JAGDISH BHAGWATI is Senior Fellow in International Economics at the Council on Foreign Relations and University Professor of Economics and Law at Columbia University. He served on the UN secretary-general's Advisory Panel on International Support for the New Partnership for Africa's Development from 2005 to 2006. An extended version of this article is available from www.columbia.edu/~jb38/.See more by this author
Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. By Dambisa Moyo. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2009, 208 pp. $24.00.
If you live in the affluent West, no public policy issue is more likely to produce conflicts in your conscience than foreign aid. The humane impulse, fueled by unceasing televised images of famine and pestilence in the developing world, is to favor giving more aid. But a contrasting narrative has the opposite effect: Emperor Jean-Bédel Bokassa of the Central African Republic used Western aid to buy a gold-plated bed, and Zaire's dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, spent it on personal jaunts on the Concorde. Such scandals inevitably lead many to conclude that most aid is wasted or, worse still, that it alone is responsible for corruption.
These debates have largely been the province of Western intellectuals and economists, with Africans in the developing world being passive objects in the exercise -- just as the 1980s debate over the United States' Japan fixation, and the consequent Japan bashing, occurred among Americans while the Japanese themselves stood by silently. Yet now the African silence has been broken by Dambisa Moyo, a young Zambian-born economist with impeccable credentials. Educated at Harvard and Oxford and employed by Goldman Sachs and the World Bank, Moyo has written an impassioned attack on aid that has won praise from leaders as diverse as former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Rwandan President Paul Kagame.