Development as firefighting

We should also bear in mind that very little aid has so far been given to people in the poorest countries. It is sometimes observed that roughly $500 billion has been given to sub-Saharan Africa since independence and that sounds like a lot of money.  But actually it isn’t very much: over the last twenty years aid per person in sub-Saharan Africa has averaged 41 cents a week.

Does the continued existence of poverty prove that Africans have squandered the 41 cents a week that we have so generously provided for their well-being and self-improvement?  (The British people may be thankful that the United States Marshall Plan after the Second World War provided ten times this amount per person.)

The economist Jeff Sachs compares the current situation in Africa to a forest fire: if we try to put out the fire with one hose, and the fire continues to rage, do we conclude that fighting fires is hopeless? Do we conclude that water is not effective at putting out fires?  Or do we conclude that we have not yet applied enough water and that we do not have enough firefighters and hoses?

That is Owen Barder writing on the OpenDemocracy blog. Discussions on the topic inspired my post on aid and growth last week. His article is worth reading in full.