Saturday, June 17, 2006

Dude, Where's My $2.3 Trillion?

In Exposing the myth of Third World aid, Michael Duffy of the Sydney Morning Herald asks were our $2.3 trillion went.

PERHAPS the most important question of our time is why the West's efforts to help the world's poorest people have been so disappointing and even counterproductive. In the past 50 years, we have spent $US2.3 trillion on foreign aid, to disturbingly little effect. An important new book suggests this has had a lot to do with the arrogance of the "big push" approach favoured by many development economists and organisations such as the World Bank and the United Nations.

... and ...

Easterly says the $US2.3 trillion hasn't achieved what it should have. This is because much of it has been given as part of a never-ending series of internationally planned and co-ordinated "big plans". He believes the alternative would be to encourage more market-oriented activities among the poor themselves.

Those, such as Bono, Bob Geldof and the economist Jeffrey Sachs, who still advocate the traditional approach he calls Planners, while those looking for a bottom-up alternative are Searchers. According to Easterly: "In foreign aid, Planners announce good intentions but don't motivate anyone to carry them out; Searchers find things that work and get some reward. Planners raise expectations but take no responsibility for meeting them; Searchers accept responsibility for their actions … Planners at the top lack knowledge of the bottom; Searchers find out what the reality is at the bottom."

I suppose it is easy for conservatives to be cynical about organizations like the World Bank and the UN. I'm not one. This whole situation is a blight on the church. The Lord Jesus Christ commanded us to look after the poor, especially those who are in the family of faith. Of course the plans of the world are going to fail in this arena, that's not what God called the civil government to do. The world should sit around slack-jawed as the church, like an army, assaults global poverty. This is not to slight those brave Christians who serve the poor worldwide, but what are the rest of us doing?

1 John 3:17: But if anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God's love abide in him?