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April 24, 2007

Sachs and the Millennium Village

All that money going in and not a completely unblemished list of advantages:

4. The subsidies of the project have pushed villagers into high-risk crops and possibly depleted the soil.

5. Many of the giveaways, such as fertilizer, are simply resold on external markets.

6. The creation of a committee for allocating project resources has weakened the village's government and in effect created a more powerful shadow government in the village.

There are good thing happening too:

2. The villagers are much healthier now and the schools are better.

But then if you stuck $500,000 a year into the average African village you'd hope that that at least happened, wouldn't you?

Don't think it's going to work overall you know.

April 24, 2007 in Make Poverty History | Permalink

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Comments

Fix your link.

Tim adds: Where's the pretty please then?

Posted by: Jim | Apr 24, 2007 3:15:48 PM

Also

"2. The villagers are much healthier now and the schools are better.

But then if you stuck $500,000 a year into the average African village you'd hope that that at least happened, wouldn't you?"

Right, aid works, thanks for that. So now the only question is whether it would cost us too much. Well, say we target the roughly 50% of Sub-Saharan Africa's population living in extreme poverty, and spend $100 on each a year. That's about $30 billion a year, or about 0.1% of OECD GDP.

You're right, that's way too much to pay for much healthier, better educated Africans.

Tim adds: Well done Jim. You've carefully avoided the point that an economist better than the two of us put together thinks that is is a) not scalable and b) not sustainable.

Posted by: Jim | Apr 24, 2007 3:29:33 PM

It also ignores the point that state coercion takes the money from me, unless you're suggesting that it be voluntary aid?

Posted by: dearieme | Apr 24, 2007 5:19:59 PM

It also ignores the point that state coercion takes the money from me, unless you're suggesting that it be voluntary aid?

Dear goodness! Why didn't anyone else think of this? We'd better abolish all taxes post haste.

Posted by: StuartA | Apr 24, 2007 5:55:12 PM

Well, I don't find Tyler's arguments persuasive.

He says, without evidence, that the candidate villages were 'cherry-picked', presumably to be easier than the average. But even if true, it wouldn't necessarily be a bad strategy to try out these ideas in less challenging areas before moving onto the tougher ones. William Easterly would surely approve.

Next he says that 'armed conflict remains a huge problem on the continent'. It's certainly a problem where it exists, but - newsflash! - that's not the whole continent. Hard as it might be to believe, not all Africans are constantly trying to kill each other. In fact, there are much fewer conflicts there than 15 years ago. And conflict poses problems for any approach, so it's hardly a black mark against the Millennium Villages in particular.

Thirdly, he seems to imply that Jeff Sachs just wants to see the initial projects succeed and has no interest in whether the approach works after that. I find this puzzling: so Sachs wouldn't like to be remembered as a man who brought about a massive reduction in African poverty? Pull the other one.

There may be reasons why the MVP idea won't scale as well as Sachs says. But Tyler hasn't identified them.

Posted by: Jim | Apr 24, 2007 6:59:22 PM

Well, that surprises me. Not.

I can't comment on 4) but were the people forced into cash crops and away from staples? Or did the lure of filthy lucre manage it without coercison? Or does Kenya have a controlled grain price like Zim?

As to 5): Well, in SA there's a similar problem. Some TB patients who feeling better after a few weeks of treatment start selling their remaining prescriptions (treatment is meant to last nine months) to other people. It's leading to the spread of multi-drug resistant (MDR) TB and now an even more problematic variant - extreme multi-drug resistant (XMDR) TB.

The sad fact is if you give a bunch of poor people something worth dosh today with a promise they really don't understand about goodies in the future, nine times out of ten they'll take the dosh today.

Turning to 6): Traditional village government is usually based around a hereditary headman and a council made up of the elder males of each family. A lot of westerners find this a little "unrepresentative", though surprisingly it is often more democratic than some western governments.

Anyway, start waving bundles of loot around, and you can bet a bunch of schysters will creep out of the woodwork claiming to be "the true progressive voice of the people". Usually they achieved this status by blatant lying and the assistance of chums with big sticks.

Schysters and bullyboys are one commodity this continent has no shortage of.

And before Jim or anybody else starts saying I'm just some heartless whitey, these are real problems I have witnessed whenever the company I work for has tried to help out the communities surrounding our mine. We've been doing it for years and we still haven't found a good answer.

Oh, and as for point 2)? When this millenium project ends in a few years how long does anyone think the schools and clinics will last? I was once told by a guy who works with NGO's in this part of the world, one of the worst things a guilt ridden whitey can say to a poor government is: "I'll build you a school/clinic/hospital!". The general rule of thumb is that the first three years running costs will be the same as the initial capital. And the bills will never come to an end.

Kenya's relatively wealthy by African standards (having no major armed conflicts since independence helps) but there's a damned good reason there wasn't a first class school in this village before: the government couldn't or wouldn't pay for the teachers, books etc etc etc. If they weren't prepared to pay before, who is gullible enough to believe that they will after Mr Tyler and his cheque book have departed?

Posted by: The Remittance Man | Apr 24, 2007 8:50:24 PM

"Dear goodness! Why didn't anyone else think of this? We'd better abolish all taxes post haste."

Not all taxes. I'm happy to pay taxes to help fund and run this country.

Not so much to help fund & run someone else's....

Posted by: JuliaM | Apr 25, 2007 8:34:20 AM

How about for invading someone else's country?

Posted by: StuartA | Apr 25, 2007 9:44:36 PM

...and then funding & running it?

Posted by: Neil | Apr 25, 2007 11:10:11 PM