Absolutely stunning article by Tina Rosenberg in the NYTimes on how to fight poverty. Sadly it is behind their paywall, which is reprehensible considering its import.
The people care, Governments do not
Not only is US foreign aid pathetically small versus it’s GDP, but 39% of it goes to military aid to Israel, Egypt etc, and it seems most of the rest goes to pay expensive consultants, central banks and bureaucrats. Meanwhile individual Americans want to spend money helping foreign countries, but do not trust their government to do so – and you can see why.
Tina suggests investment in eight programs. Global immunization, microcredit and property rights for the poor head the list. Next is paying mothers to get their kids to school, and compensating for loss of the kid’s earnings along with building small roads to link villages. Rounding out the list are greening Africa though higher yielding crops and a cool program to make sure people take their 6-9 month course of TB drugs by pairing them up with a paid buddy. It’s called DOTS.
All of these projects are local. None need involve expensive consultants. None involve expensive capital projects – the local roads is the closest, but it’s recommended they are built by the locals with local materials. None involve giving money to nationals of the government that is doing the donating. None need iunvolve foreign governments, as they can be low scale. Some, such as microcredit, are already scaling up well, and backed by the likes of the IBRD and EBRD.
Smart governments will invest in these projects, justifying it as both the right thing to do, the things that the population wants, and the best way to make sure we have a stable world in the future. They should also seek to publicise the investment and results – as a vote-earner. And stop with the military ‘aid’.