Published on Africa Can End Poverty

Critiques from inside the World Bank

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While my blog posts seemed to elicit a fair number of comments, I had been wondering how many of them, if any, were coming from my World Bank colleagues. Last Friday, I got to find out. Our Internal Communications department ran a story on the Bank’s intranet with the headline “The effects of the global recession on Africa will be permanent, says Africa Chief Economist.” The story then linked to my blog post, “Why aid to Africa must increase”. My first reaction to some of the comments was “Ouch!”

One person said, “[Please] note that this is the same man who was saying (not too long ago) that South Asia would not be impacted by the crisis!” Touché. I had a blog post in January 2008 in my former South Asia blog that took the forecast for U.S. economic growth at that time, and inferred that the effect of the subprime crisis on South Asia would be mild. But most people were not forecasting such a big recession in the U.S. and elsewhere at that time. Of course, the bigger recession had a bigger impact on South Asia, although every South Asian country benefited from the fall in oil prices.

Another person said:  "The effects of global recession on Africa will be permanent! What nonsense. Who is the presumed seer who knows all about the future? And what will the effect on other places be? This is not a conversation rather it is purveyance of stereotypes under the guise of analysis, something that is very common at this institution. Disgusted."

I’m sorry he or she is disgusted, but I was referring to specific effects, such as children being pulled out of school or infants dying before their first birthday. It doesn’t take a "seer” to realize these are permanent effects.

Finally, there was a comment that was reminiscent of some I received on the original blog post: “This is a very politically correct and highly convenient argument to make. Sure, let's pump in more aid into a continent that is already reeling with aid dependency, and where aid has done so little. Can we all PLEASE be a bit more responsible before calling for ‘more aid’?” 

It’s good to know these debates are going on inside the World Bank too.



Shanta Devarajan

Teaching Professor of the Practice Chair, International Development Concentration, Georgetown University

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