Over the past twenty years more citizens in China and India have raised themselves out of poverty than anywhere else at any time in history. They accomplished this through the local business sector& mdash;the leading source of prosperity for all rich countries. In most of Africa and other poor regions the business sector is weak, but foreign aid continues to fund government and NGOs. Switching aid to the local business sector in order to cultivate a middle class is the oldest, surest, and only way to eliminate poverty in poor countries.
A bold fusion of ethics and smart business, The Aid Trap shows how the same energy, goodwill, and money that we devote to charity can help local business thrive. R. Glenn Hubbard and William Duggan, two leading scholars in business and finance, demonstrate that by diverting a major share of charitable aid into the local business sector of poor countries, citizens can take the lead in the growth of their own economies. Although the aid system supports noble goals, a local well-digging company cannot compete with a foreign charity that digs wells for free. By investing in that local company a sustainable system of development can take root.
Hubbard and Duggan, respectively dean and lecturer at Columbia Business School, make the case that current foreign aid and Third World projects-particularly in Africa-aren't working and that the developed world must rethink how it allots aid money. The authors dissect (and disagree) with the U.N.'s Millennium Goals strategy for attacking poverty, pet project of Jeffrey Sachs and a host of celebrities. They condemn the strategy as a "charity trap," that perverts local economies and "keeps corrupt leaders rich." The authors contend that poor countries can attain prosperity and self-sufficiency only if aid money goes to cultivating a functioning business sector. Microfinance, they say, is working but stops short; they propose something much more ambitious: a new Marshall Plan, an almost prohibitively daunting task given the vast differences among developing countries, the controls each puts on business and the input required from other developed nations. But the plainly stated thesis and the authors' willingness to confront conventional wisdom and examine and energetically attack the problem are refreshing and necessary. (Sept.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.