A provocative thought for the day, from Erik S. Reinert, which seems to have relevance for many different aspects of the aid ‘system’.

…While I was absent-mindedly flipping through my notes for my upcoming lecture, the Tanzanian general and Member of Parliament came up to the rostrum. ‘I have read your paper and I have only one question’ he said earnestly. ‘Do they underdevelop us on purpose?’

I was about to present my views on globalization and free trade to members of  the East African Parliament (the joint Parliament of Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania).

The meeting took place in a big tent on an old coffee plantation made uncompetitive by falling coffee prices, even with the miniscule wages paid.

Most of the few industries that had developed after independence had been killed of by consistent structural adjustment by the Washington institutions. Unemployment and poverty surrounded us.

‘There appear to be only two alternatives’, I replied to the general.

‘They either do it out of ignorance, or they do it out of evil. A combination of these is of course also possible. Perhaps you can also say that it’s the system that makes them do it.’

I could have added that the ‘system made me do it’ is no longer considered as acceptable excuse…”

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About Ben Ramalingam

I am a researcher and writer specialising on international development and humanitarian issues. I am currently working on a number of consulting and advisory assignments for international agencies. I am also writing a book on complexity sciences and international aid which will be published by Oxford University Press. I hold Senior Research Associate and Visiting Fellow positions at the Institute of Development Studies, the Overseas Development Institute, and the London School of Economics.