Newsletter September 2010
A better form of charity

What's the best way to help troubled countries?

The obvious answer might seem to be charitable giving. This has gone on since time immemorial, of course: and in the 1980s it reached a new scale with Band Aid and Live Aid, the charity concerts organised by Bob Geldof in response to the famine in Ethiopia.

There have since been criticisms, most recently in March this year sparked by a BBC World News story, that a proportion (and possibly a sizeable one) of the money raised did not reach the people it was intended for. Instead, it is alleged, it was siphoned off by rebels to pay for guns and ammunition.

No doubt some part of many charitable donations before and after those events found their way into the pockets of corrupt politicians rather than helping struggling people.

But even if none of them did, is this really the best way? The old adage springs to mind: "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

Relief is one thing, of course: and at times of catastrophe such as famine, earthquakes and tsunamis, it might be the only appropriate response.

But for other times, it's arguable that more can be done and better long-term outcomes will result by increasing trade more with these countries.

This builds industry, creates jobs, helps investment for the future. And arguably it even fosters conditions where corruption is less acceptable. Certainly, immoral governments have less chance of enriching themselves from this type of source.


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