Saturday, July 15, 2006

He is wrong

Now I am really pissed at Bob Geldof who says it is no defence that New Zealand's non-government aid to the Third World is high. Much of global poverty was government business. Only governments could deal with the structures of extreme poverty. Private aid dealt with the symptoms.

Below is one of the kids we've sponsored and a typical piece from the regular progress reports we receive. He lives in Mali, one of the poorest countries in the world with 65 percent of its land desert or semi-desert. World Vision builds schools, irrigation systems, they train people in income generating activities and they educate about loan management, primary health and nutrition. That doesn't sound like dealing with the symptoms to me.



If government taxes more to increase their international aid contribution, taxpayers are likely to donate less to those private charities which are so effective. The first part is exactly what Geldof is pushing for and the second part is what obviously doesn't matter to him because he believes private charity only deals with the symptoms.

13 comments:

backin15 said...

Lindsay, the excerpt you quote is not a quote from Geldof by the way - I suspect that what he said was the political engagement was needed to fundamentally address systemic poverty.

Lindsay Mitchell said...

But Geldof said New Zealand's official aid did not represent the spirit of the electorate. "In a democracy we are able to insist that our wishes are made manifest," he said. "And they are not being made manifest by the pathetic 0.27 per cent this government gives to the poorest people on the planet. That is a great disgrace."

It was no defence that New Zealand's non-government aid to the Third World was high. Much of global poverty was government business, he said.

It was absurd that at a time when much of the world had never been healthier, people were dying of poverty.

"We don't die of drought in the South Island, Queensland or Kent. They die of drought in Africa. Why? They are poor. We don't die of Aids in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch any longer, thank God. They die of Aids in Africa. Why? Because they are poor." Only governments could deal with the structures of extreme poverty. Private aid dealt with the symptoms.

OK. That was a straight cut and paste. So are you saying the reporter made up the bits outside the quotation marks and you know what Bob actually said?

KG said...

""We don't die of drought in the South Island, Queensland or Kent. They die of drought in Africa. Why? They are poor."
They don't die because they're poor. They die because their rotten, corrupt governments thieve aid and sell it, wage war on their neighbours with arms bought from the proceeds, ignore the lesson that property rights are a necessary precondition for prosperity, remain locked in primitive belief systems that are simply incopatible with progress...The list goes on.
All the aid in the world will not fix Africa's malaise and the best example I can think of is Zimbabwe--from the "bread basket of Africa" to a basket case in a few years, under the rule of that Marxist thug Mugabe. It's the African way.

KG said...

"incompatible"
I'll learn to preview a comment before hitting the "post" button one of these days.

backin15 said...

Lindsay, he's entitled to this view which, unpleasant, is not without basis. Geldof's consistently argued that private charitable acts will only ever address part of the systemic problem which is as much about nepotistic client states as it is the history of imperialism in Africa.

Do you seriously think individuals' collective charity will be sufficient to solve entrenched poverty in Africa? Of course government's must act as well (not instead I stress), by committing to aid, through trade, through commerce such as through http://www.joinred.com/, and by forgiving debt. This is precisely what Geldof has argued for decades - you focus on one issue because it coheres with your prejudices about what governements' can and can not do.

Your first entry focused on the one line he didn't say because it enabled you to engage in your typical and cynical dismissal of the man, not the issue.

KG said...

"Nepotism and imperialism" eh..
which neatly side-steps the causes I mentioned above.
If imperialism is to blame, then why has India, for example become a successful economic powerhouse, with relatively uncorrupt government and civil service? Many Indians themselves credit the governance structures they inherited from the rits for their current success.
Forgiving debt is useless if more aid is to be shovelled at the problem, perpetuating the current "African poverty is the West's fault" mindset.
Something like 50 billion dollar's worth of aid has been poured into Africa over the past twenty five years for almost no improvement. The fault lies with Africa, not the West.
I've lived and worked in Africa, backin15 and believe me, you're pushing a discredited and ineffectual "feelgood" line.
As is Geldof.

backin15 said...

kg, I didn't side step your comments at all though if it assists, I'm happy to include corruption in the list.

My point was, and remains, that Lindsay's criticism of Geldof is naive; for her criticism to be valid, we have to believe that private charity is enough to solve the problem but Lindsay, and others here too, acknowledge the problem isn't simply resources, it's also political - how can private charity solve political problems?

Imperialism is a significant part of the root cause; the impoverishment of Africa is partly a function of the exploitation of their wealth, or the starvation of capital or, more recently, the adoption of policies that completely supress their ability to develop sophisticated economies - these are not my views, they're the views of former World Bank VP Joseph Stiglitz.

KG said...

backin5, the causes you mention undoubtedly contribute to African poverty. No question.

But those causes will never be effectively addressed as long as endemic corruption, thuggery and and their adherance to a failed ideology (marxism)persist.
For huge areas of Africa Islam is also a problem, leaving them mired in an anti-Western ideology (it's more a totalitarian ideology than a religion)that prevents progress.
I can't imagine any form of political engagement by the West that could overcome those factors.
Well, yes I can--it's called colonialism. :o)

Unknown said...

Backin15 - the interesting thing I see here is that most of the things you raise which would genuinely help the situation actually don't need the Government to donate money as "aid.

So oddly I kind of agree with you. The Governments should be acting (what they can supposedly do best :D ) and working on free trade etc. While the charity can continue to come from the private sector where it tends to be administered where the money and education is needed. Rather than being donated at the Government level which you yourself noted was corrupt and ineffective (at the target end).

backin15 said...

kg/iig374; I don't disagree with the broad theme of both of your comments; corruption, hopelessly ideological governments, oppression etc all these things stiffle any hope in Africa and must be addressed and will require political solutions.

Where we perhaps disagree is that I'd argue both politics and foreign aid are needed and that private charity isn't enough; not least of all because unlike the World Bank or the IMF or any other political institution/national state, private charity can't leverage political change.

I have a problem with the slavish implementation of the Washington consensus aid package, but I wouldn't for a moment suggest NZ stop contributing to these bodies or though other channels as Lindsay seems to be arguing.

Brian Smaller said...

"If imperialism is to blame, then why has India, for example become a successful economic powerhouse, with relatively uncorrupt government and civil service? "

Not sure what Indian civil service you are taking about. Most Indians I know think that the government (local, state and national) and the civil service is totally corrupt.

Unknown said...

Backin15 - Guess we'll have to agree to disagree on that :-)

But certainly I see it necessary for the political level of involvement to continue, I just don't see that the Government should be involved in the allocation of taxpayers funds to other countries.

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