Sunday, June 26, 2005
I have been writing a lot on development aid as it has been in the news a lot. I harp on it since I work for a development agency so I am in the business of aid. This is an interesting column which frames the discussion between two points of view which he labels liberal and conservative. I am not sure I agree with the labeling, but the article is worth reading. The "liberal" or more precisely "materialist" (as I don't think it is inherently liberal) perspective assumes we can solve poverty with enough aid (i.e. resources). The real problem is that the rich world has not donated enough money and if we would we could end poverty. In contrast, the "conservative" viewpoint emphasizes non-material causes to poverty such as corruption, greed, lack of freedom, etc... And without addressing these root causes, additional aid will just be wasted.

From what I have seen down here I would definitely say that the "conservative" argument has a lot of merit. I have said this many times before, but it bears repeating: Money alone doesn't solve the problem. You have to work at the worldview level. You have to teach people to think about themselves and their environment differently. You cannot pull yourself out of poverty if you abuse your wife and kids every weekend and spend all your spare money on beer. But the "materialist" perspective is also correct. It takes money to change people's worldview. It is a very difficult process that takes a long time. And simultaneously you need to be working at the level of institutions and laws in order to open up societies to allow people to reach their full potential. So an organization like Food for the Hungry forms a critical part of the solution to poverty as it works at the individual and community level to change people's beliefs and worldview so they are better able to utilize the resources that they have. But we also need organizations like the World Bank to help countries at the national level reform their laws to allow for the easier formation of small businesses, establish law and order, crack down on government corruption, etc.... We in the rich world also need to be doing everything we can in addition to giving to make development easier (such as eliminating farm subsidies and tariffs which distort trade in favor of a few at the expense of many...including you the taxpayer).

So in my opinion the correct approach to aid is a combination of both perspectives. Yes we need to focus more money and effort on eliminating crushing poverty. But we need to do it in a way that addresses the non-material causes of poverty.

I have not addressed the churches role in this process, but will do that in another post. Some of you reading this may wonder about the "changing people's worldview" and equate that with "imposing western culture". I will write about that sometime too in more detail. But let me just say there is nothing western about clean water and sanitary indoor plumbing. I couldn't care less if you use a turkish toilet, a flush toilet or a bidet.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

UPDATE: From the perspective of an influential democratic columnist: Pass CAFTA
UPDATE: From Bill Clinton's commerce secretary: Pass CAFTA

Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Pet Peeve
Here's another article by the Economist about my favorite pet peeve.

Trade not Aid

Saturday, June 18, 2005
I just read an article on productivity and how central it is in getting out of the poverty trap. It is an interview of William Lewis, the author of the book The Power of Productivity. The article is very very interesting and I believe dovetails nicely with some recent work by the World Bank on the importance for developing countries to foster a good investment climate. I plan on reading the book. The article is a bit long, but it is well worth your time. I found the section on Japan especially interesting (Why does the US have a GDP per person over 30% higher then Japan?). The article also talks about Wal-Mart and other similar stores and their effect on the economy.

Realism & Responsibility
This is a great article that I highly recommend you read about aid.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005
New Arrival
As some of you already know, Tricia and I are expecting. Thought I would make it official by putting it on the blog.

To sum up:
  1. It was a big surprise
  2. Due in early January
  3. We don't yet know how this will affect our time here in Peru. However, we will likely not have the baby in Pucallpa.

Saturday, June 11, 2005
Toledo in the News
Here is a relatively upbeat article from the Economist on our beloved president, Alejandro Toledo.

Debt Relief
This seems like a big deal. Debt relief sounds so good and seems fair. Why make very poor countries spend what little money they have servicing debt that was accrued a long time ago, often times by former regimes who squandered the money? I am lukewarm on it because many economists believe that it sends the wrong signals to third world leaders. If I am a corrupt third world leader, why not accrue a bunch more debt to squander and line my pockets with if it is just going to get cancelled a few years later? If I believed that the international lending agencies (World Bank, G8, IMF, etc...) really would and could enforce anti-corruption provisions in these types of arrangements I would be all for it. It is much better to have African countries spending what little they have on Education and Aids treatment/prevention rather then servicing debt. But the real question is, will these countries actually do that with the extra funds available or will corruption take the place of debt payments?

Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Aid to Africa
Here is an interesting article about aid to Africa. Make sure you read the whole thing, especially the last couple paragraphs.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005
Bolivia has been acting up for awhile. Now their president has resigned.

Thursday, June 02, 2005
We found a pretty good size tarantula on our screen window in the spare bedroom. I killed it with spray. It was a little sad. A tarantula is at the border between "bug" and "animal". I used about half the can of insecticide. It was actually a pretty good size tarantula. It was about the size of my palm...maybe 4-5 inches across. Way too big to step on anyway.

What I am wondering is if spiders are as strong as ants. The ants down here are crazy. If there were enough of them they would move our house. I always see these tiny little jungle ants carrying huge leaves. If the tarantula was proportionally strong, he could re-arrange our furniture for us. Too bad he is dead.


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