Friday, July 30, 2010

Afghanistan war: How USAID loses hearts and minds -

Afghanistan war: How USAID loses hearts and minds -

By Ben Arnoldy, / Staff writer / July 28, 2010

Baharak, Afghanistan

A muddy trench, crumbling at its sides, snakes from a swift stream five miles down to an aging hydropower plant in northeastern Afghanistan. Walking in sandals along the dirt banks, engineer Qand Agha Noori explains how Americans promised to build a proper canal to bring more electricity to his community.

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This article is part of an investigative cover story project for the Aug. 2, 2010 issue of The Christian Science Monitor weekly magazine. Subscribe here:

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But this excavated earth seems to be nothing more than a scar on the land – and on the impression Mr. Noori and his kith and kin have of Americans.

"Fifty percent they didn't do. They just dug this," Noori says of the empty ditch, "and tried to get the signature of the government and left."

He stops next to a boulder in the trench. He explains that shoddy construction – including incomplete concrete walls and drainage culverts – resulted in landslides blocking water flow to the turbine and, in turn, electricity from reaching any homes.

The $1 million canal was part of a $60 million development contract that the US Agency for International Development (USAID) had with PADCO, an American company. PADCO's 2009 completion report claims to have tripled power in Baharak and nearby Faizabad.

But Afghan officials say neither community saw any extra electricity. And a USAID staffer who handed over the report to the Monitor advised, "Take this with a grain of salt. It's designed to make USAID look good."

On paper, the multipronged project revitalized a backward Afghan province, weaning it off poppy cultivation and winning Afghan hearts and minds.

However, a Monitor investigation reveals that even in spite of a few modest gains, the Afghans here were left angered over project failures, secrecy, and wasted funds.

"Now the people are hating American companies like PADCO because many times they brought millions of dollars, but didn't do anything," says Syed Abdul Basir Husseini, the electricity chief for Badakhshan Province. "All Badakhshanis know that it was $60 million [that America] spent," he says, adding that they see little evidence of it.

The story of what went wrong exposes serious weaknesses in the third pillar of America's "clear, hold, build" Afghan strategy. Among them: big-spending hastiness, unrealistic deadlines, high development staff turnover, planning divorced from ground realities, and ever-present security risks in this war-torn nation.

"In Vietnam, they were measuring success of operations in the numbers that are killed. In Afghanistan, it is how many schools you are building and how much money you spent. This is better, but as wrong," says Lorenzo Delesgues, director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, in Kabul. "What you need to measure is what is the impact of what you've done."

• • •

Read the rest on the site using the link in the title!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

"Professionals and Poverty"

Written by Ravi Kanbur, this paper (7 pages) discusses the paradox of having a (decent-paying to potentially-lucrative) career out of trying to minimize other people's poverty.

News Desk: The Doorknob : The New Yorker

This article offers a different side to the widely-red 'Doorknob" article published by Nick Kristof not too long ago. Peace Corps is this widely-un-understood program and I think Hessler does a good job of communicating its focus.

News Desk: The Doorknob : The New Yorker

March 15, 2010


“Here’s a one-word language test to measure whether someone really knows a foreign country and culture: What’s the word for doorknob? People who have studied a language in a classroom rarely know the answer. But those who have been embedded in a country know. America would be a wiser country if we had more people who knew how to translate ‘doorknob.’ ”

—Nicholas D. Kristof, in “Teach for the World,” a recent column for the Times

My first response to this column was: How the hell do you say “doorknob” in Chinese? I spent two years in China as a Peace Corps volunteer, teaching at a college in a small, remote city called Fuling, and then I stayed in the country for another eight years as a journalist. (My book “Country Driving,” published last month, describes some of what I learned there, particularly about China’s new relationship with the car.) I always conducted my interviews in Chinese, but when it comes to doorknobs, I’m completely lost.

I’ve long believed that Nick Kristof’s internationalism represents a bright spot in American commentary, but there are limits to the routines of a journalist. And that was my second response to the column: What exactly does Kristof know about teaching in a developing country, or about the Peace Corps? After describing the Peace Corps as a program that was thrilling “a generation ago,” he proposed a new initiative that he calls “Teach for the World”:

In my mind, Teach for the World would be a one-year program placing young Americans in schools in developing countries. The Americans might teach English or computer skills, or coach basketball or debate teams.

The program would be open to Americans 18 and over…. The host country would provide room and board through a host family. To hold down costs, the Americans would be unpaid and receive only airplane tickets, a local cellphone and a tiny stipend to cover bus fares and anti-malaria bed nets. This would be a government-financed effort to supplement an American public diplomacy outreach that has been eviscerated over the last few decades.

A couple of days later, Kristof clarified his complaints about the Peace Corps in his blog: “The problem with Peace Corps is that the 27-month commitment is a major deterrent for young people…. And PC is often aimed at somewhat older folks rather than young college graduates whose lives are at a turning point.” By then, John Brown, a former Foreign Service officer who teaches at Georgetown, had weighed in with his own opinions about the Peace Corps. In the Huffington Post, Brown described volunteers as “résumé-driven, undereducated provincial American BAs with, all too often, little or no knowledge … even in teaching (or speaking) their own native language.” He explained:

In all fairness, these well-meaning, often naive, Peace Corps volunteers (I had the privilege of meeting many of them in my Foreign Service career), may be eager to learn about the outside world. But if they are parachuted [sic] to teach/“set an example” in other countries, they should know far more about them (and their own country and language) than Peace Corps “training” provides (and by the time they know something about where they are, they are shipped out).

Peace Corps volunteers are too old for Kristof, too young for Brown; they’re “parachuted” in but they stay too long. What is it about the organization that makes outsiders respond in totally different ways, and why, after nearly fifty years, does it remain so poorly understood?

* *

I joined the Peace Corps in 1996, when I was twenty-seven years old, and I was sent to Fuling with a twenty-two-year-old American named Adam Meier. At that time, there were roughly two dozen volunteers scattered across Sichuan province, and most were in their mid-twenties; virtually everybody had some previous experience in the classroom. In China, our job was to teach English to college students who would someday become middle-school instructors. For the most part the subject matter was simple, but we quickly realized that the real challenges were cultural. Not long after Adam and I arrived in Fuling, a student in my writing class submitted an essay entitled “Why Americans Are So Casual”:

When Mr. Hessler is having class, he can scratch himself without paying attention to what others may say. He dresses up casually, usually with his belt dropping and dangling. But, to tell you the truth, it isn’t consider a good manner in China, especially in old people’s eyes.

The Peace Corps had prepared us with two months of intensive language and cultural training, but we still made plenty of mistakes. As time passed, we learned to avoid most pitfalls, but the more acculturated we became, the more we recognized the complexities of our students’ lives. One of the brightest girls, a quiet student who kept to herself, committed suicide by throwing herself off a bridge. Another young woman died when her sudden illness was handled badly at the local hospital. A student became pregnant and secretly got an abortion; when she suffered complications and college officials found out, she was promptly expelled. Some students were too poor to pay their living expenses; others ran into political problems and had to bribe local Communist Party officials. One unbalanced female student stalked Adam for weeks, lurking outside his apartment door at all hours, explaining that “my body tells me to be here.” What do you do in that situation? Do you keep it quiet, or do you report it to the male-dominated, heavy-handed cadres in the English department? Adam and I debated it endlessly; there had already been one suicide in that student’s class.

Despite what Kristof says about young people and turning points in life, twenty-seven never felt too old for me to be in Fuling. (Today, worldwide, the average age of a Peace Corps volunteer is twenty-eight.) As in most societies, teachers in China are deeply respected, and we had a great deal of influence; in all of the situations I’ve described, students came to us for advice or help. I needed every bit of experience that I could draw on, and I depended heavily on discussions with Adam and other volunteers. Mostly, it was critical that I stayed for two years. It forced me to be accountable: I realized that any action could have long-term repercussions. And I also had time to figure out how to teach effectively, and I learned enough Chinese to make good friends who spoke no English. In the years since, I’ve never met a single Peace Corps volunteer who believes that the commitment should be shortened to one year. There’s no doubt that this deters applicants, but sometimes that’s the right message: If you want to teach effectively in a developing country, you need to be prepared to stay there for at least two years. (It’s also a good starting point for bigger lessons: If you want to invade and rebuild a country, be prepared to stick around for a hell of a long time.)

The last thing I’d want to see is an eighteen-year-old thrown into a developing-world teaching job with a cell phone, a mosquito net, little administrative oversight, and no medical support. (The Peace Corps provides excellent insurance and in-country health care.) Like Kristof, I’m a proponent of gap years and studying abroad; it’s critical for more young Americans to gain language skills. But it’s not the way to provide teachers in developing countries. The vast majority of Peace Corps volunteers that I knew in China behaved responsibly, but there were a few exceptions, which is inevitable when young people are far from home. A while after I finished my service, a volunteer slept with one of his students and sent explicit photos over e-mail to friends; fortunately there was a Peace Corps administration in the provincial capital that immediately kicked him out of the country. A few years later, when another volunteer was sexually assaulted, the staff was able to provide quick medical and emotional support.

A prime weakness of the American approach to the outside world is over-confidence. Everybody wants an easy solution: two years should be condensed into one; a cell phone and a mosquito net are all you need. In particular, the challenges of a volunteer tend to be poorly understood by journalists and foreign service officers, who are typically accustomed to an immediate and extensive support system. They’re surrounded by translators, fixers, and well-staffed bureaus; they rarely know what it’s like to be alone in a strange country with a hard job to do. And nothing is more difficult than staying in a small community for an extended period of time. Incidents can snowball, which is why Adam and I agonized for days over what to do about his stalker. At last we decided to tell some women teachers in our department, hoping they would be more sensitive; but of course they immediately reported it to the male officials. The night-time visits stopped abruptly—and in the classroom, that student stared silently at the floor for the rest of the year. Who knows if we did the right thing?

* *

In many respects, the Peace Corps has long been one of the best parts of U.S. foreign policy. Since 1961, the organization has sent more than two hundred thousand volunteers abroad, and virtually all of these people have been changed profoundly by the experience. Quite a few continue to work with international issues, sometimes for N.G.O.s. It’s also common for former volunteers to find jobs in the State Department; Adam Meier, my sitemate from Fuling, now works for the government, coördinating international exchange programs that involve more than thirty thousand individuals every year. Many of the volunteers I knew became teachers, and a few are foreign correspondents. Most of us have stayed in contact with people we knew in China: nowadays, improved cell-phone and Internet services in the developing world have transformed post-volunteer relationships. I’m still in touch with over a hundred former students, and most of them are now middle-school teachers who, because of the Peace Corps, bring a deeper understanding of the United States to their Chinese classrooms. Every couple of days I hear from a student on e-mail, and their voices remind me of all the challenges that a young person faces in China. “I broken with my husband last month,” a student wrote me this morning. “I am alone now, but I am OK…. My parents are now in Chengdu, they have retired, they are worried about me, but I want to improve to them, a small Sichuan woman can also do great things.”

And yet here in the United States, the Peace Corps remains misunderstood and poorly supported. In 1967, there were about sixteen thousand volunteers worldwide; last year there were fewer than eight thousand. Funding is always a challenge, and there’s a tendency to view the organization as outdated. I’ve long believed that the name is a problem—“Peace Corps” has a nineteen-sixties, Cold War air, and the military connotation of “corps” seems inappropriate. (It’s also really hard to get non-native speakers to stop saying “corpse.”) But the military instinct seems so deeply rooted in American foreign policy that such language contaminates even initiatives that have nothing to do with war. One excellent new government-funded program, which sends American high-school students abroad to study languages like Chinese, Arabic, and Farsi, has the unfortunate title of “National Security Language Initiative.”

But one of the biggest problems for the Peace Corps is that, despite all the success that volunteers have had in the field, the organization has traditionally been bad at promoting its own interests in Washington. At last that is changing, in large part because of Rajeev Goyal, who volunteered in Nepal from 2001 to 2003. After finishing law school at N.Y.U., Goyal dedicated himself to lobbying on behalf of the Peace Corps, and he now leads an organization called Push for Peace Corps, whose goal is to double the number of volunteers in the field. Goyal has been tireless on Capitol Hill, and already it’s paid off; last year, despite the economic climate, Congress granted the Peace Corps the largest one-year budget increase since 1961. Goyal says that part of his job is simply explaining what the Peace Corps is. “I’ve tried to educate Congress that P.C. is not really a development program,” he told me recently. “Nor is it a cross-cultural program. It sits on a sliding scale between. It’s about living humbly and understanding, and making lifelong friends. I’ve tried to make them understand how unique the model is.”

The humility that Goyal mentions is one of the most important qualities of the Peace Corps. Like all volunteers, I was often humbled in China—I made mistakes; I embarrassed myself; I encountered problems that I couldn’t solve. Over time, I’ve realized that these failures were just as important as any successes I had as a teacher. It’s an experience that would be valuable for more Americans, especially since too many of those who go abroad—as diplomats, as businessmen, as soldiers, as journalists—occupy jobs that don’t emphasize humility toward local people. Often the best lesson you can learn is that you don’t know it all.

* *

Of course, I also never learned how to say “doorknob.” I wish there were, as Kristof claims, a one-word language test that measures whether somebody really knows a foreign country and culture. But it’s another sliding scale. You learn as much as you can, and then you learn that there’s something else you need to know. When I did an informal doorknob survey among former volunteers, all of them failed miserably. Goyal couldn’t say it in Nepali (although he pointed out that doors in Nepal have handles, not knobs). My friend Michael Meyer, a Peace Corps China teacher who later became the author of the acclaimed book “The Last Days of Old Beijing,” proved to be equally ignorant about doorknobs in Mandarin. I tried another former volunteer named Jake Hooker, who taught in the Yangtze River city of Wanzhou, and came away with the best language skills of anybody I knew in the Peace Corps. He eventually became a reporter for the New York Times; when the paper won a Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting in 2008, Jake was the guy who broke the China side of the story about toxic ingredients in medicine and other products. I asked him about Chinese for “doorknob.”

“No, I don’t know,” Jake said, and then he added, brightly: “But I know the word for ‘door.’ ”

Read more:

BBC News - Guinea to join AU peacekeeping force in Somalia

BBC News - Guinea to join AU peacekeeping force in Somalia

Guinea to join AU peacekeeping force in Somalia

Guinea will send troops to join a peacekeeping force in Somalia, the African Union has said.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

BBC News - Venezuela leader Hugo Chavez severs ties with Colombia

BBC News - Venezuela leader Hugo Chavez severs ties with Colombia

Venezuela leader Hugo Chavez severs ties with Colombia

Venezuela has broken off diplomatic relations with Colombia and ordered Colombian diplomats to leave the country by Sunday.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

U.N.: African nations face food crisis -

U.N.: African nations face food crisis -

United Nations (CNN) -- U.N. officials are pleading for immediate economic assistance for four African countries where people are facing malnutrition in the wake of a drought last year.

The coming weeks ahead will be the toughest for these countries in the Sahel -- the stretch of African countries including Niger, Chad, Mali and Mauritania -- as they make their way into the rainy season and scrape by with the little food they have since last year's harvest, officials said.

"What we need now is urgent action from international leaders and donors to make sure that people have access to food now and in the future," Rooijmans said. "While for the future we should indeed invest in long-term measure to avoid this type of crisis from happening again, at this very moment it is about urgent short-term action."
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Moyo’s Confused Attack on Aid for Africa - Millennium Villages Blog

Moyo’s Confused Attack on Aid for Africa - Millennium Villages Blog

Ms. Dambisa Moyo’s recent Huffington Post article exposes the confusions that underlie her slashing attacks on aid. Most importantly, she seems to believe that sub-Saharan Africa was economically prosperous and then was pushed into poverty by aid. She makes the following statement: “No surprise, then, that Africa is on the whole worse off today than it was 40 years ago. For example in the 1970’s less than 10 percent of Africa’s population lived in dire poverty — today over 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than US$2 a day.”

Let’s parse that statement for a moment. World Bank researchers Shaohua Chen and Martin Ravallion prepare the benchmark under-$2-a-day historical headcount data going back to 1981. According to their figures, headcount poverty under $2 a day was 74 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa in 1981 and 73 percent in 2005. Other prominent estimates that go back to 1950 or 1970 also contradict Moyo’s statement, by showing high and persistent poverty. All of the macroeconomic time series by Maddison, Summers and Heston, and others tell the same story: the majority of Africa’s population started out impoverished at the time of national independence in the 1960s and 1970s, and a majority remains impoverished till today.

If we move beyond the GNP and income measures, the enormity of Africa’s long-term poverty challenges become even more apparent. As we have documented elsewhere, Africa’s literacy, agricultural productivity and urbanization rates were very low in 1970. Rural poverty was pervasive. Africa’s road coverage, electrification, rail network, and other infrastructure were sparse at best and typically non-existent in rural areas. Aid did not kill Africa.

Despite the persistence of poverty, many conditions in Africa have in fact improved in recent decades. Child mortality has declined from 229 per 1,000 births in 1970 to 146 per 1,000 births in 2007. Adult literacy has increased from around 27 percent in 1970 to around 62 percent in 2007. Primary school net enrolments have increased from around 53 percent in 1991 to around 70 percent in 2007. Aid has played a helpful role in this. Yet aid was very limited, averaging around $35 per African per year since 1960. Aid has never been properly resourced or targeted for a focused period to end the poverty trap and thereby to break the dependency on aid.

Africa’s differences with other regions lie not in aid, but in circumstances and history. Unlike South Asia, for example, Africa has not yet had a Green Revolution of higher food yields, the formative event of India’s economic takeoff from the late 1960s. India is a civilization of great river systems and large-scale irrigation, thanks to the Himalayan snowmelt and glacier melt and the annual monsoon rains. Africa is a continent of rain-fed (non-irrigation) agriculture. The original Green Revolution, in which India’s food output per land area rose markedly, came in the irrigated systems of Asia, not the rain-fed systems of Africa.

US aid heavily subsidized India’s Green Revolution while World Bank opposition to aid for African agriculture from the 1980s until recently played an opposite and adverse role, holding back a similar breakthrough for Africa. It was the absence of aid for African agriculture rather than its presence that cost Africa mightily. And one can go on. Africa’s tropical disease burden, heavy concentration of landlocked countries, decline of aid for infrastructure during the 1980s and 1990s, and misguided attempts by Africa’s creditors to collect debt servicing under “structural adjustment programs” during the 1980s and 1990s all played their part.

Moyo now campaigns against the kinds of aid that can keep millions of African children from dying or being maimed for a lifetime through the consequences of serious episodes of disease. She advocates cutting the aid that has allowed more than 2 million Africans access to life-saving AIDS treatment, since governments are involved. Almost unimaginably, she opposes the distribution of anti-malaria bed nets for Africa’s hundreds of millions of young people on the alleged grounds that it has put bed net producers in Africa out of business. In her own words:

“Finally, with respect to Mr. Sachs’ remark that I would see nothing wrong with denying US$10 in aid to an African child for an anti-malarial bed net — even labeling me as cruel; I say, if working towards a sustainable solution where Africans can make their own anti-malaria bed-nets (thereby creating jobs for Africans and a real chance for continents economic prospects) rather than encouraging all and sundry to dump malaria nets across the continent (which incidentally, put Africans out of business), then I am guilty as charged. Don’t forget that the over 60 percent of Africans that are under the age of 24 need jobs not sympathy.”

The confusion underlying this remark is staggering. There are hundreds of millions of Africans at risk of a killer disease, around two hundred million cases of the disease, and around 1 million preventable deaths per year, yet Moyo is opposed to urgent help if nets are not produced in Africa. She seems both unmoved by the massive suffering and unaware that Africa has gone from producing exactly zero long-lasting insecticidal nets (LLINs) a few years ago to several million per year now, with thousands of jobs in the local industry, as a result of the demand for nets created by aid for malaria control.

She takes no note of the fact that global aid for malaria control is also training tens of thousands and soon hundred of thousands of rural Africans as community health workers; and seems to be unaware that unchecked malaria has long devastated Africa’s economy while malaria control is finally emptying the hospitals, putting mothers and fathers back to work and children back to school, and contributing to the boost in Africa’s productivity and economic growth of recent years. She says that if her position against aid for LLINs is deemed to be cruel, then yes, she is “guilty as charged.”

Moyo is not offering a reasoned or evidence-based position on aid. Everybody that deals with aid wants to promote financial transparency and market-led growth, not aid dependency. We and others have recommended many successful mechanisms to limit corruption and ensure that aid reaches the recipients, as is happening in the disease-control programs. The purpose of aid should indeed be to break the poverty trap through targeted investments in an African Green Revolution; disease control; children’s education; core infrastructure of roads, power, safe drinking water and sanitation, and broadband; and business development, including microfinance and rural diversification among impoverished smallholder farmers.

Moyo wants to cut aid off dramatically, even if that leaves millions to die. African leaders - like President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Dr. Awa Coll-Seck of Roll Back Malaria, and Ministers Charity Ngilu and Beth Mugo of Kenya - have fought for Africa’s poor and have used aid to save lives and help economies to prosper. These leaders disagree fundamentally and urgently with Moyo’s attacks. They recommend more aid, fully accountable and properly targeted, to meet urgent needs.

Since the record shows that Africa has long been struggling with rural poverty, tropical diseases, illiteracy, and lack of infrastructure, the right solution is to help address these critical needs through transparent and targeted public and private investments. This includes both more aid and more market financing. That combination will indeed ensure that private markets and African entrepreneurship can succeed.

Dambisa Moyo: Aid Ironies: A Response to Jeffrey Sachs

Dambisa Moyo: Aid Ironies: A Response to Jeffrey Sachs

Ahead of the publication of my book Dead Aid, an author friend of mine cautioned me about responding to opponents who found it necessary to color their criticism with personal attacks. This, he argued, is a tried and tested way of side-stepping the issues and providing a smoke screen when faced with a valid argument.

Jeffrey Sachs's latest posting is just the latest example of using this tactic to obfuscate the facts and avoid addressing the fundamental issues regarding aid's manifest failure to deliver on its promise of generating growth and alleviating poverty in Africa.

And though I am responding here in order to refute his arguments, as a fellow economist, I intend to rely on logic and evidence to make my argument and show Mr. Sachs the professional courtesy that he has failed to show to me.

Development is not that hard. We now have over 300 years of evidence of what works (and what doesn't) in increasing growth, alleviating poverty and suffering. For example, we know that countries that finance development and create jobs through trade and encouraging foreign (and domestic) investment thrive.

We also know that there is no country -- anywhere in the world -- that has meaningfully reduced poverty and spurred significant and sustainable levels of economic growth by relying on aid. If anything, history has shown us that by encouraging corruption, creating dependency, fueling inflation, creating debt burdens and disenfranchising Africans (to name a few), an aid-based strategy hurts more that it helps.

It is true that interventions such as the Marshall plan in Europe and the Green Revolution in India played vital roles in economic (re)construction. However, the key and (often ignored) difference between such aid interventions and those plaguing Africa today is that the former were short, sharp and finite, whereas the latter are open-ended commitments with no end in sight. The problem with an open-ended system is, of course, that African governments have no incentive to look for other, better, ways of financing their development.

Mr Sachs knows this; how do I know? He taught me while I was studying at Harvard, during which he propounded the view that the path to long-term development would only be achieved through private sector involvement and free market solutions.

Perhaps what I had not gleaned at that time was that Mr. Sachs' development approach was made for countries such as Russia, Poland and Bolivia, whereas the aid- dependency approach, with no accompanying job creation, was reserved for Africa.

Mr. Sachs chooses to ignore that relying on aid at a time when the United States is facing 10 percent unemployment rate and Germany (another leading donor) could contract by as much as 6 percent, is a fool hardy strategy. The aid interventions that Mr. Sachs lauds as evidence of success are merely band aid solutions that do nothing to lift Africa out of the mire -- leaving the continent alive but half drowning, still unable to climb out on its own.

Yes an aid-funded scholarship will send a girl to school, but we ought not to delude ourselves that such largesse will make her country grow at the requisite growth rates to meaningfully put a dent in poverty. No surprise, then, that Africa is on the whole worse off today than it was 40 years ago. For example in the 1970's less that 10 percent of Africa's population lived in dire poverty -- today over 70 percent of sub-Saharan Africa lives on less than US$2 a day.

There is a more fundamental point -- what kind of African society are we building when virtually all public goods -- education, healthcare, infrastructure and even security -- are paid for by Western taxpayers? Under the all encompassing aid system too many places in Africa continue to flounder under inept, corrupt and despotic regimes, who spend their time courting and catering to the demands of the army of aid organizations.

Like everywhere else, Africans have the political leadership that we have paid for. Thanks to aid, a distressing number of African leaders care little about what their citizens want or need -- after all it's the reverse of the Boston tea-party -- no representation without taxation.

In conclusion let me respond to four of Mr. Sachs' specific points:

1) Regarding Rwanda: It is absolutely true that Rwanda depends on substantial amounts of foreign aid. The point is that President Paul Kagame is working tirelessly to wean his county off of aid dependency (which is precisely the approach to exiting aid that I have been arguing for). To focus on the point that Rwanda relies on aid is to miss the more interesting point: Here in a country where over 70 percent of the government budget is aid supported, the leadership is pushing for less, not more aid -- what is it Mr. Sachs that President Kagame sees that you do not see? Let's face it, the leadership could guilt-trip us all into giving it even more aid after the international community turned its back on the country at its time of need during the 1994 genocide, yet it does not.

2) Mr. Sachs claims that I, alongside the compassionate Bill Easterly, lump all kinds of [aid] programs in one undifferentiated mass. I would point Mr. Sachs to page 7 of my book which explicitly makes a delineation between different types of aid.

3) Regarding the "countless" examples in which countries have benefited from aid then graduated: Here I would point Mr. Sachs to page 37 of my book to a discussion of these countries; The difference again with these success stories is that they did not rely on aid to the degree and length that African countries do today. Moreover, they very quickly adopted the market-based, job-creating strategies outlined in my book, for which Mr. Sachs seems to have an apparent aversion, in favour of the status quo.

4) Finally, with respect to Mr. Sachs' remark that I would see nothing wrong with denying US$10 in aid to an African child for an anti-malarial bed net -- even labeling me as cruel; I say, if working towards a sustainable solution where Africans can make their own anti-malaria bed-nets (thereby creating jobs for Africans and a real chance for continents economic prospects) rather than encouraging all and sundry to dump malaria nets across the continent (which incidentally, put Africans out of business), then I am guilty as charged. Don't forget that the over 60 percent of Africans that are under the age of 24 need jobs not sympathy.

As a final plea, I urge Mr. Sachs to heed the words of his former boss, Mr. Kofi Annan when he says "The determination of Africans, and genuine partnership between Africa and the rest of the world, is the basis for growth and development."

Dambisa Moyo is the author of Dead Aid: Why Aid is Not Working and How There is a Better Way for Africa (Farrar Straus & Giroux);

Jeffrey Sachs: Aid Ironies

Jeffrey Sachs: Aid Ironies

The debate about foreign aid has become farcical. The big opponents of aid today are Dambisa Moyo, an African-born economist who reportedly received scholarships so that she could go to Harvard and Oxford but sees nothing wrong with denying $10 in aid to an African child for an anti-malaria bed net. Her colleague in opposing aid, Bill Easterly, received large-scale government support from the National Science Foundation for his own graduate training.

I certainly don't begrudge any of them the help that they got. Far from it. I believe in this kind of help. And I'd find Moyo's views cruel and mistaken even she did not get the scholarships that have been reported (Easterly mentioned his receipt of NSF support in the same book in which he denounces aid). I begrudge them trying to pull up the ladder for those still left behind. Before peddling their simplistic concoction of free markets and self-help, they and we should think about the realities of life, in which all of us need help at some time or other and in countless ways, and even more importantly we should think about the life-and-death consequences for impoverished people who are denied that help.

Nine million children die each year of extreme poverty and disease conditions which are almost all preventable or treatable or both. Impoverished countries, with impoverished governments, can't solve these problems on their own. Yet with help they can. The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, and the Global Alliance on Vaccines and Immunizations are both saving lives by the millions, and at remarkably low cost. Goldman Sachs, Ms. Moyo's former employer, gives out more in annual bonuses to its workers than the entire rich world gives to the Global Fund each year to help save the lives of poor children. And when Goldman Sachs got into financial trouble it got bailed-out by the US Government. Rich people have an uncanny ability to oppose aid for everybody but themselves.

Recently Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda, wrote an op-ed for the Financial Times praising Moyo's fresh thinking. This is extraordinary. His government has depended on aid for more than a decade. Nearly half the budget revenues currently come from aid. Rwanda currently imports around $800 million of merchandise each year, but only earns $250 million or so in exports. So how does it do it? Aid, of course, helped to pay for around $450 million of the imports. Without foreign aid, Rwanda's pathbreaking public health successes and strong current economic growth would collapse. Kagame's op-ed did not help FT readers to understand this.

Americans are predisposed to like the anti-aid message. They believe that the poor have only themselves (or perhaps their governments) to blame. They overestimate the actual aid from the US by around thirty times, so they imagine that vast sums are flowing to Africa that are then squandered. Many believe, typically in private, that by saving African children we would be creating a population explosion, so better to let the kids die now rather than grow up hungry. (I'm asked about this constantly, usually in whispers, after lectures). They don't understand the most basic point of worldwide experience: when children survive rather than die in large numbers, households choose to have many fewer children, in fact more than compensating for the decline in child mortality. Africa's high child mortality is ironically a core reason why Africa's population is continuing to soar rather than stabilize as in other parts of the world.

Of course, most Americans know little about the many crucially successful aid efforts, because Moyo, Easterly, and others lump all kinds of programs - the good and the bad - into one big undifferentiated mass, rather than helping people to understand what is working and how it can be expanded, and what is not working, and should therefore be cut back. Nor do Americans hear that many poor countries graduate from the need for aid over time, precisely because aid programs help to spur economic growth and successfully prepare countries to tackle future priorities. US aid to India for increased food production in the 1960s paved the way for India's growth takeoff afterwards. There are countless other examples in which countries have benefited from aid and then graduated, including Korea, Malaysia, Taiwan, Israel, and others. Egypt is on that path today, and Rwanda, Tanzania, Ghana, and others will be as well if both donors and recipients carry forward with a sensible assistance strategies.

Here are some of the most effective kinds of aid efforts: support for peasant farmers to help them grow more food, childhood vaccines, malaria control with bed nets and medicines, de-worming, mid-day school meals, training and salaries for community health workers, all-weather roads, electricity supplies, safe drinking water, treadle pumps for small-scale irrigation, directly observed therapy for tuberculosis, antiretroviral medicines for AIDS sufferers, clean low-cost cook stoves to prevent respiratory disease of young children. Shipment of food from the US is a kind of aid that should be cut back, with more attention on growing local food in Africa.

Out of every $100 of US national income, our government currently provides the grand sum of 5 cents in aid to all of Africa. Out of that same $100, we have found around $10 for the stimulus package and bank bailouts and another $5 for the military. It is not wonderful that what has caught the public's eye are proposals to cut today's 5 cents to 4 or 3 cents or perhaps zero.

BBC News - Suriname ex-strongman Bouterse back in power

BBC News - Suriname ex-strongman Bouterse back in power

Suriname ex-strongman Bouterse back in power

The former military ruler of Suriname, Desi Bouterse, has been elected president by the South American nation's parliament.
Mr Bouterse won the necessary 36 votes out of 50 after weeks of negotiations with political factions following a narrow election victory in May.
Mr Bouterse, 64, first led Suriname after taking power in a coup in 1980.
He has been accused of killing political opponents and convicted of drug trafficking in the Netherlands.
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