LKY School Essay Competition 2008

Our winners

  • 1st prize winner: Martin Stavenhagen, “What’s Wrong With ODA Today? The Paris Declaration and Lessons Learned from the EU ‘Asia Urbs’ Project in Cambodia” [Click here to download essay]
  • 2nd prize winner: Allen Lai, “Stretching the Official Development Assistance More Effectively by Aid Means Testing: A Paradigm Shift of Incentive Structure in Aid Policy”
  • 3rd prize winner: Coco Wang Dan, “ODA: To Serve or to Assist? Reviewing Belgium Vietnamese Credit Project”

Theme: Official Development Assistance (ODA): Can it Be Fixed?

Over the past sixty years, official development assistance (ODA) has often been seen as a major avenue for addressing poverty and other social, economic and environmental challenges in the developing world. Yet, there is now a growing global recognition that a lot of ODA has failed to fulfil its mission. The world of ODA is astonishingly diverse, taking numerous forms, including capital transfers (grants or loans), in-kind assistance and technical assistance, among others. Donor countries have traditionally been those of the ‘developed’ world, which ostensibly aim to promote the development and welfare of poorer, ‘developing’ countries. However, even this distinction is beginning to blur. Some countries still considered ‘developing’, such as China, have chosen to become donors also.

The scale of ODA is either staggeringly large or pitifully inadequate, depending on one’s viewpoint. During the period 2000 – 2008, the total amount of ODA was estimated at approximately USD818 billion. In 2007 alone, the OECD reported a total of USD103 billion. Total ODA flows typically amount to less than 0.5 percent of the GDP of rich countries, even though the OECD countries have pledged to deliver 0.7 percent as ODA. These figures do not include debt relief packages, formal and informal remittances, aid delivered through non-official channels or transfers from non-official sources.

Despite decades of ODA flows, poverty remains a serious challenge to many countries in the developing world. Even where levels of absolute poverty have declined, rising inequalities and other social and environmental problems often threaten to undermine these developing countries. It remains debatable whether such stresses are a sign that ODA has failed or that more ODA is needed.

The global debate on the value and impact of ODA has risen significantly. Hence, the world of ODA may be experiencing a crisis of confidence. Alternatively, depending on one’s viewpoint, it could be argued that we are reaching an exceptionally creative moment, as pronouncements from many quarters of the globe:

  • seek to redefine the role of donor governments and donor organizations;
  • call for the radical restructuring of the development aid architecture, e.g. to make it more transparent and accountable, or to shift from loans to grants;
  • seek the abolition of particular donor organizations altogether;
  • provide for alternative forms of development assistance that exhibit better promise for delivering impact; and
  • address socio-economic imbalances without soliciting the assistance of development organizations.

To help this global debate, the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy is pleased to announce its first essay competition with the general theme: Official Development Assistance (ODA): Can It Be Fixed?

The competition is seeking action-oriented essays that:

  • Provide insights (with examples) into cases where development assistance is judged by the writer(s) to have been successful orto have failed (or some combination thereof), laying out the reasons and criteria underlying that evaluation;
  • Propose some innovative, workable solutions to make development assistance more effective and/or alternative approaches that would work better than development assistance.


All LKYSPP past and present students at the masters and doctoral levels (including those in double degree programs and exchange students from our partner institutions) are eligible to submit entries.


  • Essays should not exceed 3000 words (excluding tables, charts, and references) and should be accompanied by a 300-word abstract
  • Essays may have up to three authors
  • Essays must be double-spaced, in Times New Roman font (size 12)
  • Normal academic standards and conventions regarding footnotes, references, etc. fully apply
  • Essays must be the original work of the author(s)


  • First prize, certificate and cash award of SGD1200
  • Second prize, certificate and cash award of SGD600
  • Third prize, certificate and a cash award of SGD300
  • All prize winners, a private dinner at the home of Dean Kishore Mahbubani
  • Winning essays will be featured on the LKYSPP website and published by the School


The deadline for submission is 1 January 2009. Send a softcopy addressed to Dr Kenneth Paul Tan at decb64_c3BwY2ZrbUBudXMuZWR1LnNn_decb64, giving the following details:

  • Authors’ names (identify lead author, if applicable)
  • Contact details, including email addresses, telephone numbers, and fax numbers
  • Corresponding address

Useful Resources

LKY School Seminar: “Improving Aid Effectiveness To Promote Development” (4 November 2008)
Dr Shahid Zahid [ decb64_c3phaGlkQGFkYi5vcmc=_decb64]
Principal Planning and Policy Economist
Strategy and Policy Department, Asian Development Bank