New study compares Czech foreign aid to that provided by world’s richest countries

Commitment to Development Aid Index, source: Center for Global Development

The Czech Republic annually spends some 430 million crowns, or more than 22 million US dollars, on foreign development aid which is much less than some of the richest countries provide. But a new study by the Prague-based CERGE-EI institute looks at the issue from a different angle: using the methodology of the Commitment to Development Aid Index, as deigned by the US Centre for Global Development, the study compared the Czech Republic to 22 most developed countries and found that Czech aid programmes ranked 20th, ahead of Switzerland, Japan and South Korea. RP spoke to one of the authors of the study, Petr Janský.

Petr Janský,  photo: Czech Television
“The Commitment to Development Aid Index is basically a public policy tool developed the influence the policies of rich countries which affect the well-being of people living in poor countries.

“The index was developed by the Washington DC-based think tank, the Centre for Global Development which regularly computes the index for 22 rich countries.

The Czech Republic is unfortunately not included in the list although it is one of the richest countries. So what my colleague Zuzana Řehořová and I did here at CERGE-EI, is that we computed the index for the Czech Republic for the first time.”

You found that compared to the 22 richest countries, the Czech Republic ranked 20th. Why did we rank so low?

“Well, it’s a question whether it’s so low or so high. We can leave the interpretation to the readers or listeners. The positive news is that we are, at least in some respects, comparable to rich countries.

“It’s not very surprising that we are one of the worst-ranked countries because we are not as rich as for example some Scandinavian countries and we also lack the traditions and institutions for development policy.

“Another important thing is that we are more comparable in some respects in our approach to developing countries, and less so in others. For example, in the dimension of development aid – which is only one of the seven areas the index takes into account – we are one of the lowest ranked countries. But in other areas, such as environment, we do relatively well and we are above average.”

When we look at the development cooperation criterion – what does it mean? Does it only take into account the volume of money that goes into foreign aid?

Commitment to Development Aid Index,  source: Center for Global Development
“It is based on more aspects than just money. One of the key messages of the index is that development is more than aid, and aid is more than money. So in the computation of this area of the index, we don’t only take into account the money but also the choice of the recipient countries, and what projects are supported there.

“For example, the least developed countries are evaluated as those with biggest need, and if the Czech Republic devoted more funds to countries, let’s say, in Africa, than to countries in Eastern Europe, then it might score better in the index.”

Your report seems to question the Czech government’s choice of recipients. The government set down some six or seven countries as priority destinations for Czech development aid including Bosnia and Herzegovina, Moldova, and others.

But you also note that being a post-communist country gives it an advantage in helping some of the poorer Eastern European countries. So is it good or bad that we focus on this region and are not helping as much some of the poorest countries in the world?

“I think you answered your question yourself. On the one hand, we should devote more attention to the poorest countries. On the other hand, we have some comparative advantages in helping countries that are in similar situation we were in 20 years ago.

“So these are some hard decisions for the Czech government to make, and it will hopefully consider both points of view and comes up with a priority list of countries that is well thought-through.”

The Czech Republic ranked well in the areas of international trade and environment. What do these two criteria cover?

“Well, I don’t think we have enough time to go into much detail here. But for example, the trade index is mostly based on data the Czech government does not have influence over. Most international trade policies are decided on EU level and the score in this component is affected by that. So the relatively good score here reflects the policies of the EU. However, there is still room for improvement, for example in agriculture.

Commitment to Development Aid Index,  source: Center for Global Development
As for the environment, it partly reflects the fact that the computation takes into account historical data, and over the last 20 years, we have made a great improvement.”

The index considers Slovakia to be a developing country which has an effect on another criterion – migration. One of the components here considers the numbers of foreign students at Czech universities but here, the majority of them here are Slovak. So when you at the overall score in migration, what does it say about the actual government policies?

“That’s one of the down sides of the computation of the index for the Czech Republic. This component considers all countries with the exception of those included in the index as developing, so Slovak students studying in the Czech Republic increase the Czech score although it does not really make a good sense. But this should improve in the next version of the index which will come out next month. The good news is that it will also publish the results for the Czech Republic and other Visegrad countries including Slovakia. So this problem will be removed.”

Comparing the Czech Republic to other Central and Eastern European countries would probably be more telling. Do you have any estimates on how we do when compared to others in the region?

“I saw some preliminary results which I cannot give you now. But it seems we do well when compared to these countries. But as you say, it should be more helpful to policy makers here when they see the comparison with the countries in the regions because it might seem far-fetched to compare ourselves to let’s say Norway.”