Rajiv Shah Sounds Good to Me

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Spencer Ackerman reports on considerable internal disgruntlement with Barack Obama’s choice of Rajiv Shah as new head of USAID. You can see where the complaints are coming from, but they also seem pretty unconvincing to me:

Another USAID contractor, in an email forwarded to TWI, had a mixed reaction. The contractor said it was “exciting to see a relatively young, brilliant man take the reigns and perhaps steer [government] aid in a revised direction” and praised the nominee’s management experience. But the contractor, reflecting a sentiment expressed in several of the emails, said Shah’s nomination was “yet another (or maybe a stronger) indication that Obama is shifting from nation building/good governance to heath care and food security initiatives. This may not bode well for D&G,” a shorthand for development and governance.

Foreign aid has a very mixed track record. On the one hand, great things have been achieved in the past in the field of public health and famine prevention. On the other hand, efforts to produce sustained economic growth and foster good governance have tended to fail. Under the circumstances focusing the efforts of an under-resourced aid agency on the fields of endeavor where we know aid can do good and alleviate human suffering seems like a perfectly reasonable choice.