Development: The Good News

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.

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