Saturday, April 28, 2007

A sort of footnote to that last bit

For an idea of what could be done with any assets seized or aid redirected, consider that
[t]he UN's African development director said Wednesday the continent would fail to reach the goal of slashing poverty in half by 2015 as it was beset by a legion of structural problems.

"Despite some encouraging economic results, Africa will not achieve the millennium development goals by 2015," Gilbert Houngbo from the United Nations' development programme said in the Congolese capital Brazzaville.

"African growth is handicapped by structural weaknesses. These handicaps include poor empowerment of women, weak child protection, insufficient access to reproductive health and to decent work," he said.
The goals, despite all the hoopla and (quite genuine) hope surrounding them, were never very realistic in the first place. For one thing, they depended on a much greater commitment to development aid on the part of the industrialized world than it has heretofore been prepared to show. Second, and probably more important, they also depended on what could most charitably be called good faith assumptions about the effects of "open markets" and "free trade," that is, on the tender mercies of international capitalism.

But while such measures can improve (and have improved) the GDP of a nation, occasionally dramatically, poverty is not a matter of the macroeconomics of a nation - it is a matter of the microeconomics of people on the ground, of individuals and individual families. And that is a matter that the golden idol of "free trade" is at least as likely to damage as to help.

For one little bit of proof, notice, if you will, that not one item on Houngbo's list has anything to do with being insufficiently enamored of international capitalism or "world markets." Rather, they are matters that involve - to use an old 60s buzzword in its proper context - empowerment. Empowerment of people on the ground, not the people in the skyscrapers.

You want to reduce poverty? You want to eliminate poverty? Start, if you will, by lowering your sights. Lowering them down to where the people actually live.

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