By William Easterly, Published on Shell Foundation.org, not dated – At July’s G8 summit world leaders pledged to double aid spending by 2010, and barely a month later agreed to cancel $40 billion of poor country debts. We asked former World Bank economist and aid industry critic, William Easterly, whether he thought this was good news for the poor?
“Securing pledges for more aid is not going to make poverty history. What we should be examining is the aid industry’s plans to spend this new money because it has a track record of failure dating back to the 1940s and 50s. There’s been numerous and diverse attempts to buy the poor out of poverty but none of them have been particularly successful. So in 2005 we found ourselves ostensibly throwing more good money after bad. Above all, this is tragic for the poor.”
These are strong words from someone who spent 16 years working as Research Economist at the World Bank. In recent years, Easterly has carved out a respected niche as a leading critic of the aid industry, writing numerous articles, comment pieces and a bestselling book entitled The Elusive Quest for Growth.
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“There might be one billion people living on a dollar day but they are not a political constituency – they have no voice. They are effectively customers of this multi-billion dollar aid industry but lack the ability to give feedback and influence the type of aid they receive.
“At the same time, aid industry investors – rich country tax payers and the politicians writing the cheques – are ill-informed and far removed from the lives and daily challenges of the world’s poor. Therefore the disconnect that resides at either end of the development supply chain mitigates against change and reform to deliver the type of development the poor so desperately want and need,” he adds.
Therefore instead of targeted interventions responding to customer needs fused with pressure from investors to deliver, Easterly argues the history of development is one of grandiose and broken promises right up to the present day with the Millennium Development Goals. (Read the whole long article on the Shell Foundation.org).