Poverty Reduction Strategy Plans and Hard Numbers

At the beginning of chapter fourteen in his book “The End of Poverty,” in which Jeffrey Sachs proposes his idea of ending global poverty by 2025, he quotes an old Soviet worker’s joke that goes: “We pretend to work and you pretend to pay us!” Sachs argues that this is the state that aiding rich countries and poor countries receiving aid are in.

Impoverished countries are pretending to enact reforms required by wealthy aiding countries that are pretending to send adequate and abundant aid to establish these reforms and stabilize economies. He chronicles his experience in launching the Human Development Report in Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries in the world. When the Prime Minister was asked about health care, he responded that much time was needed in regards to establishing necessary health care because IMF officials had recently reported to him that there was no aid money available for health care. Without the aid money necessary to establish necessary health care, Ethiopia simply could not meet the Millennium Development Goals. It is a difficult and slippery slope.

Sachs reports that it is all “shadow play”–where the IMF will publicly says that things are going well in Ethiopia while knowing at the same time that aid for Ethiopia is short and that the country cannot meet MDG’s. Sachs argues that it is not a matter of there being “no more money available for Ethiopia,” because the amount of donation money and resources is massive. He argues that it is a matter of excuses and platitudes about aid that are being made by donors and the IMF itself.

I agree with Sachs in this regard. It is very frustrating to watch countries being proverbially set up for failure. In the public eye, because the public will see IMf reports, Ethiopia seems to be doing just fine, because the money they have been allotted is being used in a way that appears that it has all the donor money it needs. At the same time, there is no health care. Who is going to donate to Ethiopian health care when it appears that there is no need?

Sachs closes the chapter by saying that targeted investment does not always have to be a problem, and in fact, it can release the “trap ” of extreme poverty. I find the question that he poses to be very striking and thought provoking–Can helping the poor in fact bankrupt the rich?


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