Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Green on Moyo and the effectiveness of aid

Duncan Green is not satisfied with Moyo’s analysis and the alternatives she proposes:

But it is Dead Aid’s purported alternatives to aid that seem particularly feeble: African governments should issue lots of bonds (not too many takers at the moment - bad luck on the timing there); trust in China (and thus get stuck in commodity dependence, let alone the human rights issues); rich countries should remove barriers to trade (fine, but it won’t make much difference except in a few particular products like cotton) and invest in infrastructure (does anyone disagree with that?) and access to microfinance needs to be increased (sure, but it’s not even close to a magic bullet).

What is most noticeable is what’s missing – the book claims to be about finding better ways to finance development, but she barely mentions taxation or redistribution. Maybe it’s that Goldman Sachs/Zambian elite thing coming through again.

Overall, I was intrigued by Moyo’s politics/ideology. She manages to combine an entirely understandable resentment to the patronizing ways of aid donors and their crass portrayal of her continent (in Tony Blair’s awful soundbite) as ‘a scar on the conscience of the world’, an uncritical celebration of the rise of Chinese and Indian influence in Africa, and a highly conventional international financier’s assumption that free capital markets will solve every problem. A kind of third worldist neoliberalism, or right wing version of the old ‘aid as imperialism’ line.

Earlier discussion on the same issue here