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December 2013

Who Can Answer the Ghanaian Schoolboy’s Question?

David Lawrence's picture

“Why is America so rich and we are so poor?” The question came from a schoolboy in Ghana. It caught me by surprise. I hesitated before answering.
 
I didn’t have the knowledge to give him a solid answer. I was not an economist. I knew nothing about Ghana’s business enabling environment or its financial markets system. I didn’t know about the causes of poverty in Ghana, and was totally unaware of what the international donor community was doing about it. My knowledge of politics, colonialism and history was limited, although I was aware that Ghana had become independent from Great Britain on March 6, 1957.
 
Every schoolboy in Ghana knew that. Even me. The boy who asked the question was my classmate at Prempeh College in Kumasi. It was 1975. We were both 11 years old, and we wore the same uniform: khaki shorts and a short-sleeved green shirt. Neither of us understood that donor aid was already streaming into Africa to alleviate poverty, an effort that would later come under heavy fire.
                                                                                                    
In hindsight, it’s easy to criticize traditional poverty-fighting assistance. One of the sharpest critics is Dr. Dambisa Moyo, an international economist and author of "Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa." Dr. Moyo notes that development aid has fueled corruption, has removed incentives for governments to become efficient, has created a culture of aid dependency, and has distorted markets. In a 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal, she points out that in spite of $1 trillion of aid delivered over 60 years, real per capita income in Africa has fallen. She argues that countries that rely on markets rather than aid are more successful, citing Ghana as an example.  “Governments need to attract more foreign direct investment by creating attractive tax structures and reducing the red tape and complex regulations for businesses,” she writes.
 

Going the last mile in Nicaragua: local communities pave the road to end poverty

Stephen Muzira's picture


I remember a visit to Nicaragua like it was only yesterday. Three years have passed, and it is still etched in my mind. I was visiting a road construction project when I realized that the paving surface was not the typical asphalt I was used to seeing on many road projects but some form of concrete like paving blocks known as adoquines.

How Can We Promote A More Entrepreneurial Environment Together?

Siddhartha Nanayakkara's picture

 CAAYE Facebook“If you cannot do great things, do small things in a great way.” - Napoleon Hill
 
Eight Commonwealth Asian Nations joined hands to discuss the contemporary needs of young entrepreneurs in the region at the Commonwealth Asia Alliances of Young Entrepreneurs (CAAYE) Summit held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from the 9th - 11th of November, in parallel to the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meetings (CHOGM). The theme of the summit was highlighted as “Profit with a Purpose” which argued around its key objectives in promoting an ecosystem that supports the development of young entrepreneurs who contribute to economic, social and environmental sustainability across CAAYE countries. CAAYE 2013 was hosted by the Federation Chamber of Commerce and Industry Sri Lanka (FCCISL) in partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat
 
South Asia concurrently holds the greatest opportunities and the risks of been responsible for the world’s largest youth populations in transition, therefore facing reality and addressing those contemporary needs should be key to those respective stakeholders such as governments, for a more stable and prosperous economy. Common challenges faced by young entrepreneurs in Asia are “fundamentals” concerns, which could easily been eliminated if there is right focus and continuous review by the relevant authorities in these countries. Those concerns that caught my eye included the need for updated knowledge and curriculum development at all level, need to not jail but celebrate failure, revamping of “extensive” government and organizational procedures allowing to reduce the lead time.

The Economist and Lancet Views on Bangladesh: What’s Missing?

Hassan Zaman's picture

Women in rural villageAbout a year back the Economist had an editorial piece titled "Out of the basket" and subtitled “Lessons from the achievements – yes, really, achievements – of Bangladesh.” The more in-depth piece that followed appeared somewhat bemused at how a country once labeled a ‘test case for development’ could have made such striking gains in development outcomes over the past two decades (see table 1). These gains were hard to reconcile amidst Bangladesh’s natural and Rana Plaza-type disasters, volatile politics and unfavorable rankings on governance indicators – themes which the Economist has often covered before, and after, this “achievements” piece.

This past week the Lancet has come out with a special issue on Bangladesh which the journal editors say is in order to “investigate one of the great mysteries of global health.” Specifically the published papers are meant to explore how “Bangladesh has made enormous health advances and now has the longest life expectancy, lowest fertility rate and lowest infant and under-5 mortality rates in South Asia despite spending less on health care than several neighbouring countries.” Both these publications help explain the various ‘Bangladesh paradoxes’ but they also overlook, or underplay, a few critical factors.


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