Monday, June 11, 2007

Compare and Contrast

Compare and contrast this story:

Bono pressures candidates to focus on the poor

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The anti-poverty campaign founded by U2 rocker Bono and others is investing $30 million to pressure the presidential candidates to focus on the oft-forgotten issue, with its leaders arguing on Monday that helping the poor is a national security issue.

Dubbed ONE Vote '08, the bipartisan political push aims to get President Bush's successor to commit to taking concrete steps to combat hunger and disease while improving access to education and water across the globe.
with this story:
SPIEGEL INTERVIEW WITH AFRICAN ECONOMICS EXPERT
"For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!"


The Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, 35, says that aid to Africa does more harm than good. The avid proponent of globalization spoke with SPIEGEL about the disastrous effects of Western development policy in Africa, corrupt rulers, and the tendency to overstate the AIDS problem.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Shikwati, the G8 summit at Gleneagles is about to beef up the development aid for Africa...

Shikwati: ... for God's sake, please just stop.

SPIEGEL: Stop? The industrialized nations of the West want to eliminate hunger and poverty.

Shikwati: Such intentions have been damaging our continent for the past 40 years. If the industrial nations really want to help the Africans, they should finally terminate this awful aid. The countries that have collected the most development aid are also the ones that are in the worst shape. Despite the billions that have poured in to Africa, the continent remains poor.

SPIEGEL: Do you have an explanation for this paradox?

Shikwati: Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.
Read it all (both links), and contemplate the wonder of it all.

I have heard the idea that foreign aid to Africa is more harmful than helpful before. (One of the places I've heard this before is on Jon Evans' LiveJournal page, here. See this recent post and the comments for more. I'd link to more lengthy posts by Evans, but I'm having trouble searching his site.) But for now I'd just like to point out a couple of bits from these pieces.

First, from the Bono piece we get this bit of wisdom from former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist: "People do not go to war with people who have saved their children's lives." Perhaps Frist hasn't heard stories like this, which makes me happy he isn't going to be our next President.

Second, from the interview with the Kenyan economist, there's this wry observation: "Unfortunately, the Europeans' devastating urge to do good can no longer be countered with reason." Also, here's an example of how aid does harm:
SPIEGEL: Even in a country like Kenya, people are starving to death each year. Someone has got to help them.

Shikwati: But it has to be the Kenyans themselves who help these people. When there's a drought in a region of Kenya, our corrupt politicians reflexively cry out for more help. This call then reaches the United Nations World Food Program -- which is a massive agency of apparatchiks who are in the absurd situation of, on the one hand, being dedicated to the fight against hunger while, on the other hand, being faced with unemployment were hunger actually eliminated. It's only natural that they willingly accept the plea for more help. And it's not uncommon that they demand a little more money than the respective African government originally requested. They then forward that request to their headquarters, and before long, several thousands tons of corn are shipped to Africa ...

SPIEGEL: ... corn that predominantly comes from highly-subsidized European and American farmers ...

Shikwati: ... and at some point, this corn ends up in the harbor of Mombasa. A portion of the corn often goes directly into the hands of unscrupulous politicians who then pass it on to their own tribe to boost their next election campaign. Another portion of the shipment ends up on the black market where the corn is dumped at extremely low prices. Local farmers may as well put down their hoes right away; no one can compete with the UN's World Food Program. And because the farmers go under in the face of this pressure, Kenya would have no reserves to draw on if there actually were a famine next year. It's a simple but fatal cycle.
Red high-lights are mine. The best thing we could do for sub-Saharan Africa would be to stop dumping our subsidized food stuffs on them. For that matter, we could stop subsidizing our farmers, but there's no way that will ever happen....

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