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Chronicle

Is the general perception of Swedish development assistance realistic?

Sweden has dedicated its development aid budget to fighting poverty and creating better conditions for people living in poverty to change their lives. I have heard of people who think that the development assistance budget goes to corrupt countries, but what is the general perception of development assistance in Sweden?

In 2021, SEK 46,8 million of Sweden's tax funds will go to international aid. The overall goal of international aid is, among other things, to support democracy and human rights. When I wrote my master's thesis, I interviewed an employee at Sida who felt that the public had suspicions that Sweden's international aid goes to corrupt governments, so I investigated the issue further. In 2019, Concord published some common myths about Sweden's international aid such as "aid goes to corrupt countries", "the state has no control over aid money" or that "aid is ineffective". 

A majority of Swedes actually have confidence in aid according to Sida's opinion poll from 2020, with 62 per cent fully or completely or partially agreeing that development aid contributes to a better world. The respondents also have the highest confidence in Swedish voluntary organizations, which received 3,39 out of 5 points, while Sida received an average rating of 3,11 out of 5. In general, public confidence has increased since opinion polls began in 1996, but surveys have also shown a markedly higher level of skepticism among men than among women.  

It is difficult to examine whether aid funds go to corruption due to the dark figure, however The World Bank investigated  the proportion of corruption in development assistance in 2007 to 2012. They reviewed projects within a type of organization and measured its size. Then corruption was discovered in 0,1 percent of their projects. Sweden operates in a number of countries that are corrupt, but international aid has many times counteracted corruption. Side describes in its annual report for 2020 what purposes the development assistance has been for and how effective it has been. Swedish development assistance is affected by the prevailing public debate and foreign policy, as are many other budget areas. It changes as needed and according to the priorities of the current foreign policy.

This is a chronicle. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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