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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Jeffrey Sachs: The Millennium Development Goals: Broken Promises

Earlier today I posted William Easterly's comments about Paul Wolfowitz and the World Bank and though it wasn't the focus of his remarks, he managed to make clear his disapproval of the Millennium Development Project and implicitly (or more explicitly) Jeffrey Sachs. Thus, I should let Jeffrey Sachs respond. Here's an account of the extent to which the  promises made in support of the Millennium Development Goals have, or have not, been fulfilled:

The Millennium Development Goals: Broken promises, by Jeffrey D. Sachs, Project Syndicate: The Millennium Development Goals are the world's agreed goals to cut poverty, hunger, and disease. Established in 2000, their targets were to be met by 2015. We are now at the halfway point. So far, ... the rich G-8 countries are reneging on their part of the bargain.

Cynicism abounds here. At the G-8 Gleneagles Summit in 2005, member countries pledged to double aid to Africa by 2010. Soon after the summit, I was invited to a small, high-level meeting to discuss the summit's follow-up. I asked for a spreadsheet showing the year-by-year planned increases, and the allocation of those planned increases...

The response I received was chilling. "There will be no spreadsheets. The US has insisted on no spreadsheets." The point was clear. Though the G-8 had made a clear promise, there was no plan on how to fulfill it; indeed, there were clear instructions that there would be no such plan.

The ... data are now revealing the stark truth: development aid to Africa and to poor countries more generally is stagnant, contrary to all the promises that were made.

Specifically, between 2005 and 2006, ... total official development assistance to all recipient countries, net of debt cancellation, actually declined by 2% between 2005 and 2006. Even the World Bank, which usually takes the donors' point of view, recently acknowledged that except for debt cancellation, "promises of scaled up aid have not been delivered."

Private reactions among senior government officials in the G-8 are surprising. One senior G-8 official told me that the aid promises are all lies anyway. I don't agree..., but the cynicism that such a view reflects is alarming. It shows the nature of discussions at the highest reaches of the G-8.

All this would seem to be insurmountable if the basic economics were not clear. We are not talking about unachievable financial goals. ... The G-8 ... has promised to increase aid to Africa from $25 billion in 2004 to $50 billion in 2010... To put it in perspective, the Christmas bonuses paid this year on Wall Street - just the bonuses - amounted to $24 billion. Spending on the Iraq war, which achieves nothing but violence, is more than $100 billion per year. So the G-8's commitment could be honored, if rich countries cared to honor it.

To salvage its credibility, the G-8 needs to make crystal clear — once again — that it will honour its commitment to increase aid to Africa by $25 billion per year by 2010. ... Moreover, unlike in 2005, the G-8 needs to present a plan of action. ... The increased aid should be directed at building roads, power grids, schools, and clinics, and at training teachers, doctors, and community health workers. All of that investment requires plans and years of implementation. ...

Admittedly, part of the problem with the G-8 is not simply lack of good faith or political will, but basic competence. The US government doesn't really know what it is doing in Africa, because over the years America's aid agency has been largely emptied of its leading thinkers and strategists. Moreover, the Bush administration politicized the delivery of aid by channeling it through private religious groups that are part of the administration's political coalition. That's the reason that much of the US funding on AIDS follows religious strictures rather than science.

Fortunately, what needs to be done is not complicated. African countries have already identified their high-priority investments in health, education, agriculture, and infrastructure (including roads, power, and internet connectivity). ... The plans are already on the table, or at least on the shelf, waiting for the G-8 funding to arrive.

It's time for the rich countries to stop giving lectures to the poor, and instead to follow through on their own words. ...

    Posted by on Saturday, April 21, 2007 at 03:21 PM in Economics, Politics | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (10)

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