Saturday, March 04, 2006

The mystery of development ...

A thought provoking essay in Prospect Magazine by Robert Cooper. Haven't read it all but it starts off promisingly. And let's face it, the answer isn't just sending more money to poor countries.
Campaigns such as the Make Poverty History movement (or on a governmental level, the millennium development goals) do much good by raising consciousness and mobilising resources. But we will not make poverty history by our own efforts. Poverty is eliminated by the creation of functioning states; and only the poor nations themselves can do that. We should help those who are on the road—and we should be more ready to put money into making political and security solutions work. But we might as well recognise that for the most part we give aid not for development but to mitigate the evils of non-development. The objective is charitable: to help the poor survive, if possible with some dignity.

There is nothing wrong with that. It is not in our power to transform poor countries. We should suppress our imperial longings not so much because they are morally bad as because imperialism doesn't work. There is still much we can do to make people's lives less nasty and brutish. It is usually possible to find dynamic individuals with a sense of the public good and a commitment to their country, and you can work with them. The ministry of education may be no good but there are still teachers who want the best for their children; appalling military juntas may sometimes have a half decent health minister; central government may be corrupt but in the villages there is still a sense of solidarity.
Read on.

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