Saturday, October 23, 2010

Behind on Reviews: Dead Aid

Done quite a bit of reading lately - through the summer and the travels, but am desperately  posting reviews because the pace of jumping off and on the globe trotting train. Nothing allows for more reading than getting on a 13 hrs international trip, and ending up in a walking urban city with trains that encourage reading, or a  beach. The former was exactly what I got when I headed to Stockholm in May to attend a World Bank Development Conference and pick up an award.

For one, the theme of the conference meant I had to read up very quickly on global development and social intervention. I had purchased three books related to this topic, advocating radical solutions to a pending problem of escalating poverty in the face of increasing aid. This nagging dilemna had exposed me to interviews by author Dambisa Moyo, hence her book Dead Aid readily was my choice for the trip.

Dead Aid really in the first part did an excellent job of identifying the problem of aid. External driven solutions, no local relevance, inability for local economy and capacity to allocate and digest aid and ultimately grinding poverty in the face of donor fatigue. Dr. Moyo's pure market solution however falls short clearly off the mark. The idea of obtaining commercial debt to invest in social infrastructure with no market return is clearly nonsensical. Clearly, in accusing the current donor state of using outworn ideas of state driven solutions, Dr. Moyo missed an opportunity to recommend a framework that is people centric, focusing on innovation and the individual entrepreneur rather than the state.

Dr. Moyo's insistent focus on the aid givers modifying the behavior clearly misses the point. Who is to tell the aid givers don't seek continuous relevance by insisting on giving aid wrongly? She clearly ignores the politics of aid giving (read, Confessions of Economic Hitman and Predator State). The emphasis then must be on the response of the aid recipients, whose life have not improved regardless of the aid...and not even the giver or the leaders of the recipients. The recipient in this instance will be the African on the street...the right response will be :

  • Insist on good governance, and real representation
  • Reject enslaving external debt: be they concessional or commercial
  • Insist on local priorities relating to projects etc.
  • Commit to education, innovation and self-help versus hand-outs
  • Consolidate aid, and direct resources to area of most need.
  • Embrace Public Private Partnership 
  • Insist on local production, and eschew importation 
These are seven step responses that Africans, the aid recipients, can take rather than quite frankly waiting on dead donors of dead aid. It is he who wears the shoes that knows where it pinches the most.


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