Mohammad Ali, Islamabad.
Who is accountable?
The world is still reeling from the shock of the Panama leaks, which have revealed the enormous scale of the corruption and tax-dodging problem facing the world. Multilateral development agencies like the IMF and the World Bank have been quick to admit the need to address these problems and have stressed the need to prevent tax flows and the accumulation of ill-gotten wealth within developing countries in particular, in order to address lingering problems of widespread poverty and lacklustre growth. The need to improve accountability and transparency are evident measures, which can help prevent the sorts of problems highlighted by the Panama leaks, yet many multilateral and bilateral aid agencies themselves need to put their own houses in order as well. While the World Bank emphasises transparency within developing countries, it is not a very accountable institution itself, given its lopsided governance structures, which remain dominated by powerful countries, particularly the U.S. Nor is the World Bank very accountable when its policy prescriptions of instigating growth or alleviating poverty go sour. Foreign aid provided by bilateral aid agencies is also quite problematic. Major bilateral donors, including European countries and the U.S. do not always provide aid to the developing world on the basis of need. In fact, if need were the basis for qualifying for aid, it would be the poorest countries in the world which would be recipients of most of the aid. Aid statistics repeatedly show that this is not the case. Instead, international aid continues to be used as a legitimate tool to exert influence over much of the developing world.