Easterly is in the building

Bill Easterly, a heavyweight champion in the development world, has entered the blogging ring.

Today, I foist a new blog called Aid Watch on the blogosphere. The objective is to be brutally honest when aid is not helping the poor, but also praising it when it is.

Bill warms up with a few friendly punches for World Bank President Robert Zoellick, after Zoellick’s op-eds in last week’s NYT and today’s Financial Times.

Welterweights like this blog will enter the foreign aid ring very cautiously from here on.

I’m going to recommend a different sparring partner for the moment. This new book by Jonathan Glennie sounds awfully good. Owen Barder interviewed the author of The Trouble With Aid in the latest Development Drums podcast. Glennie gives foreign aid props where they’re due, but he thinks the unintended consequences are big, bad, and largely ignored.

Bill: someone is trying to steal your book market share.

2 thoughts on “Easterly is in the building

  1. http://www.guardian.co.uk/katine/2008/jul/24/africaaid.background

    Here’s an article by Jonathan Glennie on his new book, and I’d have to say it looks just terrible to me. I start off skeptical of the claim that we shouldn’t give aid b/c it will only hurt the poor, so I went in wanting to read one specific, plausible avenue via which aid hurts Africa. In the article above, Glennie couldn’t name one specific.

    Glennie says that instead of aid, we should “overhaul the rules on international property rights…act on climate change” and “regulate better an arms trade causing turmoil in Africa”… OK, the first is just flat out not going to happen. The second “act on climate change” I’m all for, but this won’t do anything in the short run to alleviate poverty in Africa. More regulation of the arms trade is also a good idea, but I can’t imagine this will have a cheap price tag, and with the Russians and Chinese out there as suppliers, I think it would be better to focus on reducing the demand for war rather than the supply of guns. For if there are buyers, there will be sellers…

    He writes things like “aid conditions have weakened African businesses on the other, putting hundreds of thousands of parents out of work.” Now, I doubt this very much, even more so b/c he doesn’t even attempt to explain why aid puts hundreds of thousands of parents out of work.

    The most specific thing he mentions is the problem that “Donor governments attach strings”. What strings? I guess we’ll have to read his book to find out… He says that these strings mean that “Aid dependency has … undermined the accountability of the African state to its citizens.” OK, but aid definitely flows, in general, way more to states which are democratic. If you want a cut in your aid budget, the easiest way to get it is to stop holding elections. As it happens, I think it is clear that democracy is not at all necessary for development, but Glennie doesn’t know this…

    To sum up, maybe he wrote a great book, but everything about his article linked above rubs me the wrong way…


    And Easterly is no heavyweight, he is confused.

  2. I’ve been waiting for Bill to crack. It’s about time he started blogging – this is good news!