Two thoughts, there’s a difference between trade, where the consumers get to choose what they are buying and aid, where they have no choice whatsoever. If you start, say an import business to provide people with a certain good that they can only get abroad, you are certainly providing jobs, and you are catering to the needs and wants of the people. Instead of having jobs producing the goods, people have jobs storing and selling them. Perhaps fewer jobs, but jobs nonetheless. I’m not talking about trade, I’m talking about aid. The difference is that aid is temporary, AMF goes in, employs a lot of people to help distribute nets, and then leaves them to cut costs. They don’t give the same long term employment that an import business or local factory might provide. I’m not arguing against trade, I’m arguing against unsustainable aid like AMF.
As for economic development, if we consent to the thesis that it is based on the strength of institutions, aid does not help those either. Aid does several things, it makes politicians beholden to foreign donors instead of the people, by tying conditions to money or goods to come into the country. This harms political institutions since the laws of the country are based not on what the people actually want, but on what foreigners think is good. This leads to laws that are on the books solely to appease international donors, but which are never enforced on the ground. Furthermore, and more appropriate to AMF, it leads to the perception of the people that it is the responsibility of foreign organizations to solve problems, not the government. This means that they do not hold their elected officials accountable, which inevitably weakens these institutions.
I’m not saying we should close ourselves off to foreign imports, which provide steady jobs, I’m saying we should stop giving money to organizations which donate goods and take away local jobs, of people who could either be working in a factory, or simply importing those same goods. If we supported these businesses instead, we could get similar outcomes without hurting the communities.