This response to “Can Foreign Aid Help This Girl?” is written by Stuart Leiderman: leiderman @ mindspring dot com
“Let’s acknowledge that Haiti is Exhibit A for many people who think that foreign aid is, in the words of the late Senator Jesse Helms, “money down a rathole.” Billions of dollars have poured into this country and countless aid workers drive around in white S.U.V.’s, yet Haiti remains the poorest country in the hemisphere…” from Nicholas D. Kristof, “Can Foreign Aid Help This Girl?” NYTimes, December 7, 2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/08/opinion/sunday/kristof-can-foreign-aid-help-this-girl.html
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I’m glad to see the discussion. Nicholas Kristof had the makings of a perfectly positive story of bootstrapping local education in Haiti. Here it is for all to see and verify, spurred by a Columbus-like encounter with a Canadian foundation and a reverse-Columbus chance meeting with a California teacher who later appealed to his students for money. Great, a nice little feature story.
But I don’t think the NYTimes pays Mr. Kristof to write feature stories; it pays him to spin them. It sends him all over the world to bring home the bacon, so to speak. But readers already know that bacon comes from a pig, so that’s not news. Instead, what turns them on is how it’s smoked and cured. In this fashion, one could say that Kristof smokes and cures the news, alas, often to the pig’s detriment.
As many of us know, this foreign aid thing has already been psyched out and codified. Readers are referred to, for example, The Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness (2005) and the Accra Agenda for Action (2008) http://www.oecd.org/dac/effectiveness/34428351.pdf From this we learn that aid failures are due to a) donors’ sloppiness, greed and/or impunity, b) receivers’ sloppiness, greed and/or impunity, or c) both at the same time. But the aid creed is easy enough to follow and is derived as much from the lessons of many success as from the lessons of many failure. With successful aid, the results are immediate or almost so; with failed aid, the results are virtual reality…the kind that the Times strikingly illustrated with its large, high-resolution photograph http://graphics8.nytimes.com/packages/images/opinion/20131208_Kristof/kristof-haiti-largesub.jpg at the top of the article.
And as for the flashback to Jesse Helms, a long-lived but abominable southern senator, “money down a rathole” was pretty much what this country did after the South seceded, the North beat it back into submission, and then tried to make Reconstruction a transcontinental profit center. In so doing, it probably broke all the rules of the Paris Declaration a century and a half later.