Why trying to help poor countries might actually hurt them – The Washington Post

I have always wondered about the third world countries we give cash to.  You just know the dictators who run those countries make sure that they pocket as much of it as possible. It makes more sense to me to have other organizations go in and personally assist the people who need the help.  This is how Rotary International has been fighting, pretty successfully, polio.

Deaton, an economist at Princeton University who studied poverty in India and South Africa and spent decades working at the World Bank, won his prize for studying how the poor decide to save or spend money. But his ideas about foreign aid are particularly provocative. Deaton argues that, by trying to help poor people in developing countries, the rich world may actually be corrupting those nations’ governments and slowing their growth. According to Deaton, and the economists who agree with him, much of the $135 billion that the world’s most developed countries spent on official aid in 2014 may not have ended up helping the poor.

Source: Why trying to help poor countries might actually hurt them – The Washington Post

About Beth Donovan

Wife. Mom. Grandma. fiber artist, goat farmer, messy housekeeper, decent cook. Oh, and I can shoot. Really well.
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6 Responses to Why trying to help poor countries might actually hurt them – The Washington Post

  1. mobiuswolf says:

    Doh! Who’d a thunk it?


  2. Preface by saying I am not actually a development specialist, I just work in countries where we tend to have large development programs.
    I suspect that the article doesn’t do Deaton’s arguments full justice. One thing that the article elides is that U.S. assistance doesn’t go directly to governments (usually…nowadays…yes, there are a couple of exceptions), but rather gets routed through implementing partners, or in some cases, local NGOs to run programs. Without this being mentioned, they actually undercut the full force of the argument that what we’re doing just doesn’t work, and let people assume that aid money goes directly into the pockets of corrupt (or not so corrupt) regimes. I think the real crux of his argument is that assistance, no matter how it’s routed, tends to break the relationship between government and governed, and doesn’t do anything for the long-term development of such structures on which an effective, modern country operates. If you see foreign assistance doing everything your elected officials ought to be doing, why bother with the elected officials?
    Effective assistance programs that I’ve seen are based on enabling the government to actually govern justly and appropriately. In Liberia, we’ve done things like implemented payroll reform to get rid of “ghost workers” (a notorious source of corruption) and enabled agencies to actually define the skills their workers need, and then match the workers they have to the jobs they should be doing (at an appropriate pay grade). In the most effective programs, we enable the country to fulfill the goals set out by the people (through their elected officials), thereby strengthening the bonds of responsibility.
    Do we get it right all the time? No. One of the biggest problems I’ve seen is that we don’t actually do good evaluations of the effectiveness of our programs. In some cases, we ask the implementing partner to rate their own effectiveness. It’s always highly subjective, and “intervening circumstances” are to blame for not achieving all the goals fully. The assistance complex is pernicious in that way: the goal ought to be to put itself out of business, but there is always another iteration of development that’s needed so as to keep the NGO in business.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. My brother and his wife visited Zimbabwe some years ago to visit family who were working there. This was a real sore spot with them, because they saw firsthand how well-intended gestures from wealthy-but-clueless do-gooders resulted in disaster for the locals. For example, many Zimbabwean women earned money to feed their families by sewing and selling items of clothing. When some generous Americans decided to send over a few tons of free clothing to help those poor struggling Africans, they put the local seamstresses out of business.


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