An interesting article from the U.K. Guardian, calling out their government’s aid policy of boomerang free trade dressed up as aid and for-profit companies being paid hundreds of millions to make developing countries privatize their public assets.
I found the article a bit confusing to read, mostly because the arguments of pro and con were mixed together. But there were clear facts and the key message was in the headline: Misuse of aid to further domestic business profit is unethical and not the goal of aid. Unfortunately, it’s become a common refrain around the world for governments to ask “what’s the benefit to us to give aid?” And it’s likely you remember the parody (not really) video that tested this simple question. However, sometimes in our efforts to make aid sound relevant we have used the argument that it creates global security and better markets, on top of reducing poverty for human beings (as it does in the video). Unfortunately some people have decided that the poverty part isn’t so important, but the direct improvement of markets to profit from and security (to profit from) aren’t such bad uses of aid after all. This is a dog whistle for large multi-national companies to gain lucrative contracts both through aid contracts and expanded business internationally. Not that there isn’t a role for business in poverty reduction – just that there are real risks of focusing on the profit, and not the goals. Similarly, “what’s in it for us?” is a dog whistle for those in developed countries who feel disadvantaged in some way (often legitimately) to complain that they have needs too and they should be given that international aid money.
I won’t pretend there are easy answers, and I am likely preaching to the choir to say here* that we need to look at impact over dollars, and consider the greater good for humanity, not just our short-term needs or profits.
*I’m preaching to the choir because literally no one has read my blog besides me so far.
Dog boomerang photo from awesomeinventions.com