nigerian government to give to the poor then the whole purpose is defeated…. Corrupt politicians from the Presidency to the least of the political offices will steal that money and still have a proof to show they distributed to the needy. Trust a Nigerian

• Depends if the distribution has an effective plan for the poor that will make them productive and not just a parasite

• We need to stop foreign aid. All of it. All it does is put a bandaid on suffering, and props up horrible governments that should lose at the polls or be overthrown, all because some foreigners think they’re ’helping’. If a government can not sustain itself it should collapse.

• The ANC will steak [?presumably means steal] most of it

• EQUITY BANK rejected my scholarship application which was later accused on corruption within the grassroots leadership after which i missed my chance at the top school. Any aiders should find their way themselves to the grassroots. Thank you…. CASE EXAMPLE. I’m a Kenyan, total orphaned at 12 years. Marist Brothers (foreign agency ) schooled me up to standard 8 because they came within the community and identified me. Afterwards, I passed highly and was to join Alliance High School (top high school in Kenya).

• Thanks, that’s the best way for the poor to get there right full share

• Direct aid to needy won’t work due to several issues like supply chain management, lack of data, local politics, monitoring etc

The Global North: Countries that give aid

This went to six countries that are large aid donors: Australia, Germany, Japan, Sweden, the U.K. and the USA.

• Too complex a thing for a blanket policy, different levels of corruption in different countries. But seeing red cross parcels being sold when they should be given away pretty recently was sickening.

• Surely foreign aid is more complex than that?

• Poverty is about so much more than money. War, political instability, corruption, discrimination, natural disasters, etc. Unfortunately, as I’m continuing to learn from Karma Colonialism, foreign aid also causes poverty. Reforming foreign aid would probably work better.

• On one hand, governments seem to do a terrible job at distributing aid, on the other hand the people getting aid directly will get targeted by criminals and/or corrupt governments.


That’s not an enormous difference (83.3% vs. 54.4% in favor), but big enough to ask what accounts for it. I had expected that people in the South would like this idea; they see first-hand that a lot of aid projects fall well short of what they claim. I didn’t expect that almost a two-to-one majority in the North would also think direct payments were better.

And maybe they don’t. This wasn’t a random selection of people; it was people on Twitter who chose to answer a poll about foreign aid. But I was encouraged that so many are ready to look for better ways to use aid funds.

What about the concerns raised? Would cash transfers make people lazy, or have more babies? This story just reports on survey results. Those questions have been studied and I’ve written about them separately; links are below.

Thanks for your interest in the poll!

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