Monday, December 10, 2007

Surrealism and Economic Development

. Monday, December 10, 2007

There is something deeply surreal about this:

"Gordon Brown plans to harness at least 20 of the world's biggest multinational companies, including Google and Vodafone, to tackle a "development emergency" in the world's poorest countries and put the international community back on course to achieve seven UN development goals by 2015...Ministers have been holding intensive discussions with the private sector in the hope that firms can be persuaded to use their expertise to improve infrastructure, upgrade skills and provide capital for fresh investment. Although the prominence given to multinationals is likely to be controversial with parts of the development community, Brown believes a lack of enterprise is hindering least-developed countries - especially in sub-Saharan Africa - achieving the development goals."

The episode encapsulates everything wrong with the West's approach to development. First, we assume that we can actually create a plan that eliminates poverty (we can't, sorry J.Sachs). And when we fail to meet arbitrary targets, we declare an "emergency." Second, we think that we can solve "the-lack-of-enterprise-is-hindering-least-developed-countries" problem by forcing unwilling MNCs to invest in developing countries (we can't). Third, we worry about what some ill-defined, anti-market, though well-meaning "development community" will think about encouraging private business to invest in developing countries (we shouldn't, because they are not eliminating poverty either). Fourth, not a word from the impoverished societies we are supposedly "rescuing" (why?).

Surrealism and Economic Development




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