According to Eric Sidgwick, the Country Director in Cambodia of the Asian Development Bank, civil servants attend a training because they get paid for it. No, they don’t come because the training is so interesting, or because they will gain new knowledge and skills. They don’t come because they will be able to do their jobs better or to serve their citizens more effective. None of that, they only come because of the money. That view raises some interesting questions.
What is the value of a training to someone who needs to get paid for attendance? How much will people actually learn from a training when they are not interested in the content? Probably not much, so why would the Development Partners deliver that training in the first place? Wasn’t our training supposed to be so good and interesting that people would want to attend the training because of that? Could it be that we are actually providing too much training or the wrong kind of training? Instead of answering those difficult questions, we raise the DSAs* (Daily Subsistence Allowances) to entice people to attend a training for which they feel no urgent need.
DSAs were meant to enable people to attend a training they needed but could not afford to go to because they didn’t have the money. That means that they should cover the costs for travelling to the training location, the costs for lodging and food during the training days and maybe some other necessary expenditures. It might come as a surprise to mr. Sidgwick, but the old DSA-rates were more than enough to cover those expenditures. When living on a middle-class standard, it’s still possible to end up with more than you spend. It’s still necessary to support people to give them the ability to attend a training they need, but that could be done based on actual costs incurred (of course bound to a maximum, which might be the current DSA-rate). We have to spend the money for development as efficient and effective as possible, in the interest of the people who need it. Ever higher DSA’s are no sustainable way to do that.
* DSA is development jargon and stands for the pre-determined amount of money people get to cover the costs of daily life while attending a meeting or training. In countries where many people have not or hardly enough money to cover their normal costs, the extra costs of attending these meetings can’t be paid. Therefore, DSA’s, when properly used, are a necessary means to give poor people a chance to make their voice heard or to learn.
This letter has, in a shorter version, been published before in the Cambodia Daily.