The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) continues modernising its statistical system. This work addresses the increasing significance of non-DAC providers and philanthropic foundations, the diversification of financial instruments, and the growing convergence of development cooperation policy objectives with areas like migration and security. The goal is to accurately capture these changes while ensuring the statistical system remains relevant and reflective of evolving landscape of development co-operation.
The modernisation of Official Development Assistance (ODA)
In the process, the DAC took a series of decisions at its High Level Meetings (HLM) in 2014, 2016 and 2017 with regard to the measurement of concessional loans to the public sector, private sector instruments (PSI), peace and security expenditures, and in-donor refugee costs.
The new statistical framework:
Clarification of eligibility rules
Ambiguities in reporting rules led to inconsistent interpretation and reporting by DAC members on both peace and security-related expenditures, and on in-donor refugee costs.
Peace and security efforts
In 2016, the DAC agreed on updated rules for the eligibility of peace and security expenditures. This was to better recognise the marginal, but actual developmental role that military actors sometimes play, notably in conflict situations, while clearly delineating it from their main peace and security function.
In-Donor refugee costs
In 2017, the DAC agreed to clarify the reporting directives for assessing what may be included or not in ODA – and provide its members with a blueprint to use when accounting for the costs of assisting refugees in donor countries.
The changes improve the consistency, comparability and transparency of DAC members reporting of ODA-eligible in-donor refugee costs.
Introducing the “Grant equivalent”
A fairer method to record ODA
OECD Official Development Assistance (ODA) Statistics: Introducing the grant equivalent
ODA can take the form of (i) grants, where financial resources are provided to developing countries free of interest and with no provision for repayment, or (ii) soft loans to governments or multilateral organisations, which have to be repaid with interest, albeit at a significantly lower rate than if developing countries borrowed from commercial banks, or (iii) private sector instruments.
Until recently, grants and loans were valued in the same way: by recording the flows of cash that were granted, or the face value of loans that were lent to developing countries, deducting any repayments on the loans. This “cash basis” or “flow basis” method, has been used to produce ODA headline figures until 2018 (reporting on 2017 ODA spending).
The method was simple, but it did not reflect actual efforts by donor countries: a grant represents a bigger effort than a loan; and a loan with a very low interest rate and a long repayment period represents a bigger effort than a loan with a higher interest rate and a short repayment period.
That is why DAC members decided, at their 2014 High-Level Meeting, to introduce a new way of measuring aid loans, so as to better reflect the actual effort by donor countries – and their taxpayers: only the “grant equivalent” of loans would now be recorded as ODA. The more generous the loan, the higher the ODA value.
Instead of recording the actual flows of cash between lender and borrower, the headline measure of ODA is based on the loans’ “grant equivalents” of loans and other instruments.
Making grants, loans and other instruments comparable: calculating the grant element and the grant equivalent
Money today is worth more than the prospect of the same amount in future. Any comparison of money now and in the future must take account of the rate at which money loses value. A sum of money in the future can be reduced to its value today by applying a discount rate. A discount rate is an interest rate applied in reverse: it applies tomorrow’s value to today’s money. Grant element calculations use discount rates to reduce the expected future reflows from a financial transaction to the value they would have today. If the value of expected future reflows in today’s money is lower than the amount extended today, then the difference represents a “gift”. This gift portion is called a grant equivalent if expressed as a monetary value, and a grant element if expressed as a percentage of the amount now extended.
The question of debt relief
At the 2014 High Level Meeting it was agreed that changing the ODA measurement system from net flows to a risk-adjusted grant equivalent system would also change the basis on which debt relief of ODA loans was reported. The DAC reached a consensus on the treatment of debt relief on a grant equivalent basis in 2020, thus two years after the implementation of the grant equivalent as the standard for measuring ODA, noting that no major debt reorganisation occurred in 2018 and 2019. The agreement is an important step towards completing the modernisation of ODA.
The question of private sector instruments (PSI)
At the February 2016 DAC High Level Meeting, development ministers agreed on the principles to better reflect the donor effort involved in using PSI, such as loans to the private sector, equities, guarantees, mezzanine finance instruments and reimbursable grants. In 2018, despite efforts by all parties, members only agreed on a provisional arrangement, maintaining the cash-flow measurement and ODA eligibility of some - but not all – PSI (see below).
In October 2023, the DAC agreed on revised methods for treating PSI in ODA. The approved rules cover methods for measuring donor effort in:
The new rules also strengthen transparency and accountability provisions, reporting requirements, additionality framework, ODA-integrity safeguards as well as monitoring and review mechanisms in the area of PSI (see here).
The revised directives will become effective in 2024 on ODA in 2023 with possible transition periods of one or two years. Until their full implementation, ODA in relation to PSI will continue being measured on cash-flow basis for either capital increases of PSI vehicles or certain activities of such vehicles, i.e.:
The total ODA figure
Beyond ODA: Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD)
Total Official Support for Sustainable Development (TOSSD) measures the full array of resources to promote sustainable development in developing countries. It is designed to monitor all official resources flowing into developing countries for their sustainable development, but also private resources mobilised through official means. It also measures contributions to International Public Goods.
TOSSD complements ODA by increasing transparency and monitoring important new trends that are shaping the international development finance landscape.