Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Dead Aid-Dambisa Moyo

Dead Aid-Dambisa Moyo

the facts
satisfaction: up
pages: 155
gender: F
nationality: Zaire
year: 2009
Non-fiction, economics

Dead Aid unflinchingly confronts one of the greatest myths of our time: that billions of dollars in aid sent from wealthy countries to developing African nations has helped to reduce poverty and increase growth. In fact, poverty levels continue to escalate and growth rates have steadily declined—and millions continue to suffer. Debunking the current model of international aid promoted by both Hollywood celebrities and policy makers, Dambisa Moyo offers a bold new road map for financing development of the world’s poorest countries

As soon as I had heard of this book, I knew I had to read it. An economic treatise for Africa written by a woman from Zaire, say it ain't so.

After the preliminary definition of aid, the first half is a scorching, almost angry point by point of how aid does everything it wishes it didn't do: encourages corruption, doesn't get anything done,  rewards horrible regimes, kills off incentives to growth, etc. Then comes the Dead Aid proposal. By using a fictional country, Dongo, that's pretty much bottom of the barrel, Moyo breaks up potential sources into three. To be honest, I could've done with a different organization scheme. While in the section on micro-finance, Moyo sneaks in widespread financial sector overhaul and dormant savings which while relevant gets me wondering what is needed first. Overhaul of banking to harness remittance savings or micro-finance from foreigners to stimulate a need for stable savings. But I appreciate that this is a generalized thesis-not an actual economic plan.

So anyway, Moyo makes a good point in the FDI (foreign direct investment)/China Is Our Friend that Africans care more about food on the table, education for the future more than the hypothetical political regimes change if China does end up just taking over. However, I was left with the question of how China is enforcing their policy of "here's money, build infrastructure" that aid failed to do with its attempts to give money conditionally. (Am I getting the urge to read an entire book about Chinese economic policies? Yes, I am.) I was also left wondering whether Moyo was being a bit optimistic.

Anyhow, Moyo's third alternative to aid is bond issuance, aka the chapter I understood the least. The numbers were too big, the data too much, and the jargon with issuance kept throwing me off. But for the most part, the rest of the book is written both so that economists can see the point very clearly, and laypeople like me can also see the points even if the specifics fly over the head. This is a difficult balance to strike and definitely variable among the reading public but for me, I think Moyo succeeded most of the way. I wish the transition from aid to market reliance was treated more in depth as I found myself wondering about political destabilization.

So, if you've ever found yourself cold to the entreaties of public celebrity-endorsed aid campaigns, give this one a read and log onto Kiva.

Read for GWC.

P.S. Anyone know of a modern economic treatise written by an Asian woman that is somewhat accessible to laypeople?

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