Thursday, December 22, 2005

Is Bono annoying?

I came across this writing in International Herald Tribune yesterday and love the typical New Yorkers's cynicsm in the opening paragraph. Let me quote it for you:

"...There are probably more annoying things than being hectored about African development by a wealthy Irish rock star in a cowboy hat, but I can't think of one at the moment..."

Apart from that, the article makes good point: Excessive aid may ruin the incentive system -like disastrous brain drain; and without accountability (read: good governance), it is useless. Instead the author, drawing from Irish experience, proposes more modest agenda of education and economic rationality,

I am always skeptical with the over-optimistic Jeff Sachs' (and Bono's, too) agenda to end poverty in Africa as laid down in his recent --not-so-convincing-- book. You know, the more money to Africa, the sooner the poverty perished.The problem in Africa is complex, and I think almost any kind of development design has been implemented there in the last 50 years --from the leftist to the rightist ideas--. Think Ghana, for instance. Yet the continent is still in trouble and doesn't grow.

Things are very messy and it is difficult to assess, say, the impact of good governance on aid effectiveness. Aid went to dictators, some turned good, some didn't. And if you put governance standard as a condition, surely no country in Africa deserve the aid.

Sachs also talk about the importance of right technology -therefore more aid for its improvement. But financing technology is also a subtle matter since the return is yielded through the notion of externalities.Let alone on how to pick the type of technological path. Somehow, I think the Japan or East Asia technological progress-- as example- is somewhat a historical accident; instead of a result of careful design by the government. Many says, including above author, that education matters most. Not the case of Asia' story. Philippines has the highet educational attainment figures, but only stagnant growth

For curing the dismal Africa, Mr Bono, I have to say that "I still haven't found what I'm looking for" . But at least, the rockstar is real good in making people aware of the problem. Hat-off for that and at this point I don't think that he's annoying, right?

p/s: does the agenda of "more money, with no condition, to people to alleviate poverty" in Africa ring a bell to Indonesian context? The recent plan of Direct Cash Disbursement to the poor. perhaps?

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