Tuesday 9 June 2009

The trouble with aid

My head is totally stuffed with cotton wool at the moment - came down with an evil cold this morning, so I blame any horrible prose to come on germs.

I had to turn up my car stereo this morning to hear a Counterpoint podcast on Foreign Aid, particularly aid to Africa. As I am having trouble thinking straight, I hope I get this right (and the bloke being interviewed was awfully hard to understand).

Assertion 1 - more money leaves Africa each year for tax havens that the west donates in aid. Therefore, tax havens should be closed down.

Assertion 2 - Africa does not need more aid (as Bono et al keep telling us) - it needs less, and it needs to be given set targets as to how aid will be wound down over a decade or two.

Assertion 3 - a lot of the policy prescriptions that have been attached to aid in recent years have done more harm than good, and have benefited some donor countries hugely. Eg, a country is told to privatise their water supply system, which they do, and the French move in and take it over.

Apart from being almost impossible to understand, it was an interesting talk. The rest of that Counterpoint episode is also one of the best I have heard this year.

To assertion 1 - if so much money is leaving Africa, it tells us something. It tells us a lot. It tells us that the investment climate sucks, and it presumably sucks due to god-awful government, corruption and thieving bureaucrats. If a Swiss banker is offering a dull, 6% return on your money with minimal (if any) tax, versus a 5% return in Africa with the possibility of not only all your profit being stolen, but your capital as well - where would any right thinking person put their money? I have no issue with giving money directly to Africans, such as sponsoring kids, but giving money to governments is madness. Giving money to our own governments is madness - witness NSW at present, and Victoria under Kirner and her lot. Total disaster. Obama looks like he is going to set a new record for utterly shite government, bettering even Gordon Brown. Whitlam was the four horsemen of the economic apocalypse rolled into one.

If our own, relatively clean and well run western governments can be such total arse-wipes that should have their spending powers ruthlessly amputated like the Black Knight in The Search for Holy Grail, why on earth should we give African despots anything at all?

Assertion 2 - spot on. The sooner they get weaned off aid, the better off they'll be. Do we get a heroin addict to clean up by giving them more heroin?

Assertion 3 - more than likely, knowing the perfidious French.

My brain is too gummed up to think properly.

No comments: