June 10, 2005

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Open forum: Africa and Asia

What lessons can Africa learn from Asia's experience in rising living standards and poverty alleviation?

A group of prominent American bloggers had a conference call with Sir Bob Geldof to discuss his Live8 project. It is a clever use of blogs by Geldof as part of his marketing effort. Nothing flatters a blogger like being included.

The Live8 project site discusses its aims:

By doubling aid, fully cancelling debt, and delivering trade justice for Africa, the G8 could change the future for millions of men, women and children.
A laudable aim. But Dinocrat points out the problems of the exercise. Read the whole post, but I'll repeat the conclusion:
The two excerpts from the Scotsman raise for us the following points: (1) there has been plenty of aid, and it has gone down a rathole; (2) the idea of an African Common Market seems very interesting and sound: so why can’t a continent with several dozen countries and 885 million people figure that out for themselves, rather than having a Scottish newspaperman raise it? And how did a country of 1.4 billion — twenty years ago as poor as Africa — raise itself up without massive World Bank loans and foreign aid? The answer is that China chose to permit and cultivate capitalism (and its supporting institutions) on the one hand, and that Africa continues to be ruled by kleptocracies on the other other hand. Until there are serious political solutions first in place, we agree with the Scotsman that “gesture politics will just not fix it.”
Dinocrat also notes India as a similar example. Mark Steyn riffs along the same lines:
The issue in Africa in every one of its crises - from economic liberty to Aids - is government. Until the do-gooders get serious about that, their efforts will remain a silly distraction.
Almost all of Asia can act as an economic role model for relieving poverty on a massive scale, without the help of huge amounts of aid or much foreign intervention at all. Neither China nor India's models are perfect, but these two countries have achieved poverty eradication on an unprecedented scale. The fundamental reforms required to create and sustain a successful model can only come from home. They cannot be imposed from outside, either from well-meaning donors or multilateral organisations. But from the smorgasbord of choices, which are the right ones to take?

Kevin from Wizbang says While Geldof, et. all may not have all the answers, they're at least highlighting the right question, "What should the industrialized world do about Africa?" Outside of lowering trade barriers there isn't much the world should do about Africa. There is an implicit condensention in the idea that the West must do something to help Africans because they cannot help themselves. Aid can be seen as analoguous to social security. Welfare reform is about removing a sense of dependency and entitlement and creating an environment where people can help themselves. There is no difference with aid.

Let's have on open and honest debate about what lessons Africa can learn from Asia's experience, both the positive and negative. For example while much of Asia has risen out of poverty and achieved a degree of economic freedom, political freedom is lagging far behind. That applies even to places such as South Korea and Japan, leaders of Asia's economic "miracle". Some topics and guidelines:

* Given finite resources what are the priorities to lifting living standards and relieving poverty?
* What are the key ingredients in succesful sotries such as China?
* Does geography matter?
* What is the place of property rights, the rule of law, the institutions of state?
* What price progress? What about environmental standards, equality, income distribution?
* Is there a place for democracy in poverty alleviation? Is political reform compatible with economic reform?
* Is it preferable to use export driven growth or encourage domestic demand?
* Should aid be spent on removing "first world" protectionists measures such as subsidies and tariffs?
* Does debt relief work? How and under what conditions? How do you avoid the pitfalls of moral hazard and a repeat of the current debt problems in the future?
* What are the best and worst parts of the Asian example? Of the various Asian models, which is the best?

These are suggestions. I'd very interested in your thoughts and ideas, either via comments or via a post at your site (make sure you trackback to here). It should prove a useful addition to the Live8 project.

I will be out of blogging range for the next few days but look forward to reading your responses.

Other reading

Power Line
Captain Ed
Little Green Footballs
Ann Althouse

posted by Simon on 06.10.05 at 02:39 PM in the


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I'll spell out some of more of my views. Quite simply China and India have succeeded by basically getting Government out of the way of enterprise, large or small. Let people's "animal spirits" roam and they turn out to generally be pretty enterprising. The cliche runs "trade not aid", but again that's a variation of the theme - Government distortions of markets hold economic progress back. It certainly is not about different nationalities having better propensities to work...witness the many differing cultures within Asia that have achieved economic success.

Certainly there are problems with the China model. I'm not a fan of the trickle down effect, but a rising general standard of living can hide massive inequalities. That is the problem the CCP now faces, but it's a hell of a better problem than how to feed 1.3 billion people.

I'm also unsure about the rule of law aspect, given China's patchy respect of it. It's tied up with respect of property rights, and again here China's record is mixed.

The basic lessons would be:
1. Get the Government out of the way. That includes not running massive deficits, reforming tax systems, cutting subsidies to special interests, having a flexible foreign exchange system.
2. Have known and enforced rules and laws and truly clampdown on corruption.
3. Encourage trade and the free movement of goods and services, both internally and exports.

Note there's no mention of aid. As should be clear from my main post, I see little benefit in most aid with the obvious exception of humanitarian relief efforts.

posted by: Simon on 06.07.05 at 07:32 PM [permalink]

My late father, who worked in public health in (south) Asia and (west) Africa in the period 1950-70, believed that the greatest difference between the two regions was that Asian societies were much better organized at the local level.

It's also clear that the most successful Asian economies have been in places where literacy was widespread before development (which has now, at a different level, become the Irish model as well).

These are fundamental matters of social development, and have very little to do with issues such as international debt and trade. I am not aware of any shortcuts ("soviet power plus electrification"?) that have worked on anything like a continental scale.

posted by: Andre Mayer on 06.08.05 at 12:12 AM [permalink]


Today is the Trial of Nancy Kissel. The SCMP has started and will cover it. Also they have given the exact facts of what happened. For example it was Nancy Kissel who had an affair and not Robert Kissel. Get the facts straight and research and little more on it. But nice try...

posted by: charles wente on 06.08.05 at 02:55 PM [permalink]


Today is the Trial of Nancy Kissel. The SCMP has started and will cover it. Also they have given the exact facts of what happened. For example it was Nancy Kissel who had an affair and not Robert Kissel. Get the facts straight and research a little more on it. But nice try...

posted by: charles wente on 06.08.05 at 02:55 PM [permalink]

Well Charles, I guess anything worth saying is worth saying twice, eh?

posted by: Gordon on 06.09.05 at 10:21 PM [permalink]

Charles, pointng out erros can be helpful, but it helps if the error you are pointing out actually exists.... I'll quote Simon's piece here:

"he intended to tell her he was filing for divorce in the belief she had an affair"

May I suggest you do a little more fact checking of your own next time?

posted by: paul on 06.10.05 at 01:48 PM [permalink]

Africans lack of intelligence is the reason why it's a hellhole. IQ studies support this claim.

The answer is so simple yet you cannot accept it. Why?

posted by: bystander on 06.10.05 at 02:10 PM [permalink]

I am against giving aid to Africa. The rest of the world should leave them alone and let natural selection do it's work. The Africans who cannot help themselves don't deserve my tax money.

posted by: bystander on 06.10.05 at 02:19 PM [permalink]

There were long discussions about this in our house. Both of us feel that regarding the majority of African charities, not enough of the donation money actually makes a difference to the situation there. I would happily donate £5 a week/month if I knew my £5 was actually going to aid Africa, as opposed to paying the rent on a prestigious London office that the charity feels it must have. Show me a charity that is run out of a shed in Bracknell and in which £4.99 of my £5 is going to build water treatment plants and schools in Africa, and I will be signing up.

But I support Bob Geldoff's idea-it's not about throwing money into the rent of a swish London pad. It's about the world figuring out that there is a problem and we can't all sit around and expect someone else to fix it. I texted in for tickets. I won't get any. But at least I can hope I won't be paying money towards a charity that has forgotten who it needs to be charitable to.

posted by: Helen on 06.10.05 at 07:20 PM [permalink]


Andre got it right when he pointed out the difference between China and Africa on the social level. Many of the African people sitll live in the rural areas, where aid or development is hard to reach. Social mobility is also very different in Africa. The other important difference is one of geography.

Of course, African countries can follow various Asian countries as a model for battling poverty. However, there are countries in extreme poverty that they can hardly implement the reforms that China has implemented in the past.

The people in the poorest nations in Africa are stuck in a poverty trap and these are the people we should give a helping hand.

All I'm saying is that we should not expect the same methods to work in Africa just because it worked in Asia. Even Asia has its own different models from the West in its struggle to fight poverty.

On your comment that financial aid should not be given anymore, I would like to ask if you would agree that if the West cut aid, they should just drop their debts as well - so as to give them a fresh start?

Would you also agree that without aid, developed nations should also cut all susbsidies to their agricultural products and allow true fair trade with African countries?

posted by: Resident on 07.04.05 at 10:59 AM [permalink]

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