By Kanav Sahani, V Form
Researching Foreign Aid with the Help of The Thomas H. Kean ’53 Fellowship
Thomas H. Kean ’53 Fellowship:
The Class of 1962, at their 25th Reunion in 1987, established the Thomas H. Kean ’53 Fellowship Program to honor Tom Kean, their teacher, advisor, mentor, and friend. The purpose of this fellowship is to enable students to explore important public policy topics and to embark upon exemplary lives of public service in the spirit of Governor Kean.
Kean Fellowships will be conferred upon a small number of highly well-qualified students who propose and undertake independent research and study in the field of public service, exploring meaningful domestic public policy issues. Once selected, and on the basis of their topic, Fellows will work with a faculty mentor and find meaningful connections with academicians and leaders in the field of public policy. The Fellowship will engage the students in cutting-edge topics and in a manner that is serious and capitalizes upon what they have learned at St Mark’s.
I chose to attend the economics policy academy at Georgetown University because it teaches a unique combination of economics and political science and how to use this knowledge to solve real-world problems. I find these topics interesting because they have so much influence on how the world works, so once I found this course online, I knew I would want to join it. My interest in the more political side of the world started with the social justice class I took with Dr. Worrell during the spring semester of my sophomore year. In addition, my interest in the economic side started with learning about the legendary investor Warren Buffet. Following his story on how gained investing fame by sticking to his strategy has increased my interest in the finance and economic sectors.
Although I wish this program were in person so that I could have gotten the full experience, I still learned a lot from my online experience. Each day consisted of a lecture from the program director, Renu Singh, from 10:30-12, and then a lecture from a guest speaker from 2-5. Each guest speaker talked about a different topic in a different part of the world ranging from the different economic structures of each state to the specific political regimes of each part of the world and their effectiveness. We also were assigned almost 50 pages of reading each night in order to add to our knowledge. Even though it can be challenging to host programs virtually and get people to focus, this program did a great job of holding my attention because of how interesting each topic was and the way they went about teaching it.
During the final week of the program, we were each told to create a capstone project that can sum up everything we have been taught and use to solve one real-world problem of our choice. My partner and I decided to create a solution for incentivizing rentier states to properly use foreign aid. I know a lot of this may not make sense initially but I will explain. Rentier states are states with political importance that gain a majority of their national revenue from foreign individuals. These rentier states do not properly use foreign aid because they have no real incentive to invest the money into bettering their country. The problem here is that because of this rentier state’s political importance (e.g. the money is given to maintain a healthy connection with other countries), the foreign countries cannot stop giving this foreign aid, and the rentier state is free to use the money how they like it. However, my partner and I drafted some possible solutions for a problem of this magnitude. We took Afghanistan as an example to analyze. Our project considered Afghanistan before the Taliban took over the government. With Afghanistan, only 23% of foreign aid actually goes through the government, and this is because of the large issues of corruption and inefficiency (lack of incentive). However, my partner and I proposed to restructure the use of foreign aid to be used to create state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Examples in other countries of this include Saudi Aramco (Saudi Arabia; oil), Emaar (UAE; real estate business), and Batelco (Bahrain; Telecomm). If the government leader of Afghanistan invested more of this foreign aid into any of their natural resources, the government body would reap the benefits (giving them incentives) through more revenue, and the people would be able to pay fewer taxes. This could lead to more development in the country, which can overall boost the country. Of course, we did take into account that Afghanistan has other problems that need to be addressed, such as complications with the government and the Taliban, but we did a lot more research and concluded that this solution we proposed could work on paper.
The Taliban’s situation in Afghanistan validated our group’s claim about foreign aid (military and financial) management, as it did not benefit Afghanistan as much as it was supposed to. At the end of the program, we presented this to every student in the program, and we were met with positive feedback. I learned so much about foreign aid and the complications of its use throughout this capstone project.
Looking back on this program, I am so happy I was given the opportunity to be able to work with multiple people and learn how to solve real-world problems. Although my capstone project was mainly about bigger world problems, we also learned about problems with poverty, the welfare state, and much more. I’m so grateful to the Keane Fellowship for this amazing opportunity.
Kanav Sahani is a V Form day student.