Bill Easterly, in a nutshell, says that we’ve spent $2 trillion on aid over the past 50 years and have nothing to show for it. Charles Kenny says he’s entirely wrong, in a new paper saying that if you look at "nearly everything that matters" – nearly everything which isn’t money, in other words – the developing world, Africa included, has improved dramatically over that time.
This remarkable progress has been truly global. Africa has benefited as much as Asia or
Latin America. Countries that have seen no economic growth have seen almost the same
levels of progress on broader indicators of development as have countries that grew
This success should give us confidence in our abilities to overcome the many and
considerable development challenges which remain, and suggests a different, or at least
additional, strategy for attracting resources for that fight…
Suggesting that the governments, donors,
businesses and NGOs that have long struggled to deliver the services required for
improved outcomes have failed so miserably over the last thirty years that we remain in
crisis surely suggests more resources to these same actors would only be a waste -that if
there is still a crisis, development actors have only themselves to blame.
It is clear that there is a good deal that developing countries and the development
community could do to better deliver basic services. But these all too often corrupt and
usually inefficient organizations have nonetheless played a role in a widespread,
unprecedented revolution in the quality of life of people worldwide over the last fifty
years. Governments and donors have been key in expanding educational opportunities, in
improving access to infrastructure, in providing basic health care. This success, rather
than continued failure leading to crisis, is surely the reason that developing country
governments and their development partners deserve continuing, growing support that
would have us reach the 0.7 percent aid target.
I’d love to know what Bono thinks of this. His scolding paid off with Bush in the White House; maybe the soaring rhetoric of hope will fit better into the Obama worldview.