Here are snippets from a New York Times editorial on Aug 4, 2007,
The present food aid system is a favorite of American farmers. But it is also cumbersome, slow, expensive and leaves people hungry who could easily be fed. President Bush has rightly proposed shifting $300 million from farm subsidies to enable governments and relief groups to buy food locally.......
Starving Africans in the arid reaches of northwestern Kenya desperately needed food. Kenyan officials did not want surplus American corn because they feared driving down the prices for local farmers. The obvious answer was for the Americans to buy local corn, but American law prevented this. So the corn was never shipped and people continued to go hungry...... subsidized American food can hurt local [in other countries] farmers, while local procurement gives them a commercial outlet. Administration officials also note that food purchased here usually takes four months to reach its destination. Food purchased locally takes days.
As I've noted previously in this series, throwing money and food to other countries often does NOT help, but actually causes massive problems. In fact, in my June 30, 2007 blog post I quoted an interview with African economist James Shikwati, done by Der Spiegel (the German magazine) where he said this very thing. Here is part of that interview again,
Huge bureaucracies are financed (with the aid money), corruption and complacency are promoted, Africans are taught to be beggars and not to be independent. In addition, development aid weakens the local markets everywhere and dampens the spirit of entrepreneurship that we so desperately need. As absurd as it may sound: Development aid is one of the reasons for Africa's problems. If the West were to cancel these payments, normal Africans wouldn't even notice. Only the functionaries would be hard hit. Which is why they maintain that the world would stop turning without this development aid.
Tomorrow I want to examine Rick Warren's P.E.A.C.E. Plan more closely to see if this plan is simply another program throwing money and food into Africa without much result, or if this it is doing something completely different that will actually work.
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