Book-Blogging: Dead Aid – Chapter Ten

This is part of my effort to read through a number of development-focused books. Previous chapters of Dead Aid: onetwothreefourfive/sixseveneight, nine

The final chapter of Dambisa Moyo’s Dead Aid lays out a framework for implementing the proposals outlined throughout – the three-legged stool of the “Dead Aid Approach.” It’s pretty straightforward:

1)      Drastically cut aid over a short period of time (three to five years), and fill the aid gap with financing alternatives – trade, FDI, bonds, remittances, microfinance, and savings

2)      Cut spending when necessary (ideally the non-essential items like palaces), and tax the middle class when it’s feasible to do so

3)      Strengthen institutions

Moyo notes, “The Dead Aid proposal is dead easy to implement. What it needs, and what it is lacking, is political will.” But political will isn’t so dead easy to find – and that’s assuming the proposal is appropriate to begin with.

Is that a fair assumption to make? By now, the objections are familiar: drastically cutting aid assumes that there will be financing alternatives, which is far from clear for resource-poor countries; austerity would likely harm the worst off more than any other group; and strengthening institutions is a long slog that is not going to occur in a day, or a year. I found that Moyo didn’t adequately address these concerns, so I don’t believe the Dead Aid Approach is going to be an effective solution.

She remains optimistic about conditional cash transfers, and argues that if Westerners really want to help, they should distribute aid money directly to the population. Logistically, this would be messy and expensive, but there’s certainly merit to it; the devil is in the details.

The book ends with a strange perspective on China and its role in the continent’s development:

“Whether or not Chinese domination is in the interest of the average African today is irrelevant… in the immediate term a woman in rural Dongo cares less about the risk to her democratic freedom in forty years’ time than about putting food on her table tonight. China promises food on the table today, education for her children tomorrow and an infrastructure she can rely on to support her business in the foreseeable future.”

Replace “China” with “The West” and it is unlikely Moyo would be so optimistic. It seems obvious to me that Chinese domination is relevant to the average African, today and in forty years’ time; this is the type of argument that was used during the Berlin Conference and the Scramble for Africa. We ignore history at our peril.

Which brings us to the end of Dead Aid. More to say in the wrap-up…

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