July 02, 2005


Have you signed?

Please go to Live 8 and sign the petition. All the right-wing think tanks are up in arms against dropping Third World debt and increasing aid, leaving no doubt in my mind that these are worthwhile and necessary objectives!

No, dropping Third World debt is a big mistake. Give food and medicine and equipment but don't erase the debt.
To Man: Your comment reminds me of this guy who tried to give some cigarettes to a homeless person. The homeless person simply told him “I don’t smoke.” It is simple logic that aid should be based on what the recipient needs to receive, and not on what the donor wants to give. For far too long, development assistance, and even disaster relief, has been directed towards restructuring Third World economies to turn them into (a) better markets for Western manufactured products, and (b) better suppliers of cheap raw materials for the West. This will have to stop, and one way to stop it is to take development assistance out of the hands of Washington-directed organizations such as the World Bank and the IMF. At the moment, the Third World demands (a) debt forgiveness, (b) increased development assistance, and (c) improved terms of trade. These are what they want, and, according to the above logic, these are what they should get. They should get debt forgiveness because the debt was created by the First World banks, governments, and international organizations to further the West’s own interests. They should get increased development assistance and better terms of trade to counter decades of exploitative colonial and post-colonial relations with the West.

Giving “food, medicine, and equipment,” as you propose, is a delicate matter that should be entrusted to progressive development organizations such as Oxfam and Doctors without Borders. Otherwise, it may end up doing more harm than good. For instance, food aid tends to harm the interests of local farmers, not to speak of the fact that it introduces alien food products into the country, creating long-term dependency on imported food items that cannot be grown locally. Similarly, medical assistance tends to undermine the work of local physicians, as happened in Sri Lanka in the wake of the recent tsunami. Giving “equipment” often has similar results.
Al S.E. you have a very good perspective on this issue. I also believe Man is mistaken. Many of the international loans the developing countries are struggeling to pay back were given to improve their infrastructure and build their country, while in many cases the loans werent used to develop the country (like dictators loaning money for the military). We are all exploiting the development countries every day. Demanding lower prices on food or other consumer goods is indirectly a way to exploit the 3. world. It is time to let these countries help themselves, and it's time to let them trade fairly with the west. If this is going to happen, developing countries need to use their income on themselves, not to pay debt that can never be repayed entierely.

The western society won't crumble to peices if we erase these loans... I'm quite sure of that... but if we don't... who knows what can happen in 20 years or further.
I'd be conviced of this debt relief strategy if you could point out one or two instances where it has been employed successfully.
It's been my experience that money given unnaccountably to a group of people like that results in a degradation of culture and abuse of the system. Maybe make it interest free? Adjust it so that it's affordable? Anything but give it freely as if it has no value.
Regarding the medical aid and food I agree that we should provide this in any case, better yet have them provide it in some way - keep any outside involvement to a minimum.
I agree with you except I think it should be a matter of selection. We've been in this world game long enough to know who will eventually be able to come forward and pay up and who will never be able to pay their debt. Our own debt (the U.S., that is) is being overwhelmed by daily interest, so first, we should consider relieving interest or soon we'll be in as bad a shape as the underdeveloped countries.
Read this Spiegel interview with african economics expert:
"For God's Sake, Please Stop the Aid!"

It puts some matters into perspective.
Thanks for your input, Fridjon. The Wikipedia describes James Shikwati (i.e. the person you referred to) as a "libertarian economist" and a member of "Inter Region Economic Network." The latter organization's website describes it as an ultra-right libertarian think tank in Kenya—though not, obviously, in these terms! I know my argument is ad hominem, but, still, I think I know by now what such people stand for, and so I don't need to hear what they have to say. Their values and ideas are those of the right-wing of the US Republican Party, sans the religiosity.

I agree that there are different and conflicting perspectives on the issue of development aid. This does not mean, however, that all of them are valid. Some of them are valuable contributions to the debate, to some extent or other. The rest are, generally speaking, mere expressions of the class interests of the particular speaker.
Why provide aid for a bunch of people who hate us and blame all of their problems on us. They'll hate us either way, so let's take the cheapest way around the matter. Jeez.
Live8, although a great concert, will do nothing for their "cause".
Jim Crall. Mentality reflecting your comment may be one of the reasons why many people hate USA.

I do agree that the we should be more careful when pouring aid money into developing countries in Africa. It has been proven again and again that financial aid stimulates corruption. However, dept relief is not direct aid, rather a chance for a poor country to use their income to build their contry instead of just paying interests.
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