Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘William Easterly

Does foreign aid work?

The answer to this question mostly depends on:

1. How you define aid

2. How you quantify what exactly constitutes foreign aid, and

3. Where you stand in the ongoing debate about the effectiveness — or the lack of it — of foreign aid.

Do you define “Foreign aid is a transfer of money from one country’s government (mostly a developed western country) to another country’s government (mostly a developing country in the global south – Africa, Asia and Latin America), or basically a financial transaction between nations…?”

In this case, the aid is an official bribe to secure “colonial” interests in the underdeveloped States

Is foreign aid an exchange in kind of exporting modern skills and equipment in order to obtain higher “added values” from cheaper labor…?

Is foreign aid a mechanism of funding NGO, indirectly paid by governments, in order to facilitate exchange of skills and setting up programs tailor-made to the mentality of the developed culture…?

Is foreign aid what the international institutions lend to developing countries, such as IMF and World Bank…? Under unbearable restrictions…

Is foreign aid what is directly extended to specific communities at their own initiatives…?

Can we categorize the work extended by UN peace keeping forces as foreign aid?

The-under-developed-countries-are-plagued-with-common-disease, should medical aid and facilities be given priorities? (Read note 1)

Evidences point that development-programs-in-Africa-are-planned-poverty (Read note 2)

There are those who strongly believe that it works, like Bill Gates and Jeffrey Sachs.

And there are those who wholeheartedly believe it simply does not work and actually harms those it seeks to help, like William Easterly and Dambisa Moyo.


If “Foreign aid is a transfer of money from one developed country’s government to a developing country’s government…” then there has been an enormous amount of data lately, which is gaining popularity, proving that aid might actually not work.

Dambisa Moyo, in her famous Dead Aid book about foreign aid in Africa, forcefully argued that aid perpetuates dependency and is unhelpful for accountability in recipient countries since it’s free. She recommended shutting it off and heading to financial markets for capital for those countries in need – and to do it within 10 years!

Recently, the criticism has even spread to the work of NGOs mushrooming in developing countries. In a recent informative and now popular TED talk, Ernesto Sirolli, an Italian former do-gooder, reflected on what he did in Zambia.

In what sounds like confession, Sirolli offers details of the white elephants they built. He puts it bluntly this way:

‘Every single project we set up in Africa failed …… everything we touched we killed’

And offers this advice to prospective do-gooders:

‘Best shut up when you arrive in a community: Never begin with any ideas …. Just learn to first listen’

Some are even going further and questioning the effectiveness and impact of aid in emergency situations, an area long thought to be the only where aid works among its detractors. Take Haiti for example.

The catastrophic earthquake in 2010 struck the island,  killed 316,000 people, injured 300,000 others, and left a million people homeless.

After such a disaster from Mother Nature, whether in poor or rich countries, you would only expect support for aid and solidarity.  Not so.

Haiti, nicknamed the republic of NGOs, attracted a lot of emergency aid immediately after the disaster, but things just don’t seem to improve. Despite billions of dollars in pledges (most of it still unfulfilled – a problem of free gifts), a recent article in The Economist noted:

‘And yet more than 350,000 Haitians are still living in tents in scattered camps; many of those who have moved out have returned to substandard housing in hillside shanties and seaside slums.

A cholera outbreak that has killed more than 7,500 people since October 2010 remains a threat, with cases spiking after each tropical storm. Epidemiologists blame poor hygiene at a military base of the UN peacekeeping mission for the outbreak, though the UN has denied responsibility’.

Another recent article in the Wall Street Journal reckoned the same thing, that charity has not done much for Haiti and charges:

‘…Foreign aid—whether it goes through the governments or NGOs—distorts both politics and commerce, undermining the evolution of market economics. Free resources reduce the pressure on politicians to make the reforms necessary to attract capital. When food and services are given away, entrepreneurs who might serve those markets are shut out’.

Could the lack of improvement be blamed on aid?

Is aid in itself bad or is it the way it’s delivered?

The jury is still out.

Responding to those who are struck by emergencies, and finding the best way to help those in need remains a human imperative to which we must find adequate solutions.

Obadias Ndaba is President of World Youth Alliance

This entry was posted on January 20, 2013, in Global

Note 1:

Note 2:

Note 3: Apparently, Obadias Ndaba, claims that this article or part of it is his, and want it removed. Why? . If there are corrections or changes, why not update the article? /

Beyond clichés on “who is a poor”: How poverty can be vanquished? What are the battles facing poverty?

“If a progeny of young colored children (slaves) is brought forth, these are emancipated…”.  This statesman describes the  only way out of slavery condition during colonial periods.

It means that unless the kid of a slave family does not demonstrate mental abilities, skills, and potentials early on, the odd is that this kids will remain a slave…Change the word slave or colored children with “poor kid” and the meaning is the same.

“If a progeny of young Poor children is brought forth, these are emancipated to higher class systems…”  The concept of why someone is cataloged as poor is fundamentally related to this racist ideology, very prevalent even today, that a poor kid is mostly born lacking entrepreneurship abilities, characters for a sense of entitlement, education,…

A few new dimensions were added to the racial discrimination of “who is a poor” such as physical famished conditions, total lack of sanitation facilities…

Discourse on poverty has to bypass the “accepted” traditional clichés, such as viewing poverty as mainly related to famine, no access to direct financial aid, lack of healthcare facilities…

Unless the discourse on poverty is shifted to lack of education and early detection of “what’s wrong” with a baby, a community… there will be no pragmatic alternatives: Traditional public consciousness will end up guiding the non-performing policies and forms of aids…

Poverty cannot be resolved by adopting extreme ideological positions such as “pouring in massive financial aids in order to getting out of this trap…” as advanced by Jeffrey Sachs in “The end of Poverty”, or “aids do more harms than goods for the poor and we should correct and facilitate the forces of the market mechanisms…” as promoted by William Easterly in “The White man burden”

Solutions are not readily available by enhancing UN financial and political potentials, or curtailing liberal capitalism in the medium-term, or deposing despots and oligarchies…

Poverty is related and based on daily actions and activities of the masses.

Poverty eradication requires multiplying efficacious pragmatic programs supported by trained and caring personnel, willing to focus on identifying the problems and tending to the details, and having the courage and persistence to overcome the many daily problems, instead of slapping ready-made traditional solutions that do not correspond to the poverty problem.

Sure money can go a long way when used properly to priority pragmatic programs in education, healthcare, preventive medicine, sanitation, access to small enterprises, job opening…that produce fast positive effects, which do not need to wait for the Big Miracle of market “stimulation”

Sure, money can become a major barrier when not invested properly on projects not targeting essentially the most needy, through various administrative levels of waste, and squandering the good will and efforts of the workers

Any aid should be focused on the details of each program, no matter how long the process in the planning and study take…

It has been proven that educating “poor people” on the value of a facility is Not strictly monetary in nature.  For example, studies have demonstrated that those who received free mosquito nest used it as efficiently as those who could afford to pay for the nest…The usage of the mosquito nest was not as bad from both groups, even though the most poor had never used nest or believed it would make a difference…

The cost of massively offering free mosquito nests is insignificant to the expense of curing a few cases of malaria, polio, and many diseases transmitted by flees…

The contention that education is only efficacious when this need is reclaimed by parents and students is false.

The traditional schooling system is based on the pragmatic colonial exigencies in “colonial lands ” of quickly producing “elites” administrators and functionaries in the colonies.  Consequently, this schooling system focused on the brightest 10% students and ignored the remaining students who ended up dropping pretty fast or not learning anything…

This trend has reinforced the concept with the parents that “If my kid is not showing interest in learning, it is much better to take him out and get him working early on…Either you get the jack pot in education with a promising kid or education is a total waste of time and money…”

Another false concept says: “If there are no job market after the learning period, it is of no use wasting time and money on national education system…”

Fact is, the more the masses learn, the more job openings are created in the market:  The masses will adopt the necessary pressures for alternative political and economic policies…

Fact is, it is not enough to send kids to “school concentration camps“:  while in school, the kid has to learn something. at least learn to read, write and do basic math…

Teaching means enhancing the reflective power in kids, extending to them a sense of entitlement to negotiating with authority (like the teachers, the administrators…), and encouraging kids to be patient in solving problems: The longer time is spent on resolving a problem the easier the learning matter will be approached such as in math, writing, reading...

It is far less expensive in the long-term to focus on every student’s needs and potentials than pouring in money on scoring standard tests and bonuses to teachers and “performing” schools…

If the policy is to educate and train well the teachers, and institute a culture that teaching is the highest prestige in a community, and allow more than one teachers to tend to small classrooms, you’ll reap an educated citizen.

The education system in Finland does not take seriously test scores until way later in secondary higher levels.  Thousands apply to teaching positions and competition is harsh within this culture where teachers are the most respected, although not paid as highly as in other countries…

It is obvious that educated parents have assimilated the precept that preventive medicine programs (like early vaccination…) are far superior to the expensive hospital treatments.  Actually, many poor families forget or don’t take seriously preventative programs, and thus, in developed States, vaccination programs are made obligatory because the States can afford the programs and have the proper trained medical personnel.

In developing countries, forced health preventive programs are not applicable, simply for lack of resources in money, personnel, and medical facilities…

The irony is that in India, parents are refusing polio vaccination.  Why?  

The parents didn’t forget or forgive the Indian government lies for practicing in the 80’s  secret sterilization programs under false vaccination programs

As the feeling of security and safety are the most basic needs in individuals, education is the most basic building block for human development indicators and programs.

Without a sense of security and safety within a family and extended community, the individual will be constantly worried for his daily bread to survive…

Without a vast primary and secondary schooling system accessible and affordable to all, the society will be constantly facing daily survival problems, with no light at the end of the tunnel.

Note:  This post was inspired by an interview of Sophie Fay with Esther Duflo in the French weekly magazine “Le novel observateur“.

Esther Duflo is professor at MIT, has published “Rethinking poverty“.  She had published “Human development”, and “The politics of autonomy“.




December 2022

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