Third World Economy: Is Foreign Aid Destructive?
Foreign Aid comes with a feel-good factor. We can be satisfied that we are - our countries are - contributing to the economic well-being of starving people in the Third World. Even if only a small percentage of our money goes to that aid, at least we did something positive. Or did we?
Zambian writer Evans Munyemesha does not think so. In an article titled International Aid, published in The Zambian, he charges that development aid, "has financed the creation of monstrous projects that, at vast expense, have devastated the environment and ruined lives". Rather than getting down to "the hard task of wealth creation", Munyemesha says, "easy handouts" have been substituted "for the rigors of self-help", leaving the receiving countries economically crippled and their people worse off than before. If we look at results, African 'aid' has been an unmitigated disaster:
"[Africa] has lost self-sufficiency in food production that it enjoyed before development assistance was invented, and during the past few decades, has become instead a continent-sized beggar hopelessly dependent on the largesse of outsiders---per-capita food production has fallen in every year since the 1960s. Seven out of every ten Africans, are now reckoned to be destitute or on the verge of extreme poverty, with the result that the continent has the highest infant mortality rates in the world, the lowest average life-expectancies in the world, the lowest literacy rates, the fewest doctors per head of population, and the fewest children in school."
And the situation in other parts of the world does not seem much better.
You might say, that with all the money we're paying, there must be something wrong with the receivers of our aid. The temptation is to cast around for logical reasons why our good intentions don't bear fruit. Corruption ... lazyness ... hold it for a moment. Apart from the on-the-ground view of our Zambian observer (you can see the whole article further down) we have another witness - John Perkins, a highly paid economist formerly working for an international development consultancy. In his book titled Confessions of an Economic Hit Man, Perkins describes how as a highly paid professional, he helped the U.S. cheat poor countries around the globe out of trillions of dollars by lending them more money than they could possibly repay and then take over their economies.
"Basically what we were trained to do and what our job is to do is to build up the American empire. To bring -- to create situations where as many resources as possible flow into this country, to our corporations, and our government, and in fact we’ve been very successful. We’ve built the largest empire in the history of the world. It's been done over the last 50 years since World War II with very little military might, actually. It's only in rare instances like Iraq where the military comes in as a last resort. This empire, unlike any other in the history of the world, has been built primarily through economic manipulation, through cheating, through fraud, through seducing people into our way of life..."
said John Perkins when he was interviewed by Amy Godman. You can find a transcription and get the audio on Democracynow.org. Much of the responsibility for the disaster, says Perkins, is the World Bank's and the International Monetary Fund's, but he is also optimistic that the situation can be changed, saying "I believe the World Bank and other institutions can be turned around and do what they were originally intended to do, which is help reconstruct devastated parts of the world. Help -- genuinely help poor people."
Well, we certainly would have to find ways to make the 'aid' actually arrive at the people, and to help them become self-sufficient, not lead them into further dependency.
Thanks to Neal Perochet of Environmental Restoration International, for bringing the article of Evans Munyemesha to my attention. Neal has been working on the ground in Africa and elsewhere, to make communities self-sufficient through environmental restoration.
Here's the article, first published in The Zambian, which does go quite a way in shaking our feel-good factor on foreign aid or, as it's also mistakenly called, "development aid"...
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