Dambisa No

11 ottobre 2010

Like many others interested in issues of international development I have been drawn to read dambisa Moyo’s “Dead Aid” by friends and  literary reviews on popular magazines.  From a new perspecive  the book presents an old argument: financial aid provided by international organizations to poor countries of the world reaches the opposite result than it intends to have.  Massive transfers of resources to these countries perpetuate the causes of their backwardness: inefficient and corrupt state organizations, weak markets, and rent-seeking elites.

Well, I have suffered through the end of this book despite the fact that it is written in a fresh style, and that it is not at all long or boring.   I ask myself why.  I have to admit that many of the statements made by ms. Moyo have some correspondance in reality.  Yet, I deeply reject the implications and ultimate policy message of the book as simplistic and wrong.  Criticizing the general idea that it is enough to pour money into underdeveloped economies to see them grow, helps those who are responsible for the use of these funds to employ them more effectively.  However, concluding that, if aid is ineffective, stopping it will solve those same problems, seems to me a dangerous and unwarranted leap.  Criticizing aid is a good thing if it leads to an advancement in the understanding of which policy choices work better.  Conversely, Dambisa’s brutal recommendation throws into the waste basket all that has been learned in recent years about what to do and not to do, to improve the situation in these countries, what uses for the money have delivered better results, what defensive mechanisms against bribery and clientelism seem to work.

Putting economics aside, there is one more aspect of this book that strikes me as a person.  It doesn’t show any sympathy for the “aid” movement that promotes the transfer of funds from wealthy European and American countries, to Africa and the so-called third world.  Even if the effects of aid were indeed perverse, as the book argues, why not giving credit to the people who, generously and in good faith,  try to do something to redress the injustice of capitalism.