Monday, September 26, 2011

to aid or not to aid

An interesting interview on Der Spiegel with Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo, author of "Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa," and "How the West Was Lost: Fifty Years of Economic Folly -- and the Stark Choices Ahead."

Dambisa Moyo: ... Africa is the only continent on which there continues to be famines again and again. Between 400 and 500 million people don't have enough to eat even though the continent has more fertile arable land than any other. Something's wrong about that.

SPIEGEL: Catastrophes like the one in Somalia are one thing. But don't you think Africa needs long-term aid programs to get its problems under control?

Moyo: I'm opposed to continuing to automatically pump billions into Africa each year in the form of cheap loans and budgetary assistance. This money has bred dependence and inflation; it doesn't allow people to ever really become productive. The West has been reliably supplying aid for 40 years. But, even so, Africa continues to have poor infrastructure, bad education and a lousy health-care system. Poverty has actually increased since development aid started being supplied. In 1970, 10 percent of Africans lived in poverty. Since then, that figure has grown to roughly 50 percent.

SPIEGEL: Why haven't African governments been able to put to good use the roughly $2 trillion (€1.45 trillion) that has flowed into their coffers over the last 50 years?

Moyo: Because this aid has hardly ever been tied to conditions. Donor countries allow African leaders to put this money in Switzerland, only to go shopping with it later on the Champs-Élysée.

SPIEGEL: Why doesn't anybody rebel against the corrupt rulers in Africa?

Moyo: Why should we normal Africans call our elites to account when people keep coming from the West and saying: "Don't worry. We'll keep paying no matter what you do with the money." An African president once said to me: "You can do what you want. You can swindle. You can kill your own countrymen. As long as there is hunger and disease where you are, the West will take care of you." That's why African governments steal and swindle.

Socialist Banner however finds it disappointing that Moyo can only call for more capitalist investment, particularly from China, as a solution. Africans, as she argues, indeed "need to finally take responsibility for themselves."

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