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Ethiopian development

Comments on “Wax, Gold and Accountability in Ethiopia”

Shanta Devarajan's picture

Last month’s post on the exchange between Helen Epstein and Ken Ohashi on Ethiopia generated a large number of comments (and rejoinders), a response from Helen herself, and references in the Addis press

One set of comments were about the facts. Many commentators questioned whether human development indicators were actually improving in Ethiopia, while others questioned whether the political situation was as repressive as described by Helen in her original piece in the New York Review of Books.  Some asked whether the facts coming out of Ethiopia (on agricultural productivity for example) were reliable.  Since these are questions of fact, they can and should be verified.

Another group of comments questioned my interpretation of the facts,

Wax, gold and accountability in Ethiopia

Shanta Devarajan's picture

The exchange between Helen Epstein and my colleague Ken Ohashi about the role of aid donors in “subsidizing” what Epstein calls a politically repressive regime highlights the difficulty in linking politics at the top with poverty alleviation on the ground. 

Even politically open regimes, such as India, have difficulty delivering basic services to poor people—the absence rate for teachers in Indian public primary schools is 25 percent; the rate for doctors in public primary clinics is 40 percent.   Conversely, as Epstein points out in her reply to Ken’s letter, “poverty and disease have fallen sharply in some repressive societies, from Cuba to China…”