…if the real hope is to end poverty, we are going to need a lot less palaver about aid and debt relief, and a lot more focus on how to end the real cause of poverty--which is not scarcity of local resources, or lack of official assistance, or a deficiency of harangues and high-level panels courtesy of assorted dictators and U.N.-o-crats, but simply bad governmentwrites Claudia Rosett as she writes of a lawsuit in the Congo Republic that threatens to unearth schemes reminiscent of Saddam's oil-for-food scam, a lawsuit in U.S. courts to which Europeans — those usually clamoring for all kinds of international tribunals and legalities to try peoples for events in foreign countries — are putting up shields, saying such courts have no jurisdiction.
The problem with presenting the eradication of poverty as an end in itself is that this implies the solution is to pour more money into the aid pipelines. Unfortunately, official aid too often tends to have the perverse effect of lining the pockets of the same unlovely regimes that engender poverty in the first place. Rich donors feel virtuous, dictators feel more secure, and legions of aid bureaucrats travel the world in a whirl of per diems and poverty-eradication conferences. Meanwhile, behind the fancy talk and big donations are often realities that on the ground look very different.
… The irony is that that for the people of Congo--as opposed to the regime-- the most useful debate may be inspired not by the poverty professionals, but by the likes of private creditors, who far from offering official aid or debt forgiveness are seeking to collect on Congo's old debts.
… What jumps out here is that such policies as debt relief may sound good, but in practice they can prove far from simple. And our global aid institutions--the U.N., the IMF, the World Bank--however eager to celebrate Poverty Eradication Day, Week, Month or Decade, are in no way equipped to cope with, or even care about, some of the more complex realities and byways of modern global trade and finance. Somewhere between the heartfelt impulse to help the poor and the complexities of tracking the actual money, there has to be a better distinction made between dollars for dictators, and policies that actually help the poor.